American settlers made applejack, an apple brandy, well over a hundred years before the American Revolution. George Washington was known for distilling the wine he made from the fruits of the Mount Vernon orchard into a finer, more potent brandy. Even John Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed) inadvertently contributed to the rise of apple-based spirits in America. Planting thousands of apple trees from seed on the new frontier was his entrepreneurial way of improving plots of land so he could turn around and sell them to settlers for a profit. The bitter fruit of its seed-grown trees, unlike the fruit of grafted trees, was not safe to eat, so it was usually mashed for alcohol instead.
Like fat, alcohol carries flavor, and using hard cider or apple brandy in the braising liquid for pork shoulder adds an intensity you just can’t. obtain by cooking meat with fruit alone. I’ve been making iterations of this recipe for years. The method comes from brilliant Atlanta biochemist and cookbook author Shirley Corriher. The pork enters a very hot oven which is reduced to a very low temperature as soon as the oven door closes. Don’t even think about opening the door to peek or you’ll lose the perfect climate you’ve just created to turn a tough cut into a melty, tender delight.
Whether you’re shredding it to pile it on a bun or serving it with oatmeal and greens, be sure to baste the meat with a healthy dose of braising liquid before serving.
See more recipes in our Bar Cart Kitchen series.