Irish cuisine is undergoing a renaissance as Ireland’s position of influence on the world stage grows. Irish chefs look to their homeland for inspiration, as can any cook. Dublin born Cathal Armstrong, with the help of David Hagedorn, shares an array of honest foods from his Irish childhood in My Irish Table (Ten Speed Press, 2014). Following is a Roast Leg of Pork Recipe, when paired with homemade applesauce has the perfect balance of sweet and savory.
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My Irish Table Recipes:
Roast Leg of Pork RecipeLeg of pork, which is fresh ham, is something found more commonly on dinner tables in Ireland than in the States because there are so many big families in the Old Country and the cut feeds a lot of people. One of my sister’s friends in school had seventeen children in her family. When we had big parties, my Da would say, “We’re feeding the 5,000 tonight.” Serve it with Braised York Cabbage, Cauliflower Baked in Cheddar Cheese Sauce, and some kind of potatoes, naturally. My mother always served homemade applesauce with roast pork, but it’s not one of my favorite pairings because I’m not a fan of sweet things with savory dishes. Because of this, I like to balance the sweetness of the applesauce with vinegar. Of course, the better the apples, the better the sauce, so it’s worth tracking down Pink Lady apples.
1 (12-pound) skin-on hind leg of pork, preferably Kurobuta or Berkshire
4 yellow onions, peeled and quartered
4 large sprigs fresh rosemary
1 head garlic, halved crosswise
1 1/2 cups hard cider, such as Magner’s brand
8 apples, such as Bramley, Ida Red, Granny Smith, or Pink Lady, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
Prep the roast: Preheat the oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Cutting crosswise, score the skin of the pork at 1/2-inch intervals. Do not cut through the flesh. Scatter the onions, rosemary, and garlic in the bottom of a roasting pan large enough to hold the meat. Pour the cider over the vegetables. Set a rack in the pan and place the meat skin-side up on top of it.
Roast the pork: Bake the meat for about 4 hours (allow 20 minutes per pound), until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat (but not touching the bone) registers 165°F. Check the pan often to make sure there is enough liquid in it to keep the vegetables from burning. Whenever there isn’t, add a cup or two of water.
While the pork is roasting, make the applesauce: In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the apples, vinegar, and sugar for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender. The applesauce will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
Make the jus: When the roast is done, transfer it to a cutting board, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let it rest for 30 minutes. Strain the pan juices into a saucepan and remove the fat from them — there will be a lot of it. Keep the jus warm over low heat until ready to serve.
Present the dish: Pull the crackled skin off the roast, breaking or cutting it into small pieces. Slice the roast in the same direction you scored it and arrange the slices on a serving platter, surrounded by the pieces of crackled skin. Transfer the jus to a gravy boat or small pitcher. Spoon the applesauce into a serving bowl. Serve the meat warm, placing a healthy spoonful of applesauce.
This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from My Irish Table by Cathal Armstrong and David Hagedorn and published by Ten Speed Press, 2014. Purchase this book from our store: My Irish Table.