When the weather gets cold, the oven gets busy!
During the last few weeks, the cold has really set in here. The leaves finished falling off the branches last month and we have had a sprinkling of snow on the ground some mornings. Late fall is my favourite time of year, in part because of its cozy, comforting nature.
This is the time of year when I start to break out my stew and casserole recipes. Root vegetables start to crop up into most dishes, replacing salads and raw vegetables of the summer. I had a hankering for a braised pork dish recently, and recalled the cider-filled stews of the UK, like Cider-Braised Pork and Parsnips. Cider, which is made from fermented apples, is a beverage that has been around for thousands of years. Britain has a strong cider tradition, and this was brought over to North America, where apple trees were able to easily grow. Recently, in southern Ontario (where I live), there has been a craft cider revival. There are dozens of ciders available in most stores, and craft cideries have popped up all over. Because I prefer cider to beer, I have been quite excited about this resurgence of cider!
Not only is cider tasty to drink, but it is also excellent to cook with. Cider is an ideal compliment to pork, and stars in this dish. You can brown the pork chops before braising, but it is not necessary. The cabbage is optional, but I find that braised cabbage is the best way to cook it, so I set it to the side of the dish to cook there alongside the rest of the meat and vegetables.
Cider-Braised Pork Chops and Root Vegetables
4 bone-in pork chops
1 large onion, sliced
2 parsnips, cut into chunks
2 carrots, cut into chunks
2 apples, peeled and cut into chunks
1/4 of a head of cabbage, finely sliced (optional)
2 bay leaves
1 bunch of fresh thyme
1 tsp garlic salt
1 bottle hard cider
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup chicken stock
Parsley, minced (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Heat oven to 340F.
2. In a large, oven-proof casserole dish, add the sliced onions, carrots, parsnip, apples, and herbs. Pour in the chicken stock, cider, and cider vinegar.
3. Arrange the pork chops on top of the vegetables. Sprinkle garlic salt over top.
4. If desired, push the pork chops to one side of the dish, and set the cabbage in the freed-up corner.
5. Season with salt and pepper. Cover, and put in the oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
6. If so desired, serve sprinkled with parsley, with mashed potatoes.