The humble pork shank doesn’t get much recognition compared to its low, slow, braise-worthy cousins, such as the shoulder. That’s too bad. Shanks not only take up less room and time in the kitchen, but they also contain lots of rich cartilage that add dimension and silkiness, as well as plenty of nutrients, to the final dish. When slowly braised, shanks become meltingly tender and soak up every nuance of the flavorful sauce. This recipe makes an ideal guest-worthy dish for a cold winter’s night or a welcome change on a holiday table. It’s delicious served over a bed of mashed Yukon Gold or sweet potatoes, other winter veggies, or buttered noodles.
Look for shanks at specialty food shops. Because of their toned down popularity, they can be slightly more difficult to find, but it’s worth a call to your local butcher to procure some. Lamb shanks work equally well, and lend the dish a different flavor.
Beer and Cider-Braised Pork Shanks
Prep time: 30 minutes, plus 24 hours for brining
Cook time: 4–5 hours
For the brine:
- ⅔ cup sea salt
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 1 tablespoon peppercorns, lightly cracked
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
- 1 gallon water
For the shanks:
- 4 pork shanks
- Beef tallow, lard, or bacon grease
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper
- 2 cups pale ale or other mild beer
- 2 cups apple cider
- 1½ quarts chicken broth
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 6 sprigs thyme
- 6 parsley stems
- Prepare brine: Place all ingredients except water in a container large enough to hold both the shanks and all the brine. Bring about 2 cups of the water to a boil, reserving the rest. Pour over the brining ingredients and stir until salt has dissolved. Add all of the remaining water, then place shanks in the brining liquid. If necessary, weigh them down until fully submerged. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 300°F. Remove shanks from the brine and pat dry. Heat a little bit of fat in a heavy Dutch oven. Sear shanks on all sides until deeply browned, working in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding the pan. Transfer to a plate and sear remaining shanks. Pour off fat from pot and add some fresh fat.
- Sauté onion, celery, carrot, and garlic with red pepper flakes and a little salt and pepper until lightly golden. Add beer and bring to a boil. Reduce liquid by three quarters. Add cider and return to a boil, then reduce by half. Add chicken broth and herbs. Return shanks to the pot. Cover and bring to a simmer.
- Transfer shanks to the oven and braise until very tender, about 4–5 hours. Serve with the braising liquid.
To choose your organically grown and fresh ingredients wisely, use the following criteria:
- chemical- and hormone-free meat
- wild-caught fish
- pasture-raised, organic eggs
- whole, unrefined grains
- virgin, unrefined, first-press organic oils
- whole-food, unrefined sweeteners
- pure, clean, spring water
- sea salt
- raw and/or cultured milk and cream products