The perfect roast with apple sauce for special occasions.
Prep 15 minutes
Cook 1 hour 50 minutes
You don’t need apple sauce with roast pork.
For me, some roasts are simply not complete without the right fruity accompaniment – lamb with mint jelly, duck with cherries, Christmas turkey with cranberry sauce. Most noble of all these is apple sauce with a golden haunch of crunchy, crackle-backed pork.
Apples were one of the first trees to be domesticated and crossbred by our ancient ancestors – the wild apple from the Caucasus and Xinjian meeting the crabapple of northern Europe for bigger, sweeter and juicier fruit. Originally they were most often eaten fresh, and dried or preserved for the winter. Cooking apples into a sweet or savoury sauce is very much a medieval thing. The earliest English and French cookbooks, The Forme of Cury (‘The Method of Cooking’, c. 1390) and Le Ménagier de Paris (‘The Parisian Household Book’, 1393) both have recipes for apple sauce, made with beef broth for meat days and almond and saffron for fish days. It’s interesting to note that the first-century cookbook De re coquinaria (‘On the Subject of Cooking’, also known as Apicius) includes a recipe for a pork and apple ragù, a combination that the later cookbooks don’t specify.
Even though pigs were one of the earliest animals domesticated for meat, with a history even longer than cultivated apples, it wasn’t until the eighteenth century that the combination of apple sauce and roast pork became a given. This coincided with an explosion in the number of cookbooks being published, such as Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery (1747).
The logic of the pairing was undeniable. Before the industrialisation of pork production, pork was an autumn meat, with the pigs often fattened on windfall apples before being dispatched to turn into charcuterie and cuts for the long winter, so serving the prime cuts with apples seems irrefutable. Taste this recipe if you need any more convincing.
- 1.5 kg boned rolled pork loin
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1½ tablespoons sea salt, plus extra for seasoning
- 2 Royal Gala apples, peeled and cut into 1.5 cm cubes
- 12 sage leaves
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 6 Royal Gala apples
- 30 g butter, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- large pinch ground cloves
If you like a chunkier apple sauce, you can make this without the blender. After removing the core and skin from the apples, place the flesh in a bowl and add the butter, sugar, mustard, vinegar, pan juices and cloves. Use a fork to roughly mash and combine well. Season with salt and more vinegar, if desired.
Preheat oven to 240°C (220°C fan-forced).
Open the pork to sit flat, rind side up. Pat the rind dry really well with paper towel. Use a sharp knife or Stanley knife to score the rind across the width at 1 cm intervals. Roll the pork up and secure with kitchen string at regular intervals. (If you have bought your pork already scored, rolled and tied, all you need to do is pat it dry).
Transfer the pork, rind-side up, to a large roasting pan. Pat the rind again with paper towel to make sure it is really, really dry. Drizzle over the oil then rub the salt into the cuts. Roast for 40–45 minutes or until the rind crackles.
To make the sauce, use a small knife to score a line around the centre of each apple.
Reduce the oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Place the whole scored apples around the pork. Roast the pork for a further 1 hour or until the pork is cooked through and the apples are tender. Transfer the pork to a platter and brush off a little excess salt. Cover loosely with foil to rest. Transfer the apples to a chopping board.
Tilt the pan on an angle and use a dessert spoon to scoop the fat layer off the pan juices in the base of the pan and transfer to a frying pan. Reserve the pan juices.
Use a knife to cut away the flesh of the apples. Discard the core. Transfer the apple flesh and skin to a blender. Add the butter, sugar, mustard, vinegar and cloves and blend until almost smooth. Add 2 tablespoons of the reserved pan juices. Blend until thick and smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning with vinegar if necessary.
Heat the frying pan with the pork fat over medium-high heat. Add the apple cubes and cook, tossing, for 3–4 minutes or until caramelised. Add the sage and cook, tossing, for 1–2 minutes or until lightly fried. Remove from the heat, add the lemon juice and toss until well combined.
Slice the pork and serve with the apple sauce, caramelised apple cubes and sage leaves.
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