Slow-cooked Pork Cheeks in Cider

by Kristin on September 30, 2011

Maybe it’s because of the recession or maybe it’s because of an increased interest in nose-to-tail eating, but offcuts are cool again in Ireland. It seems like every restaurant menu has pork belly, pork cheeks, beef cheeks or shin of beef on it these days (the irony being that these are some of the cheapest cuts of meat to buy). I’ve never tried cooking any of those cuts at home, but that changed when I saw this recipe for slow-cooked pork cheeks in cider in Niamh Sheilds’s book, Comfort & Spice. The day after I got the book in the post and had bookmarked this recipe to try, I got on to my man TJ Crowe to ask if he had any pork cheeks he could sell me and I had them by the end of the week, just in time for Saturday’s supper.

It’s easy to rave about this recipe — pork so tender that it’s practically melting, the cider-laced stock so deeply savoury you’d happily slurp it up with a spoon straight from the pot, the fact that even though the kids had some, my husband and I polished off the better part of a kilo of pork cheeks just between the two of us — but I feel like I should keep pork cheeks as my own little secret. TJ admitted that it took three pigs just for the kilo of cheeks he sent to me and said he has to stockpile the cheeks in his freezer for chefs so they can offer them as a special on their menu just for a few weeks. But it’s too good not to share it and I have only myself to blame if TJ doesn’t have any more pork cheeks the next time I want to buy some — which will be sooner rather than later.

Slow-cooked Pork Cheeks in Cider
adapted from Comfort & Spice by Niamh Shields

Serves 4

I adapted Niamh’s recipe only slightly to cook everything in the same pot, rather than cooking the pork cheeks in a separate pan. I also found that I only needed 500 ml (2 cups) of stock instead of the 750 ml (3 cups) called for.

2 tablespoons light oil
1 kg (2 lb) pork cheeks, trimmed by your butcher
2 onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
500 ml (2 cups) dry hard cider
500 to 750 ml (2 to 3 cups) chicken stock
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 bay leaves
handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, to garnish
mashed potatoes, to serve

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pan over a medium heat. Brown the pork cheeks in batches, taking care not to overcrowd the pan, otherwise they will stew. Set aside.

Add the onions to the pan and saute for about 10 minutes, until they’re softened but not brown (adding a pinch of salt to the onions while you cook them will help prevent them from browning). Add the garlic and saute for a minute or so.

Deglaze the pot with a little of the cider to mop up all those lovely pork bits. Add in the rest of the cider along with the pork cheeks. Bring to a boil and reduce the cider by about one-third. Add 500 ml (2 cups) of stock, the mustard and bay leaves and give it all a good stir. Reduce the heat, cover and cook gently over a low heat on the hob for 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Alternatively, cook, covered, in an oven preheated to 150°C (300°F) for the same amount of time, stirring occasionally. Keep an eye on the liquid and add in some or all of the remaining 250 ml (1 cup) of stock if it’s reducing too much on the stovetop or looks too dry — you want most of the pork cheeks to be submerged.

Check that the pork is fork-tender and pulls away at the slightest touch; that’s when it is done. Remove from the heat, shred the pork and stir in the parsley. Serve hot with mashed potatoes and plenty of the cider cooking liquid poured over.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Móna Wise September 30, 2011 at 7:30 am

That looks so good Kristen. It kind of has a pulled pork look to it.
You are right, I am seeing a lot of these cheaper cuts of meat surface on menus around
town. Some restaurants have NOT reflected the price adjustment though and that is kind of annoying. It still surprises me that I have to special order a lot of the ‘poor man’ cuts of meat.
Anyway, have a great weekend!

Reply

Kristin October 1, 2011 at 2:55 pm

It might look like pulled pork, but it tastes even better than pulled pork! It’s much more tender. I also have to special order anything that’s not a mainstream cut – even something like pork shoulder. At least my local butcher is very friendly and is always curious about what I’m cooking!

Reply

Amee September 30, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Yum, I love port cheeks – I always leave mine whole but I shall try that way next time. It is getting harder to find cuts like that and if it wasn’t for my excellent but Top Secret Butcher I wouldnt have a hope of getting my beloved cheeks and ox-tails.

Reply

Kristin October 1, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Hmm, maybe I should have kept my butcher top secret too. I have yet to make an oxtail soup, but I might finally give it a try this winter! How do you cook your oxtails?

Reply

Liza in Ann Arbor September 30, 2011 at 4:43 pm

I need to get myself to the Cider Mill soon so I can start cooking with cider again. This looks heavenly–thanks!

Reply

Kristin October 1, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Just make sure it’s hard (alcoholic) cider you use! Even after living in Ireland for 12 years, I still miss regular apple cider, there’s nothing like that for sale here. I think my next visit back home will have to be in the autumn just so I can get my apple orchard fix!

Reply

Paula @ Spoons 'n' Spades October 3, 2011 at 7:21 am

This sounds absolutely delicious! I’ve no idea if I’d be able to get hold of pork cheeks as we’re a bit short of local butchers in my area of London, but pork and cider…perfect!

Reply

Kristin October 3, 2011 at 1:02 pm

It would be worth tracking them down for this recipe!

Reply

Rita October 7, 2011 at 10:17 am

Sounds great – I’ve got the cheeks, just off to get other indredients (my cupboard is bare of veg – haven’t even got any onions!), then into the slow cooker with everything and the house will soon be smelling yummy!

Reply

Kristin October 7, 2011 at 2:13 pm

I envy you the dinner you’ll have tonight! It’s such a great recipe. Enjoy!

Reply

cindy February 29, 2012 at 1:53 pm

I have pork cheeks and would love to try this recipe but what is hard cider. Just so happens we bought apple cider last weekend but need to know what “hard” is!
Thanks.

Reply

Kristin February 29, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Hi Cindy – hard cider is alcoholic cider. If that’s not the kind you bought, you could try using regular apple juice instead.

Reply

cal April 6, 2014 at 10:35 pm

Hi there. In the picture it looks great but like you have shredded the cheeks..please explain this is after you have braised them?

Reply

Kristin April 7, 2014 at 7:40 am

Sorry, yes – you shred the pork after it has finished braising. I’ve updated the recipe to include that step. Thanks!

Reply

cal April 7, 2014 at 3:19 pm

Thanks Kristin, great recipe!

Reply

Paul Seabrook November 1, 2014 at 12:27 pm

This will be my second time making this. I only broke up the cheeks slightly rather than shredding. Probably too late to ask, but how could you get a kilo from only 3 pigs? That is only 6 cheeks! Tis a wonderful recipe and I serve mine with garlic and cream cheese mashed potatoes. This past summer, I have done them on my smoker BBQ as you would for pork ribs, also fantastic!

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: