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Winter — or some would say ‘vinter’ — food

Pork loin with winter vegetables right from the oven. (Credit: Mary Lydon)

Boneless pork loin roast is probably the most popular type of roast you’ll find. Not to be confused with pork tenderloin.

Pork loin offers a larger size, robust flavor and versatility in cooking. It adapts to a number of rubs and sauces, slow cooking and grilling. But it’s a natural for braising with a variety of winter vegetables.

As the days stay darker and colder this time of year, there’s little cozier than the smell and the pleasure of this seasonal meal.

I served it one bitter cold winter night when our Danish friend Fredrik was visiting. Delighted, he said, in his soft Danish accent, “Ahh, ‘vinter’ food!” The pronunciation has stuck whenever we offer it at our table with friends.


2-3 pound boneless pork loin, tied

Salt and pepper

2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion

4 cloves garlic

1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 cup apple-cider vinegar

1-1/2 cups apple cider

1 cup chicken broth

1/2 head Savoy cabbage

1 bulb fennel

3 small red apples

1 tablespoon butter (optional)

1. Most pork loins have a layer of fat. You’ll want to trim most of it, but pork fat is loaded with flavor, so leave a thin layer. Dry the meat and then tie it in several places. Season all over with salt and pepper and let it rest while you prepare the vegetables.

2. Cut cabbage in half and then into one-inch wedges. Cut trimmed fennel into same-size wedges. Quarter one apple, and then slice each wedge into thirds. The idea is to have these three about the same size. Halve the onion and then thinly slice. Mince the garlic.

3. Turn the oven to 350.  Heat the oil in a heavy pot and brown the pork all over (about 6-8 minutes). Remove the pork and add a little more oil if necessary.

4. Reduce heat and add onions, cooking for about 3 minutes until transparent but not brown. Add garlic, caraway seeds and flour, stirring for 30 seconds, and then add vinegar. Stir until it comes to a boil, and add cider and broth. Bring to a boil and add cabbage, fennel and apple.

5. Bring back to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook 8 minutes, stirring once. Return pork, including juices, to pan. Place pan, uncovered, into oven for 15 minutes.

6. Remove from oven, remove pork, and add remaining two apples, cut into wedges, carefully combining with vegetables. Return pork to pan and place back into oven. Continue cooking for 30 minutes, or until pork registers 155. Remove and cover to keep warm for 10 minutes. Don’t slice before then. It needs the time to retain juices. Arrange drained vegetables on a warmed platter and add slices of pork.

7. Reserve liquid in pot, strained or not. Serve pork and vegetables with sauce on the side.

Wonderful served with either mashed potatoes or spaetzle.

(Credit: Mary Lydon)

Red wine, beer or cider spritzers are all good choices.

And for dessert, my default after a particularly heartwarming meal is always chocolate cake, although a light sherbet might be a wise choice.