Matilda, Maple, and Garlic Pork Shoulder with Crispy Skin

April 1, 2010

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: My grandmother (yes, I'm mentioning my grandmother again) used to cook her ever-present, giant ham by sticking it in the oven and pouring ginger ale over it every once in a while, as if it had won the Super Bowl. I decided to use a bottle of Matilda beer, a lovely fruity malty ale made here in Chicago, by Goose Island, with maple syrup for some extra sweetness. You'll probably have to special order the rind-on cut; I had a hard time getting one in Chicago, a.k.a Meatland. Strange. The ponderously long cooking time was inspired by The River Cottage Meat Book, a book that I find charmingly revolting.EmilyNunn

Food52 Review: WHO: ENunn is a writer in Chicago.
WHAT: A tender pork shoulder that is the definition of "slow and low" -- it cooks for 18 hours!
HOW: After mixing up the fennel and garlic marinade, the roast goes in the oven and requires little work save some intermittent basting.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Whether you love crispy skin or falling-apart meat, this showstopper has something for everybody.
The Editors

Serves: up to 8
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 18 hrs 35 min

Ingredients

  • 6 pounds bone-in, skin on pork shoulder (up to 8 pounds for more servings)
  • 3 tablespoons fennel seeds, toasted, crushed
  • 14 pieces garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 cup grade b maple syrup
  • 1 big bottle of Matilda, or another malty fruity ale
  • 2 teaspoons malt vinegar
In This Recipe

Directions

  1. After allowing the meat to come to room temperature, use a sharp knife to score the skin, making 1/2 inch stripes over entire surface. Preheat oven to 450. Toast fennel seeds in a skillet over medium heat, until fragrant (3 minutes); crush using mortar and pestle, set aside. Place garlic and salt in empty mortar mortar and grind together to make a paste. Slowly add olive oil, then sprinkle in cayenne, black pepper, fennel.
  2. Rub about 1/3 of the paste over the skinless side of the meat, then place skin side down on a roasting pan in lower third of oven. Cook for 30 minutes. Meanwhile stir the syrup and vinegar into the remaining paste.
  3. Turn the oven down to 225. Carefully flip the shoulder (use a clean towel), then use a rubber spatula to spread the remaining paste over the shoulder, pushing it into the scored skin.
  4. Return to oven and cook for 18 hours or longer (you can put it in the oven at bedtime and leave it in until you serve it as an early supper the next day, which is what I did; I just turned it all the way down to 150 for a couple of hours late in the afternoon), pouring 1/3 of the bottle of beer over it at several intervals, and basting with the drippings 2-3 times. Seriously. Before serving, turn up the heat to 450 for ten minutes if the skin is not crispy enough. Put it on a platter, and let people pull off pieces, like wild animals. They will fight over the skin.
  5. Serve with my Fresh Fennel and Red Pepper Chow-Chow (under "condiments"), and mashed sweet potatoes with apples. Leftover pork, Chow-Chow, and spicy mayo sandwich on ciabatta: very good idea.

More Great Recipes:
American|Fennel|Garlic|Pork|Vinegar|Slow Cook|Serves a Crowd|Entree

Reviews (236) Questions (8)

236 Reviews

Christine P. December 7, 2018
The best pork recipe I have ever made. I enjoyed the long cook time. A great fragrance permeating my kitchen. That shiny, brown roast providing eye candy everytime I basted it. Just like Emily suggested, we each served ourselves with two forks.
 
Alicia December 2, 2018
I finally got to make this! I made it with a 3lb cut of meat, hoping it would cook faster. It didn’t. It took me a solid 14-15 hours to get the meat tender and close to 200F internal temperature.<br />Overall, this was a pretty tasty but time consuming recipe. I found the fennel to be overpowering to the point it’s all I can taste on the bark. If I make this again, I’d definitely reduce the fennel by 2/3 so it’s more subtle.<br />Word to the wise: if you have a digital stove it will auto shut off at 12 hours. I learned this the hard way! Make sure you plan accordingly so your oven doesn’t go cold on you!
 
Felice S. October 17, 2018
Any comments on how to do the slow cooking in an Instant Pot instead of an oven? Thanks!<br />
 
Katie August 18, 2018
Do I cover the pork or leave it uncovered while cooking?
 
Alicia December 2, 2018
Uncovered if you want the top to get crispy.
 
Melissa August 15, 2018
Hard time locating Grade 'B' Maple Syrup. Used Grade 'A' for recipe. Anyone esle use grade 'A'? Does grade B grade have richer flavor?
 
Kenna M. October 5, 2018
Yes it is deeper in flavor. I have found it at TJ Max and Marshals’ once in a while, otherwise Amazon
 
wyckham October 25, 2018
They actually stopped using the Grade ‘B’ name—it’s all Grade ‘A’ but has different sub-categories. See this site for more info: https://www.maplesource.com/maple-syrup-grades-explained/
 
Rachael R. July 3, 2018
This is the most delicious pork shoulder I've ever had. I didn't want to share any of it (I did, promise). I did the slow roasted method explained here, but honestly will make it in the crock pot next time as it's just as easy.
 
Kim L. January 4, 2018
Can you adapt this for an Instant Pot?
 
kim December 29, 2017
This was great! Used only 2/3 of the 22 oz. bottle of beer. Went to the local craft beer shop and they recommended a Brewery Ommegang Abbey Ale from Cooperstown, NY brewery as Matilda not available here. Also reduced the fennel by half.
 
Claire W. March 1, 2017
I was reading that your Grandma used to cover her ham with "Ginger ale"..and she was from Chicago..Did she use VERNORS ginger ale? I'm wondering as I'm from Michigan..and as Chicago is in the same geographic area..I'm thinking she did..The reason I'm saying this is that other Ginger ales will NOT act or taste the same and someone MAY be dissapointed in your Grandmas cooking.
 
stacy January 9, 2017
Has anyone done this on the grill? We have a Weber that keeps heat pretty consistent. I just don't want to have my oven on for so long
 
Allison M. October 2, 2016
Any adaptations if we cook it w. a boneless shoulder instead of bone in?<br />Thanks in advance.
 
Deborah W. October 3, 2016
I researched this and one site says that both pork and beef have the same cook times whether bone-in or boneless. Other sites say that boneless may take a bit less time than bone-in. I would cook it by internal temperature. As you can see in my comment below, I had an 8.3 lb bone-in pork butt and it took 15 hours. The internal temp should be around 195 - 200. At 195 the fat has turned to liquid & connective tissue has melted, the meat will just fall apart. I hope that this helps.
 
Allison M. October 4, 2016
Yes, thank you!
 
Deborah W. July 18, 2016
I tried this recipe for my anniversary and it was the most delicious, moist, tasty pork I have ever eaten! I followed the recipe ingredients, but used apple cider vinegar instead of beer as I decided to shop for my ingredients between the hours of 2 am - 7 am. (by the way, I found online that the largest bottle of Matilda beer is 22 oz or 2.75 cups). I had an 8.3 lb bone-in, skin on pork butt from Smith's and it took me 15 hours in my oven. The only advice I would offer is to stick with basting only 2 - 3 times. I basted more often and did not end up with the 'cracklin' skin. I googled how to make 'cracklin' and the skin needs to be dry for it to truly crisp up as it should.
 
Deborah W. July 18, 2016
I meant the I used apple cider NOT apple cider vinegar!<br />
 
Victoria M. April 15, 2016
This recipe is incredible. We have made it 4-5 times and it always turns out to be moist and full of wonderful depth of flavor. We brew beer so we have tried many different types of beer- all of which, so far, work well. We serve ours generally with a salad, fresh baked cornbread, and some beer mac n' cheese using one of our homebrews. Thank you so much for this amazing recipe!!!
 
Beth March 1, 2017
I need to come live at your house! Yall have the goods :)
 
Claire S. March 16, 2016
Definitely a time consuming dish, but well worth the effort!
 
Jacqueline S. February 22, 2016
To those who said the maple flavor was not strong enough, try what I did. Add 3 or 4 tablespoons of maple sugar granules to the paste. Super maple.
 
thecookandthetraveler January 26, 2016
I am perplexed as well. I have made this several times and have always had terrific results. The only thing that could possibly cause this is the age of the pork or perhaps the cooking time. I will review and try to see other possible issues that could cause this.
 
Seaward January 26, 2016
I am perplexed. Followed the recipe exactly and did have a pork roast with the rind/skin on. The "skin" was too tough to eat rather we scraped it like an artichoke leaf. I'm the only one that got a hint of maple syrup (it was the maple syrup winner) and that I only got once. Pork shreds well and is edible but dry. I had such high hopes. Any idea what could have gone wrong?
 
Gia A. March 9, 2016
That happens to me when I don't space the pouring of the beer correctly. Essentially you want the collagen in the skin to slow cook jellify but too much liquid boils it into leather. About 6 hours after you first have it in the oven at the lower temperature is a good time to add the first 1/3 of beer. 6 hours later, I add 1/2 the remaining beer and baste the juices in layers as they reduce and candy.
 
DJV December 4, 2015
Should the pork be sitting in the liquid or on a rack above the liquid?
 
thecookandthetraveler December 4, 2015
The pork should be placed in the liquid. There is no mention of a rack being used for this roast in the recipe. Hope this helps.
 
E R. October 5, 2015
Is there something to substitute for the malty ale?
 
hemptonv May 18, 2015
Ridiculously good! The salty, sweet, savory, melt-in-your-mouth goodness! If my boys and husband don't like this, all the more for me.