I had gotten a great deal on pork loin roasts at one of those bulk stores, not the kind with membership. In order to get such an amazing price, you had to buy the entire roast, about 3 feet long. So when I got home from the store, I cut it into 1 lb. roasts, bagged them and tossed them in the freezer.
So here I am, I had thawed one of the pork roasts for dinner and had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with it. Anything I thought of I didn’t have something else I would need like spinach, mushrooms, dried fruit, and so on. Finally the light bulb goes off, at 4 o’clock, much later than I usually start especially when taking notes and photographs.
I decided to double butterfly cut the pork so I could form a stuffed log of pork that would cut into pinwheels, which always look great for presentation. The double butterfly cut turns any cylindrical piece of meat into a flat square or rectangle, while it may seem intimidating it really isn’t that hard to do but you will need a good quality sharp knife. To double butterfly you basically cut the roast lengthwise in the middle but don’t cut all the way through. Then you take the top portion and cut it from the opposite side, again not going all the way through and repeat for the bottom portion. The best way to visualize it is to think of a “W”, that first cut being the middle ^ of the letter and the top and bottom cuts being the V part of letter. That’s the easiest way for me to remember the direction without ending up with some thin cut pork scraps. After the cuts and the meat is laid flat, I cover with a piece of plastic wrap and use a pounder just to flatten out any uneven parts, usually the joints.
The filling for my pork, I decided on my southern cornbread dressing that I always make at Thanksgiving. It starts with healthy cornbread that is cooled and crumbled. To that I add a dozen woven wheat crackers, they do sell them in a variety of flavors, I used plain but if you feel adventurous, go for it! Then I add sea salt, cracked pepper, rubbed sage and dried thyme. Diced onion and chopped walnuts get added to the mixture then an egg for a binding agent and some chicken stock to moisten. It all gets mixed until all well combined.
On the work surface, place some kitchen twine, about an inch apart and for this particular roast I only needed three, you want to lay these strings under the flattened pork, make sure you cut them long enough to wrap around once the pork is filled. I usually go overboard by about a foot because I’ve cut them too short before and they are easier to tie with longer ends and you can trim them. Add the cornbread mixture on top, about an inch thick and using your hands, press down to the edges evenly. To roll, you will start at at the short end and roll it onto itself and keep rolling to the end. Pull the strings taught and tie into a knot, trimming any excess twine.
Place the roast, seam side down, in a roasting pan big enough to fit that has been treated with nonstick cooking spray. I know that this picture looks as if I have a lot of oil in it but actually I had rinsed it with water first and didn’t dry it then added the spray. I had a hungry son that was pestering me, “How long before dinner?”
The stuffed roast, is vented with aluminum foil, to retain moisture, and placed in a preheated oven and baked for 1 hour to 1-1/2 hours, until a thermometer inserted into middle of roast registers 165 degrees. The aluminum foil can be removed the last 20 to 30 minutes of cooking to get a crustier outside if you prefer.
Allow the roast to rest 5 to 10 minutes, carefully cut strings and remove them from roast then slice into six equal pinwheels.
While the pork is roasting I make the sauce. Originally I was going to do a peach bourbon sauce but the bag of frozen peaches I had in the freezer was actually mangos so I went with apples, which work great with sage, pork and thyme. I core and thinly slice the apples, it is best to use an apple like a Golden Delicious since it is softer and doesn’t require a long cooking time to soften. I add to it a tablespoon of grass fed cow butter and saute until the apples slightly brown. I add chicken stock, a little agave nectar for sweetness and bourbon. If you prefer not to have bourbon, you can just add more chicken stock. The sauce simmers about 15 to 20 minutes until apples are soft. I increase the heat to boil and add a cornstarch slurry to thicken.
The sliced pinwheels are placed on serving platter or plate and the sauce with apples is spooned over the top and served.
- 1 lb. pork loin roast, preferably white meat and trimmed of fat
- 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal plus additional for dusting
- 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/4 cup flaxseed meal
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 1 cup lowfat buttermilk
- nonstick cooking spray
- Prepared cornbread
- 12 woven wheat crackers
- 1 tsp. rubbed sage
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- 1/2 cup onion, diced
- 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 2 medium apples, cored and thinly sliced (any apple but Granny Smith)
- 1 tablespoon grass fed cow butter
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 tsp. cracked black pepper
- 1-1/2 tablespoons agave nectar
- 1/4 cup bourbon
- 2 tsp. cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon water
- nonstick cooking spray
- cooking twine
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Spray 8" x 8" baking pan with nonstick spray then dust with cornmeal, set aside.
- In a medium bowl combine all the dry ingredients for the cornbread, whisk in buttermilk and mix well.
- Pour batter into prepared pan then place in preheated oven.
- Cook cornbread for 15 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.
- Crumble cooked and cooled cornbread into large bowl.
- Add a dozen woven wheat crackers, such as a Triscuit, crumble into cornbread mixture.
- Add sage, sea salt, thyme, pepper, onions and walnuts, mix into crumbled cornbread mixture.
- Add egg and chicken broth and mix until well combined and moist.
- Preheat oven 350 degrees.
- Place pork loin roast on work surface.
- Using a sharp knife cut the roast lengthwise in the middle but don’t cut all the way through, leave a little over an inch in tact.
- Keep roast together, don't open it up.
- Make another cut, mid way above your first cut but in the opposite direction so that the hinges holding the pork together are at opposite ends.
- Now repeat the step above but on the bottom, again opposite of the cut in the middle. This will be in a W pattern so it will unfold and open up.
- Open up the cut roast and cover with plastic wrap, use a pounder and flatten out any uneven parts and flatten out the seams (hinges).
- Cut cooking twine long enough to wrap around roast, keep in mind it will be larger when stuffed. You will need enough so that you have it tied about every inch.
- Place twine on work surface, lay open roast on twine, lengthwise or long side, then set aside.
- *If any of the above is confusing, please look above on this recipe post for additional description and photos.
- Place cornbread mixture evenly over pork, about an inch thick and spread to all the edges. You may have leftover stuffing which you can put in a ramekin and bake for a dressing on the side or to use for another recipe.
- Begin rolling up pork with filling beginning with the short end, this will be a stout roast rather than long and skinny. Keep rolling until you reach the end.
- Pull up twine and and tie securely, trimming any excess twine.
- Treat roasting pan with nonstick cooking spray and place roast in pan, seam side down.
- Vent with aluminum foil and place in oven. Roast for 1 hour to 1-1/2 hours or until a thermometer inserted in the middle reads 165 degrees or higher.
- Allow roast to rest 5 to 10 minutes then slice into 6 equal pinwheels.
- Place on serving platter or serving plates and spoon sauce and apples over top.
- While the pork is roasting you can make the sauce.
- Add apple slices and butter to medium skillet over medium heat, cook until apples slightly brown, about 5 minutes.
- Add chicken stock, pepper, agave and bourbon, reduce to simmer and allow to cook 15 minutes or until apples are soft.
- Increase heat to high.
- In a small bowl combine cornstarch and water.
- Once sauce reaches a boil, add the cornstarch and water slurry and whisk rapidly. Continue cooking and whisking until sauce thickens.
- Remove from heat.
- Total cooking time does not include sauce, since sauce is being cooked while pork is roasting.
Pulled pork is a staple dish in the South, mostly in the Carolinas. Pork is widely used in the South because it is inexpensive. The typical cut of pork used for this recipe is pork shoulder which is also known as pork butt, picnic shoulder or Boston shoulder. If you would like a leaner pork for this recipe, I’ve made it with pork loin and it works well too.
While some pulled pork is prepared by smoking the meat, others are cooked and braised in the oven and that is how I prepare mine. I start with a large Dutch oven but you can use any type of roasting pan with a lid even a Römertopf works really well for this dish.
Many pulled pork recipes are nothing more than barbecue sauce poured over the meat and baked slowly, I don’t use store bought barbecue sauce because of the unhealthy ingredients. I lightly spray my Dutch oven with olive oil spray to prevent the roast from sticking. I then add paprika, minced garlic, dry mustard, cayenne pepper, black pepper, dried thyme, sea salt, pure maple syrup, water and apple cider vinegar. I don’t rub the roast, I just dump it all in, place the lid on it and place it in the preheated oven and allow it to cook for about 6 hours. Continue reading “Pulled Pork”