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David Lissner
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Eat this! Fresh apple cider, the toast of autumn

Harvest’s cider-braised pork shoulder.

Harvest’s cider-braised pork shoulder.

What it is: A sweet-tart flavor of fall, apple cider goes with Halloween, leaf raking and all the rest of the autumn festivities. In most of the world, cider means a fermented, alcoholic beverage, but in the United States, we use the term interchangeably for both the fermented juice of apples and the fresh-pressed juice it’s made from. Apple juice, oddly enough, usually refers to a clear, filtered and pasteurized product, while cider typically means a cloudy and relatively unprocessed liquid.

Where it comes from: The cultivation of apples and pressing them for cider and other beverages goes back to prehistory, perhaps as early as 1300 BC on the Nile River Delta.

Sherman Scott

Sherman Scott

What to do with it: Alcoholic apple cider is becoming increasingly popular, all year round, but it’s the tangy flavor of the fresh product that really says fall. Most commercial cider makers pasteurize their cider, a government requirement since the 1989, which can affect the taste considerably. To get completely unprocessed raw cider, you’ll probably have to visit an apple orchard. However, newer methods of flash pasteurization retain more of the fresh-apple flavor. Look for cloudy, refrigerated cider and read the label.

Fresh apple cider not only makes a refreshing cold beverage, and a wonderfully warming hot drink, but it’s a great ingredient anywhere you want a touch of tartness and sweetness. At Harvest on the Magnificent Mile, Chef Sherman Scott braises pork shoulder in cider as a fall and winter special.

Harvest’s cider-braised pork shoulder
Chef Sherman Scott

1/4 cup olive oil
1 whole bone-in pork shoulder, 12 to 16 pounds
Salt and pepper to taste
1 white onion, peeled and medium diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
2 quarts fresh apple cider
2 quarts chicken stock
1 cup apple-cider vinegar
2 bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Heat a large cast-iron pot or other heavy pot and add the olive oil. Season the pork shoulder with salt and pepper and place in hot pot. Sear all sides of pork until browned well.

Take the pork shoulder out of the pot and add the onions. Saute onions until translucent and add the garlic and thyme. Saute 1 minute and put the pork shoulder back into the pot. Add the apple cider, chicken stock, cider vinegar and bay leaf.

Cover and place the pot in the preheated oven. Braise for 3 to 3-1/2 hours or until tender. After about 1-1/2 hours, flip the pork shoulder in pot to insure the pork is evenly cooked in the juice.

Remove the pork form the pot and let stand, covered, for at least 10 minutes before slicing. 12 to 16 servings.

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