Sage. It’s not just for Thanksgiving stuffing. The following is a classic pork roast recipe adapted from one in James Beard’s American Cookery (1972). At the time the “Dean of American Cooking” published his book, pork – particularly a roast – was much more popular in the United States than today. By the late 1970s, it largely fell out of popularity as fad diets became vogue. Yes, some pork cuts are high in fat and cholesterol. But it’s not difficult to find a lean pork roast, which is actually much healthier than other more popular beef roasts.
Also, can I just say how much I love James Beard and get that out of the way now? His cookbooks and writing have been a huge source of inspiration – and no joke, I have a portrait-size photo of him over my stove so he can help me keep an eye on my pots and pans!
Experiment with the rub ingredients to find a taste that meets with your palate, but I encourage you to try it at least once with sage as the dominant herb. Sage brings out an earthy taste and aroma in the pork, and the peppercorns and mustard give both bite and color. Accompanied with apples (apples and pork go together like Abbot and Costello), this recipe is the perfect autumn dish.
2 ½ pound pork roast
3 tbsp. ground sage
1 ½ tbsp. ground mustard
1 ½ tbsp. peppercorns
salt, to taste
3 tart apples peeled, cored and quartered
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
¼ tsp nutmeg or ½ tsp cinnamon
½ cup apple cider or sweet white wine
First, select a good pork roast that is trimmed of excess fat. I found a nice sirloin pork roast that came from the amazing Beeler’s Farm in nearby Le Mars, Iowa. Place the pork roast on a large plate or platter, and if just pulled from the refrigerator, it is ideal to allow the roast to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
In a spice grinder or mortar, grind peppercorns, salt, sage and mustard until fine and well-mixed. Rub the mixture all around the roast. Put the pork on a rack in a dutch oven or roasting pan, and roast for about 25 minutes per pound.
Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, combine sugar and nutmeg or cinnamon (nutmeg is a bit more traditional and will have you thinking more savory than apple pie). Add apples and toss to coat.
After the pork has finished its first roasting, remove from the oven and pour off any excess fat (particularly important if you’re using a fattier roast like Boston butt). Surround the roast with apples, pour cider or wine over, and return to the oven until the meat is done – about 45 minutes for a two pound roast, or until the internal temperature reaches about 145 degrees. Remove from oven and let rest. The roast will continue cooking to an internal temperature of around 155 degrees and the juices will stay in. The rub will be crusted and the center of the roast, when sliced, will be just slightly pinkish. Accompany with apples, and perhaps a good mustard. Braised onions, steamed broccoli and roasted potatoes also go well with this dish. Serve with a sweet white wine (a Riesling or a honey mead), or with apple cider.
Try it yourself and post your thoughts and suggestions!