Pork Roast Brined in Rum and Cider with Apples

March 29, 2010
4 Ratings
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

Pork shoulder? It's my absolute favorite cut of meat. It's a hardworking bundle of muscles and that means it's packed with flavor. And because it's a bundle, it's layered with both fat and collagen, which provides even more flavor and a wonderfully unctuous mouth-feel. It pairs with flavors ranging from the chiles of the Southwest and Mexico; to the herbs, garlic, and lemon of the Med; to the Eastern flavors of Chinese five-spice powder and soy sauce. In fact the only area where this cut is isn't flexible is that it has to be cooking slowly and at low temperatures to produce a tender result.

In this case I began with a boneless Berkshire shoulder from a local organic farm. Rather than a marinade, which I've done in the past, this time I chose a brine to draw the flavors and moisture deeper into the meat. And what flavors! A combination of apple cider, dark rum, and juniper berries. It's worth noting that both the rum and the salt have a tenderizing effect that contribute to the tenderness of a roasted shoulder.

Note: Depending on the skill (and predilections) of your butcher the shoulder may need to be tied with twine to create a tidy, uniform roast.

Test Kitchen Notes

This recipe is a testament to the beauty of brining. Instead of just adding salt and sugar to water, Kevin brines his pork shoulder in a blend of rum, cider, salt and spices. Over the course of many hours, the flavors penetrate the meat completely, so you end up with savory, aromatic slices of pork that are juicy and pink all the way through. The sautéed apples, themselves infused with onion, rosemary, rum and cider, are a great, lightly sweet counterpoint. - A&M —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • Brined Roast Pork
  • 2 cups dark rum
  • 2 cups apples cider
  • 1/3 cup Kosher salt
  • 15 juniper berries - crushed
  • 15 peppercorns - crushed
  • 3 garlic cloves - smashed
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Sauteed Apples
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large apple - peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
  • 3 tablespoons minced red onion
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Brined Roast Pork
  2. Combine all ingredients except pork and oil in a medium sauce pan. Place over medium-high heat, bring to a simmer, and cook until salt is dissolved. Cool to room temperature.
  3. Put the roast in a gallon zippered plastic bag, add brine, evacuate most of the air, and refrigerate for 18 - 24 hours — turning three or four times while brining to distribute the brine.
  4. Allow roast to warm on the counter for 2 to 3 hours before cooking.
  5. Heat oven to 250F. Rinse roast and pat dry with a lint-free kitchen towel. Discard brine.
  6. Heat oil in a heavy, oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add roast and brown well on 3 sides — about 3 minutes per side. When you flip the fourth side down, place the skillet in the center of the oven. If the roast has a fatty side brown it first and end with it on top.
  7. For tender, medium-rare meat, cook roast to 145-150 degrees at its center according to an instant-read thermometer, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Alternatively, for cooked through, succulent meat, cook to 165-170 degrees (we don't advise going for something in between). Remove from oven, place on a cutting board, and tent with foil.
  1. Sauteed Apples
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. (Unfortunately the fond that accumulates in the bottom of the roasting skillet is too salty to use in a sauce, so use another large skillet.) Add butter and swirl to melt.
  3. Add apples and rosemary in a single layer and lightly browned - about 5 minutes. Flip and brown other side. Add minced onion and cook 1 minute longer.
  4. Add rum and reduce by half. Add cider and reduce by half. Taste and season with salt and pepper (light on the salt).

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • aargersi
  • Food52
  • North Country Rambler
    North Country Rambler
  • AntoniaJames
  • dymnyno

19 Reviews

Emily D. November 19, 2017
This was delicious. I would take down the salt even more, maybe 1/4 cup since it was borderline too salty. Didn't make the apples. Would make it again.
aargersi October 10, 2016
I made this last night - full 24 hour brine, roasted to medium, and it was OUTSTANDING! Juicy, flavorful, crispy fat, everything good. I made double the apples and we almost finished them, also so very happy to have leftovers. It's pork week at our house!!!
Dustin November 7, 2014
I didn't follow the exact recipe, but did stick to the method. I kept the garlic, rosemary, and rum. Didn't have cider, so I used cider vinegar (just a few tablespoons), and a little less salt. Gave it a rub down with garlic powder and brown sugar before searing and throwing it in the oven. Wow. The crust was OUTSTANDING. The flavor penetrated well, especially for more like a 12 hour brine. Holiday dinner time.
Kira September 28, 2014
This turned out so delicious - despite my fear of juniper berries (ew, gin!). Made a few small changes - didn't have cider so used finely pureed homemade applesauce. Added a crushed up dried bay leaf to the brine. Used just slightly under 1/3 cup of salt. Again had no cider for the apple side mixture, but added 2-3 tablespoons of leftover brine. So amazingly good! The apples complimented the pork perfectly.
Ross V. November 28, 2012
Love the potential of this recipe. Regarding the saltiness, not sure if this was mentioned, but many will know that a brine solution should be 1 cup salt to 1 gallon liquid. The combined liquid volume is 24oz which divides into 128 oz 5.3 times. That means the salt measurement should be just under 1/5 of a cup. That should solve the problem and I will find out this weekend!
Food52 February 6, 2011
Hi everyone -- we're so sorry this recipe has turned out disappointingly for several of you. When we originally tested it last year, we really enjoyed it (the apples balanced the saltiness of the pork nicely), but we also likely brined for the minimum 18 hours, not 24. After re-testing it and letting it brine for the full 24 hours, it is indeed on the salty side, so we're decreasing the salt to 1/3 cup. Thank you all for letting us know -- please feel free to email us at [email protected] if problems like this arise in the future.
Davy February 5, 2011
This sounded great and I discussed it with a colleague and I tried it as per the recipe.
Way to much salt. The cooking time and internal temps are not correct for this cut of pork.
I used a couple of slices for dinner that were tough and put the roast back in the oven for another couple of hours hoping it will be good for pulled pork sandwiches for a football party. Disappointed!
spacemonkey February 3, 2011
This recipe sounded amazing, and smelled like a pork dream going into the oven. However, I found the meat to be too salty, although not offensively so. The flavor of the meat is very intense, but I think the subtle rum/juniper notes are overwhelmed by the salt flavor. I recommend cutting the salt by about 60-70 %. The apple sauce was perfect, shouldn't be changed. Thanks for the recipe!
North C. January 29, 2011
I'm a little confused. Final temp of 145F? Pork shoulder has a lot of collagen, whichh gives you the mouth feel" that is mentioned in the intro, but collagen break down (I think) at around 155 - 160. I have always targeted 165 on shoulder cuts like Boston Putt or picnics. What am I missing?
Food52 February 6, 2011
Thanks so much for your comment. When we recently re-tested this, we tried it both ways: an internal temp of 145-150 left us with tender, pink meat, as the headnote suggests -- much like a medium rare slab of prime rib (we credit the brining). But thanks to your comment, we brought another roast up to an internal temp of 165-170, which came out cooked through (white) and succulent. We liked it both ways, so we'll leave it up to you to decide which way to go!
Arivacakitchen January 14, 2011
I used this marinade on a tied pork tenderloin roast, and reduced the salt to 1/8 cup, marinating the roast for a day and a half--also sprinkled a little cracked black pepper on the roast before browning, wrapped it in bacon and roasted it at 375F., and served it with apple chutney and a white wine Demi-glacé sauce, on a bed of wilted arugula. Yes, in most respects it was a totally different preparation. But this recipe was the starting point and everyone at the dinner enjoyed it. Thank you for a very good idea.
AntoniaJames December 21, 2010
Amanda and Merrill, echoing LND's question of eight months ago regarding the brining time for this pork shoulder, in light of the over-salting problem reported . . . . Would you be so kind as to check your journal or notes or whatever you do to record your procedures, and let us know? I'm considering making this for a party coming up in a few days. . 2/3 cup of salt for 2.5 pounds does sound like quite a lot, even for a shorter brining period. Thank you so much. ;o)
dymnyno April 13, 2010
Some pork is already injected with salt water to add moisture to a cheap cut of meat. If you bought a roast that was prepared this method you were just adding more salt . I guess the golden rule is to "Know Thy Butcher". I found out what a difference this can make. Last week when I was having a porkathon I bought two roasts, one at my usual favorite butcher (who answers all my stupid questions) and the other one at S------. The difference was amazing!
lastnightsdinner April 14, 2010
Our roast came from Hill Farm via our farmers' market - pure pork, nothing added except what we added to it according to this recipe. I guess we just let it sit for too long!
lastnightsdinner April 13, 2010
Amanda and Merrill, can I ask how long you let your pork roast sit in the brine? We made this over the weekend and let it sit for the full 24 hours, and unfortunately we found it was way too salty (using Diamond Crystal Kosher salt). So disappointing because it smelled absolutely heavenly! Thanks.
veronique April 11, 2010
I agree with Amber Olson: my first thought while reading this recipe was "can you still taste the pork after using strong flavors such as rosemary, dark rum, and juniper?" I have always liked Julia Child's dry rub that consists of salt/pepper/dried thyme/ground bay leaf/smidgen of allspice (or clove). Page 376 of TAOFC, volume 1. Elizabeth David suggests rubbing crushed garlic cloves in crushed coriander before inserting into the meat and also adding minced fennel leaves into the same small cuts.
Amber O. April 9, 2010
Okay, the seasonings are spot on, but why would you brine any part of a Berkshire farm-raised pig? The flavor is incredible, as I can testify to since I have a half pig in my freezer. Love your take on things, but save this brine for supermarket pork1
AntoniaJames April 8, 2010
This looks so good. Will definitely try, when apples are in season again. ;o)
ChefDale April 1, 2010
This I've got to try.