Cider-Braised Pork Shoulder with Caramelized Onion and Apple Confit

November 16, 2009
29 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 3 hours
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

This is a perfect autumnal dinner. Cider, caramelized onions and apples combine with pork for a rich, sweet and comforting one pot meal. Calvados brandy and Dijon mustard add extra depth and sharpness with a nod to the French countryside in this hearty dish. I like to serve this with Celery Root and Parsnip Purée. —TasteFood

Test Kitchen Notes

"What this pork dish lacks in beauty it makes up for generously in flavor. You braise succulent pork shoulder in a thick stew of onions, apples, cider and Calvados. All it takes is a little browning of the meat and softening of the vegetables and then you can slide it into the oven, where over an hour or two, the onions mellow and the apple flavors brighten. Out of the oven, you add a dose of mustard for punch, then tell everyone to hurry to table–you won’t want to wait." –A&M

"If there were an ideal fall meal, it would include the following: apples, cider, caramelized onions, a one-pot meal. Well, look at that! It looks like we just described Cider-Braised Pork Shoulder with Caramelized Onions and Apple Confit.

'What this pork dish lacks in beauty it makes up for generously in flavor,' Amanda and Merrill write in the recipe's headnote. This flavor takes very little work, too: Succulent pork shoulder is browned on the stovetop, then slid it into the oven where, over a couple of hours, it becomes tender and the vegetables soften, transforming into a sweet, rich stew imbued with onions, apples, cider, and Calvados. A hit of acid, in the form of mustard, is added to the apple confit right after it comes out of the oven—and right before everyone rushes to the table. A meal that screams 'fall!', are we right?" –Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

—The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 2 1/2 pounds pork shoulder (butt), boneless and tied
  • 2 pinches salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 large yellow onions, halved, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup Calvados brandy
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  1. Preheat oven to 400° F.
  2. Pat the pork dry and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat oil in a large oven-proof pot or Dutch oven with a lid. Brown pork on all sides, turning with tongs, 6-8 minutes per side. Transfer pork to plate.
  4. Pour off excess fat from pot. Add onion and 1 teaspoon salt. Sauté over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are very soft ad deep golden brown, 18-20 minutes.
  5. Add Calvados and stir to deglaze pan. Add apple, garlic and thyme. Cook, stirring, 30 seconds.
  6. Return pork to pot, nestling it down in the onions. Add cider and chicken stock. Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce heat to 325 F. Braise until meat is very tender, 2 1/2-3 hours.
  7. Return pot to cooktop. Transfer pork to a cutting board and remove kitchen strings. Boil onion and apples until thickened and liquid slightly reduced, 1-2 minutes. Stir in mustard. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  8. Cut pork in serving pieces and arrange on serving platter or individual dinner plates. Spoon onion apple confit over and around the meat.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Eileen Dirner
    Eileen Dirner
  • Leah Ann Dean-Spinosa
    Leah Ann Dean-Spinosa
  • Ann Foley
    Ann Foley
  • Pamela Turner
    Pamela Turner
  • TasteFood

84 Reviews

Glimmer100 April 29, 2024
Way too dry. Pork lacked flavor.
NamasteSF October 27, 2023
Following other reviewers lead, I increased the amount of Calvados, garlic and thyme & mustard. Oddly, though this didn't have a lot of flavor. Also 4 onions is a LOT of onions, more than is needed for a good sauce. But even though apples show up in 3 ways--brandy, cider and a whole chopped apple--I didn't get a lot of apple flavor. A sprinkle of lemon juice at the end might have helped, but I didn't have a lemon to try it. I'm hoping the leftovers will be more flavorful after sitting overnight.
E E. November 2, 2022
Cooked as directed, this will result in what I hate most in cooking, a recipe that sets people up to fail. My thoughts:
2 pinches salt is not enough to season a roast, use more.
2c liquid (stock and cider was not enough to cover my roast.

10 minutes to: peel and thinly slice 4 large onions; peel, core, and cube a large apple; peel, core and chop 2 garlic cloves; and strip 1 T of fresh thyme from stems, is unrealistic
Caramelizing onions: 18-20 minutes is exceedingly optimistic. Following the instructions is likely to result in a combination of charred and raw onion. ½ hour to 1 hour is a more realistic scenario. And that is with improved technique over the recipe instructions.
Since it is unrealistic to do all the prep in 10 minutes, I would delay preheating the oven. I would aim for (at a maximum) 20 minutes of preheat. So perhaps start the oven when the onions are 20 minutes from done.
4 hours would be a better estimate of recipe time. Maybe more, depending on the onions.

The onions can start on medium, but they require watching. They will probably need to be reduced to medium low as they cook down. Deglazing with a little water and/or adding some fat during the process will be needed. To get browned, not burned, onions must be cooked low and slow. More than the occasional stir will be needed.
I don’t understand cooking the apple, garlic, and thyme for 30 seconds after deglazing the pan. There’s not much benefit to the apples and thyme, they could just go in raw. Garlic could take 30 seconds of low heat, perhaps 1 to 2 minutes would be better. You also might need the pan to cool down a little from the heat used for deglazing.
Putting the pork in the pot, adding liquid, and putting the whole thing in the oven: I would bring the pot to a gentle simmer on the stove top, cover very well (layer of plastic wrap, layer of foil, and then the lid), and then put it in the oven.
Dijon mustard at the end: I would add checking salt and pepper, considering adding cider vinegar and/or cream, and definitely putting some fresh parsley and maybe some fresh thyme on as a garnish.

blackjack November 2, 2022
I have never replied to someone’s comments about their experience in following a recipe….but I feel someone has never turned on a burner to not know the basics described as lacking in this homey,comforting, warming hearty recipe. It is so forgiving and delicious you just can’t go wrong unless you don’t know how to turn on a stove burner
cosmiccook October 27, 2023
E.E, I agree--I'd love to find a recipe similar to this that exudes the apple flavor. I contemplating using HARD CIDER (in lieu of the Calvados & apple cider) toasted caraway seeds & at LEAST 6 cloves of garlic. We love garlic in New Orleans. Since I have a slow juicer, I'm thinking about juicing 1 onion & 1 apple, and using both juice & pulp in the mixture (lightly browning . Along w Dijon caraway seeds & paprika plead to be added to this dish--as well as the long pepper on hand. Replace some of the chix stock w pork stock too. Since I'm pulping the onion, caramelize the rest of the onions while the pork cooks and add towards end. I hope this works better, because I'm splurging on Berkshire forest fed pecan finished meat from a local vendor. I only WISH I can find celery root (sigh)! It is NOT a big U.S. item, but amazing how all over France & EU one can find it --inexpensively at that.
missymaam October 22, 2022
I made this and followed the recipe exactly. Very good. VERY! I loved the apple/onion confit although it is a LOT of onions. I think next time I will do 3 not 4 onions. And I couldn't taste the Calvados, so next time I will double up on that. But there will be a next time!!
Jessica1994 September 6, 2022
Really yummy! It was fairly easy to make too. I added some sage and immersion blended the gravy after it reduced. It was quite sweet so I found myself adding a LOT of black pepper at the end and sprinkled in some Aleppo pepper as well. Was great with mashed potatoes and delicious in a sandwich the next day!
mama June 6, 2022
you absolutely need a fatty piece of pork for this recipe. I made the mistake of using a sirloin pork roast and it was very dry. the sauce was good but needed a little something else.
Eileen D. June 27, 2021
How would you alter this recipe tomato it with a bone in pork shoulder?
cosmiccook June 27, 2021
Cook it longer--30 mins or so depending on your roast size. I prefer bone-in more flavor. I also braise at lower temps than the recipe requires (275).
TasteFood June 27, 2021
You can certainly braise with the bone-in. In fact, the bone will add more flavor to the meat. Simply continue to braise until the meat is falling apart tender, upwards of another hour if necessary, depending on the size of the meat. This recipe is very forgiving. You can braise it at a lower temp as well, as cosmicook does for a longer period of time. The key is the consistency of the meat, so check every 30 minutes or so for doneness after 2 1/2 hours.
blackjack March 25, 2021
Finally got around to trying this and like almost all of the recipes I try for the first time I didn’t change anything. It was fabulous..won’t change/add/ subtract anything.
Leah A. December 18, 2020
Update to my original post. This was AMAZING. I doubled the recipe and added carrots, I used Saltopia meat head instead if s&p for browning the pork and also doubled the garlic, served over mashed potatoes, I fead 9 people and everyone LOVED it
tfisher50 September 9, 2021
thanks for the doubling info!
Leah A. December 18, 2020
Food 52 has never steered me wrong, reading negative reviews will not deter me, I will add a few organic carrots and parsnips and may increase the herb ratio, and really preseason the pork with Saltopia's jurassic pork,(look them up, AMAZING) I will side this with creamy mashed potatos
culingo August 17, 2020
As it supplies high quality ambient Vegetables. Sliced, diced, puree or paste, Vegetables in aseptic bags are a great alternative of using the raw Vegetables.

Products produced in aseptic bags, cans or pouch:
Onion, garlic, cucumber, pumpkin, butternut squash, olive, avocado, pineapple, pear, plum, strawberry, ginger, corn, peas, tomato.
kgmom January 19, 2020
First time braising a pork butt. We really enjoyed it served over egg noodles, with a side of roasted green beans. I thought the flavor was very good, a bit sweet. The texture of the pork with the onions and apples was amazing.

Ann F. January 12, 2020
This was delicious. My only comment is the prep time. Searing the pork and camelizing onions takes significantly longer that 10 minutes! We also used regular brandy and it was fine. This is a keeper
Cameron L. November 8, 2019
This was "good" but it lacked depth in flavor. Just kind of average for me. Sorry.
cosmiccook October 13, 2019
I couldn't understand the review from the chef who said this recipe was awful. I was so stoked about this recipe! Got a 3 lb. heritage pork shoulder (coppa cut). I amped up the flavors w more garlic, toasted & ground caraway, fennel, coriander mustard seed which I added to the liquid. Extra apples and onions w hard cider and homemade chicken stock. It was just meh. The pork was divine, not so much the rest. I plan on using leftover onion & apples for the caramelized onion and Butternut squash tart, which IS divine!
cosmiccook October 8, 2019
When preheating a convection oven--should I do convect ROAST or BAKE? Or just ROAST or BAKE? There is a difference but NO ONE really addresses this.
Sauertea October 8, 2019
I have a thermador with the convection roast setting. The instruction manual indicates that you should not cover the meat when using convection roast. As this recipe calls for covering the roast would either use the regular bake mode if you don’t have a non-convection roast setting.
cosmiccook September 7, 2022
Thanks Sauertea, this helps a lot!
Pamela T. September 22, 2019
Quite yummy and satisfying. It exceeded my hopes based on other attempts I’ve made with pork shoulder in the past. I did use a bone-in pork shoulder that was about 3.75# and let it cook about 4 hours. It was certainly fork tender and falling off the bone. Served it with roasted potatoes for my husband and sweet potato for me along with green beans. Looking forward to the leftovers😋.
hhb January 26, 2019
a complete waste of time and money. i am a private chef and this was a awful. i normally like Food52 suggestions, not this time
Cameron L. November 8, 2019
I don't think it was "awful" but I really wasn't impressed. Kind of cafeteria food-ish.
knittingbaker January 21, 2019
Perfect dish to break in my new Dutch oven (how have I lived so long without one!?). I skipped the lovely but pricey calvados for a cheaper apple brandy and added and additional apple, since I had one more lying around. The pork was good - the confit delicious. Definitely worth the slow braise.
Catherine January 1, 2019
Beautiful dish for New Year's Day. I was very happy with the ease in execution, guests were really impressed with the dish as well. I did it one and a half times for 7 people, and used Apple Jack in place of Calvados.