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
Test Kitchen Notes
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
18 hours 35 minutes
up to 8
bone-in, skin on pork shoulder (up to 8 pounds for more servings)
fennel seeds, toasted, crushed
garlic cloves, crushed
grade b maple syrup
big bottle of Matilda, or another malty fruity ale
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.