Pork with Apples, Mushrooms, and Calvados

by Talley

in Main Course,Pork

Last calvados, mushroom, and applewinter we bought a half of a pig from our neighbors Gwen and Fred, of apple and garlic fame. We’ve been steadily working our way through all 100 pounds of it, and it’s been a real joy to bring to the table each time. I can’t speak highly enough about the virtues of buying in bulk like this from a source you know and trust, whether it be from a local farm, a vendor at your farmers’ market or a friend. When you buy a half or whole pig (or cow), you not only get a great price, you also have the experience of cooking every cut available, if you haven’t already. You may learn a bit more about butchering if, as in our case, you must speak with the butcher to discuss how the animal is prepared. You can get cuts of pork that aren’t always readily available at markets, such as pork belly (which is usually just turned in to more profitable bacon). But most importantly, it feels good to know that the pigs were well cared for and happy and it is gratifying to sit down to a meal the provenance of which is completely transparent.

Talley with the pigs

Pork Stew Meat

The weather is looking a bit gray for the near future here in Seattle:

Which means braises like this are back in style! This is a decadent, rich, braised pork dish. When I first made it about two years ago, Beryl declared it one of the best meals I’d ever prepared. The addition of sour cream to the braising liquid adds lushness and body and the toasted almonds deliver a nutty flavor and texture. The crunch and acidity of the apples help to temper the richness of the dish and the mushrooms bring an earthy quality perfect for the fall.

Shiitake MushroomsWe have made this with Calvados, Applejack, and Cognac, and determined that for our money (Calvados being somewhat spendy), Cognac or Applejack do the job just fine. But, if you happen to have some Calvados lying around, give it a shot. We got the original recipe from The Wine Lovers Cookbook, but I’ve modified the method and cooking times to increase the tenderness of the meat. The original recipe called for about 40 minutes of braising time and I never got the results I desired. Be prepared to adjust the cooking duration to suit your pork.

Braised Pork with Apples, Mushrooms, and Calvados
While it may not be the most classic of pairings, the Wine Lover suggests pairing this with a nice round barrel aged Chardonnay and I have to say that I think it works well. But while you’re waiting for the pork to braise, why don’t you use some of the rest of that Calvados and make yourself an Applejack Rabbit.

Braised Pork with Apples, Mushrooms, and Calvados

Modified from The Wine Lovers Cookbook

  • 1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 4 oz pancetta or bacon, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1½ lbs pork stew meat (from shoulder), cut into 1-inch pieces
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • ½ tsp poppyseed
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • ⅓ cup Calvados or other apple brandy, or cognac
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 cup peeled, cored, and sliced McIntosh (or similar) apples
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • GARNISH: toasted, diced almonds; chopped parsley

In a large skillet or dutch oven over medium heat, sauté mushrooms, onions, pancetta, and garlic in butter until onions are translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Remove from pan and set aside, covered.

Season pork with salt and pepper. Add pork and poppyseed to pan and sauté until pork is lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Add tarragon, thyme, wine, Calvados, chicken stock, and reserved mushroom, onion, and pancetta mixture and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to a simmer, cover pan, and simmer for 1½ to 2 hours or until pork is tender.

Stir in sour cream and continue simmering, uncovered for 15 minutes to reduce liquid further. Meanwhile, toast a handful of diced or slivered almonds on the stovetop and chop a few tablespoons of parsley for garnish. Add apples to pan and continue cooking for 3 to 4 minutes to barely cook apples. They should still have some crunch. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Spoon onto plates (or bowls) and garnish with almonds and parsley. Serve with a crusty bread to sop up all the delicious sauce.

serves 4

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Tokyo Terrace November 11, 2009 at 4:58 am

This looks like a gorgeous and delicious meal! The weather in Tokyo is similar to your forecast in Seattle- rainy, cold and generally gray. Meals like yours in this post are a must! And how cool that you have access to a very local pig! So great.


Connie November 11, 2009 at 7:51 am

The photos are great! Love the idea of sourcing for all the reasons you listed, those products always seem to taste better. The quality and color of the raw, cubed pork looks incredible. And its AWESOME that you guys picked up half a pig, love that. (I was just talking about doing that with a friend last week, but we don’t have the storage space for it!)

And you’re absolutely right about the sour cream in the sauce, it adds such a nice finish (I also like to use butter or Crème fraîche.) Wonderful dish you’ve made there with the apples and everything!


Talley November 12, 2009 at 9:34 pm

Yeah, the storage space was the biggest obstacle for us as well. We just bit the bullet and bought ourselves a chest freezer. But boy has it come in handy! We use that freezer for much more than just storing this pig. . . it’s become a life saver of sorts. At the very least, it’s allowed us not to worry whether we have space whenever we see a good deal on some local meat or fruits or something. And it wasn’t really crazy expensive.


Zach November 11, 2009 at 8:32 am

We made this last year and loved it. We’ll give it another go when the weather cools down here in California… another few weeks maybe 🙂


Talley November 12, 2009 at 9:35 pm

Keep rubbing it in Zach . . .


Natalie November 12, 2009 at 7:38 am

Awesome! Looks incredible. Beautiful pictures too.


Joe November 13, 2009 at 2:45 pm

This one has me planning ahead. Love the photos. And, now I have a good reason to buy some Calvados.


Priscilla November 13, 2009 at 5:05 pm

i just made this and it was great! thanks for the recipe!



we are never full November 14, 2009 at 3:00 pm

awesome pics. love the one of the snout. great traditional flavor combo. a great normandy (?) dish. we’ve done something kind of similar w/ rabbit but the pork would be much easier (and cheaper) to do. fabulous cold-weather dish.


Talley November 15, 2009 at 2:27 pm

That’s a nice looking rabbit stew on your site.


Garry January 27, 2010 at 11:39 am

I just discovered your site, and love it! We race sailboats on the lake regularly, and may need to find your place and crash it! 🙂
My question: I have a crew of 10 racing a long race this weekend.. Do you think this would work in a big dutch oven, done at home, then finished in my even smaller than yours, sailboat galley with just a cooktop?
Any suggestions?
Thanks and great site, neighbors!


Talley January 27, 2010 at 11:47 am

Hey Garry, thanks!
I do think you could do something like that. While I haven’t tried it myself, I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t do most of it the day before at home in a dutch oven. I think it’d probably be best to stop before the addition of the sour cream, just after the pork is nice and tender. Refrigerate overnight. Then, when you get to the galley, throw it on the cooktop and bring it to a simmer, add the sour cream and simmer for 15 minutes or so. Then add the apples for just a few minutes, and taste for seasoning before topping with the almonds and parsley and serving. (you could probably toast the almonds and chop the parsley ahead of time if you want… but if you cut the apples too far in advance, they will brown).
Good luck with your race! let us know how it goes and how you like the dish. We’ll keep an eye on the lake this weekend and root for you.


Garry February 1, 2010 at 11:49 am

What a recipe, and what a response from cold, damp, semi-sober sailors! I more than doubled the ingredients, went with about 4 lbs. of shoulder, did the braise, finished it on the boat stove.. Every single drop..GONE..Seriously, I went back to the pan and it was literally dry…
..Oh, and we won the race!
Thanks guys!!!
You may need to come on to the boat some night at race with us!!


Talley February 1, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Wow! I’m so glad to hear it was a success, and that you won the race. Congrats! We were wondering how it was going for you this weekend and it sounds like it was a fantastic day all around. Thanks so much for checking in and letting us know.

We would love to join you on the boat sometime.


Bryan December 9, 2010 at 7:10 am

I just came across your site today. This calavados pork recipe sounds terrific. I live in Ottawa, Canada. It is currently about -8c and we are waiting on our first major storm of the season. I think this will warm tonights dinner up quite well. Thanks.


Talley December 9, 2010 at 7:44 am

i hope it hits the spot. good luck weathering the storm!


Nathalie October 18, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Slowly simmering this as we speak, about ready to make myself the AppleJack Rabbit cocktail. Smells wonderful!!! Can’t wait to dig in! Thanks for the recipe.


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