Apple Cider Ginger Braised Pork Shoulder Tacos with Apple Cabbage Slaw
This fall I discovered boiled apple cider and I cannot believe I lived this long without it. Boiled apple cider is fresh cider boiled down into a naturally sweet, viscous syrup. The magic is reduction. Ever since my first batch of boiled cider I have been obsessively stirring it into drinks and cocktails alike and spreading it onto every baked good I can find. Now I'm taking it to savory dishes like these braised pork tacos. Boiled apple cider takes around 5 hours to reduce, but requires so little attention, just a few stirs with a wooden spoon from time to time. Similarly, low-and-slow braised pork shoulder requires very little attention, but needs at least 8-10 hours on low heat to melt into juicy, shredded perfection. The recipe calls for braising the pork shoulder with a myriad of spices and half of the apple cider, while the remaining half of cider is boiled down into a syrup. Put the pork shoulder in the oven to braise 8-10 hours before meal time, set the cider on the stove to reduce down, and turn to any activity in the house you like until just before serving time, then throw together a quick slaw of tart granny smith apples, watercress, red cabbage, and carrot to serve with the tacos. For a crowd, use a larger pork shoulder and increase the cooking time as needed. Either way, these make incredible leftovers.
Apple Cider Ginger Braised Pork Shoulder Tacos
5-8 pound bone-in pork shoulder
8 garlic cloves, peeled
2 thumb-sized pieces of fresh ginger, each about 2 inches long and at least an inch wide, peeled
2 tablespoons cumin seeds, toasted
1 1/2teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper, to season
1 gallon fresh apple cider, preservative-free
2 large shallots, quartered
2 avocados, for serving
12-16 white corn tortillas, for serving
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit. Place the pork shoulder skin side up on a cutting board and use a sharp knife to score the fat and skin, but not the meat beneath, cutting parallel lines about 1/2 inch apart; rotate the cutting board 90 degrees then repeat scoring parallel lines until a diamond pattern has formed across the entire pork skin.
Using a larger mortar and pestle or a food processor, grind together the peeled garlic cloves with the fresh ginger, toasted cumin seeds, salt, and smoked paprika. A mortar and pestle works best to smash everything into a paste, but a food processor can get the job done. Whisk the paste together with the olive oil.
Season the underside of the pork with a pinch of salt and pepper, then place it skin-side up in a large baking dish. Make sure that the baking dish is large enough to hold the pork, half a gallon of apple cider, with extra room to spare (this will keep juices from overflowing onto the oven floor and give you plenty of room for basting). Rub the garlic-ginger-spice paste into the scored crevasses of the pork skin. Place in the oven and cook for 30 minutes at 425 degrees fahrenheit. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 275 degrees.
Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin of the peel from the lemon, careful to only get the skin and not the white pith. Cut the lemon peel into 3-inch pieces if you got the entire peel in one swoop (also, props to you if you did; I have yet to accomplish one piece). Add the lemon peel to the pan along with the quartered shallots. Pour half a gallon of apple cider over pork and put back in the oven.
Bake for 8 or more hours, basting with the pan juices ever hour or so. The pork shoulder is done when the mean is falling off the bone and the skin is ultra crispy. Let cool before shredding.
Meanwhile, boil the remaining half gallon of apple cider. Bring the cider to a boil over high heat in a large stockpot. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for about 5 hours. The cider will reduce from ½ gallon to one cup and take on the consistency of maple syrup.
Drain the pork pan juices, reserving 2 cups. Loosely shred the pork and set it aside in a large serving bowl. Combine the cup of boiled apple cider with two cups of pan juices in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for 10 minutes. While the boiled cider and pan juices simmer together, prepare the slaw.
Pour the boiled apple cider and pan juices from the saucepan onto the shredded pork. Warm the corn tortillas in a frying pan and let dinner goers fill them with the boiled apple cider shredded pork, apple cabbage slaw, and avocado slices.
Apple Cabbage Slaw
Makes about 3 cups
1 cup cabbage, chopped
1 cup watercress, loosely packed, stems removed and chopped
1/2 cup chopped carrot, julienned into matchsticks
1 jalapeno, finely diced
1 cup chopped granny smith apple, seeds and stem removed, julienned into matchsticks
Combine 1 tablespoon lemon juice from the peeled lemon with the chopped cabbage, watercress, carrot, jalapeno, and granny smith apple.