The Cook in Me: I Cannot Tell a Lie--I Stuffed the Pork with Cherries!©
Pork Roast with Cherry (or Cranberry) Stuffing
The first memories I have of Pork Roast are from when I was a little girl and the aromas of browning pork and garlic woke me early Sunday mornings. I remember being snuggled under my covers and the smell of sauteing garlic wafting up the stairs to the bedroom where my oldest sister and I slept. That aroma told me that it was time to wake up and get ready for church. We almost always attended 10:45 a.m. Mass at the Catholic Church located at the end of our street. Early every Sunday before we left for church, my Mother prepared the meat that was the main course for that day's dinner and placed it in the oven. At my family's house, Sunday dinner was the main meal of the day and was served between 1 and 1:30 p.m. As a rule we either had Roast Chicken (my favorite), Roast Beef (most often) or Roast Pork (least often) with mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, salad and rolls. It was a rare day when the menu differed. In the summer we might grill a Sirloin Steak or go on a picnic, but for three-quarters of the year these were the Sunday menu offerings. We usually only saw Ham for the holidays, Meatloaf during the week, Spaghetti and Meatballs for suppers, Macaroni and Cheese or Fish on Fridays, and Duck or Goose at my Grandma Lasak's.
I'm not sure why my Mother rarely made Pork Roast since I never asked her. Maybe at that time pork was the most expensive of the three Sunday staples. Perhaps it was because back then people still worried about trichinosis and pork. A third reason could have been that my Father did not like it as well as the other meats, and generally my Father's preferences were the governing edicts in our house. This was not because he was a tyrant. Rather, it was only because he had been an officer in the U.S. Navy before and during the "Big War" (World War II), and I sometimes think he still thought he was issuing orders to his subordinates. Whatever the reason, I knew that I loved Pork Roast, especially if it was cooked to the point where it melted in your mouth. I also knew that it made excellent hot roast pork sandwiches with my Mother's gravy for supper the next evening.
I never really watched my Mother cook when I was in elementary school, and I never really cared about how the meals made it to the table. I was too busy reading, playing school (where I was always the teacher of course), roller skating with my best friend Dee Dee who lived across the street, or getting into trouble with my next-door neighbor, Terry. When I was in Junior High School I was occupied listening to my Beatles' albums, reading articles in teen magazines about The Beatles, talking on the telephone with my friends about The Beatles, writing stories about The Beatles, or staring at The Beatles' posters on my bedroom ceiling and walls. As you can guess, I was crazy about The Beatles. I never even wanted a Barbie Doll, which was introduced when I was in the fifth grade. All the girls in the fifth grade had a Barbie doll; it was the most popular birthday and Christmas gift that year. In fact, I was never one to play with any dolls, pretend I was cooking, had an Easy-Bake oven, or dwell on domestic activities (not that Barbie impressed me as the domestic type).
I maintained from the time I was in grade school that I was never going to get married, so I guess I figured I didn't need to know how to cook. (There were no candidates that I thought were suitable for marriage in my grade school classes.) I was going to stay single and be a professional woman like my Father's oldest sister, Aunt Heloise. She was a high level executive at Ohio Bell and had been for some 20 years before I was even born. I had thoughts of being a history teacher, journalist, or novelist. By the time I was in high school, my goal was to be a lawyer and a politician. My friends in high school, knowing that I had sworn off marriage, chided me and called me "Hard Hearted Hannah," and told me I would change my mind. They were right. It's funny how your hormones change those aspirations or at least, in my case, delay them.
I have been fortunate in accomplishing several of the career goals I dreamed about when I was young. And I found that just because I achieved those goals didn't mean that I had to abandon an interest that I acquired after I did marry. I found that I loved cooking. Never having thought of myself as an incredibly creative person, I was surprised that I loved the creative aspect of developing and revising recipes and coordinating dinner parties and menus. It gave me a creative outlet that I never knew I had. Because my career positions required more brain work than hands-on activity, I found cooking and baking relaxing. It is hands on, almost mistake proof, and produces a result that is pleasing to those who reap its benefits. Actually, it is something that I wish I had pursued at an earlier point in my life; but I have no regrets. I have been able to enjoy the best of both worlds by combining my professional and non-professional lives with very satisfying results.
I can't remember the first time I made a Pork Roast. I can't remember what recipe I used, or if I just winged it. I do know that I have always used garlic when making it because my Mother always did. While my Grandmother always used a lot of garlic in her cooking, my Mother did not. That may be why I specifically remember the aroma of sautéing garlic when she made those Sunday Pork Roasts. For many years, I didn't do anything special with my Pork Roasts. I looked at them as more of an initial step in order to achieve other desired results with the leftovers, such as Barbecued Pulled Pork, Pork Carnitas, Hot Pork Sandwiches with Gravy, or Pork Enchiladas. Then I gave Pork Roasts a second thought. For approximately thirty years in the summers we vacationed in Northern Michigan, and I always brought back dried cherries. They were difficult to find in stores back home and when I did find them, they were expensive. This was at a time when the only dried fruit I can recall finding in grocery stores was raisins, prunes and dried apricots. I don't even recall seeing dried cranberries on grocery store shelves at that time.
I tend to think of Pork Roast as one of those comfort foods for autumn and winter. One blustery fall Sunday I decided to make a Pork Roast for my Son's family for dinner. I knew I was taking a gamble because two of his children are very picky eaters. But because I'm a strong believer in trying new things I decided I'd take the risk. I started with my standard no-real-recipe-for Stuffing and added some of the Northern Michigan dried cherries. I threw in some Pecans and decided I'd go a little further and make a Cherry Sauce for drizzling over the Roast and the Stuffing. Mashed potatoes just have to have gravy, so I wasn't going to push it that far. The result is what I am sharing with you today, my Pork Roast with Cherry Stuffing. While I made it in the oven that first time, it's also suitable for the Crock Pot when cooked at the low setting. Either way, it will melt in your mouth. It's perfect around the Holidays, for a cold day in the fall or winter, or when you want something a little fancier than a standard Pork Roast. It's also another great way to incorporate Stuffing into a meal. If you prefer cranberries, you can substitute cranberries for the cherries. You can either add the Pecans or not, and you can serve the Gravy, the Cherry Sauce or both, and keep everyone happy. I hope you'll take a risk and give it a try!
© 2012, 2013 I Cannot Tell a Lie—I Stuffed the Pork Roast with Cherries! by Kathy Striggow
This article may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the express written permission of the author.
Roast Pork with Cherry Stuffing
- 1-5 to 7 lb. Pork Shoulder, Butt, or Loin
- 1 tsp. Garlic
- Black Pepper, freshly Ground
- 3 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil
- 1/2 cup Butter (or Margarine)
- 2 cups Celery with Leaves, sliced
- 1 cup Sweet Onion, chopped
- 1-2 cloves Garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup Green Onions with tops, sliced
- 1 Tbsp. Fresh Sage, snipped OR 1 tsp. Dried Rubbed Sage, OR Poultry Seasoning
- 1/2 cup Fresh Parsley, snipped
- 10-12 cups Dried Bread Cubes, can be Challah,, Italian, French, white, whole wheat, rye or a combination of any of them)¹
- 3 Whole Eggs, beaten
- 1 cup Dried Cherries (or Cranberries)
- 1/2 cup Pecans, chopped (optional)
- 1-1/2 cups Chicken Broth
- 1/2 tsp. Salt
- 1/2 tsp. Pepper, Freshly Ground
- For the Roast: Heat oven to 350° F.
- Heat oil in large skillet or large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
- Brown the roast evenly on all sides, about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Remove the roast to a roasting pan or leave it in the Dutch oven. (It's at this point that you'll transfer it to the Crock Pot if you prefer cooking it in your slow cooker.)
- Sprinkle all sides with garlic powder and pepper, and place enough water (or chicken broth) in the pan to come up about 1 in. on the sides of the pan. DO NOT ADD WATER IF YOU ARE COOKING IT IN THE CROCK POT. Place it in the oven, or turn the Crock Pot onto LOW setting.
- Begin making your Stuffing.
- Bake the roast for 45 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° F. Check the roast about every ½ hour to make sure there is about 1 in. braising liquid in the bottom of the pan so that it doesn't dry out. Add additional water (or chicken broth), if necessary. IF YOU ARE COOKING IN THE CROCK POT, DO NOT CHECK FOR ABOUT 3-4 HOURS.
- Total roasting time for the pork should be approximately 3 to 3-1/2 hours, or until the meat falls apart and melts in your mouth when you break off a piece to test it. FOR CROCK POT COOKING, TOTAL ROASTING TIME WILL BE 8-9 HOURS.
- Remove the meat to a platter, and cover it loosely with aluminum foil to keep it warm.
- Remove the stuffing from the pan, cover it and make your gravy with the pan juices, after straining off any fat.
- For the Stuffing: After you've placed the roast into the oven, place the same large skillet you used to brown the roast over medium heat and melt the butter (or margarine).
- Add the celery, onion, green onions and garlic to the hot butter and sauté until tender but not brown.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the sage, parsley, salt and pepper.
- Place the dried bread cubes in a large bowl and add the celery-onion mixture. Toss briefly to incorporate the vegetables and herbs into the bread cubes.
- Add the dried cherries, and pecans if desired.
- Pour the beaten eggs over the mixture, and drizzle with enough chicken broth to moisten.
- Toss loosely to combine all ingredients. You may need to use your hands to do this.
- Transfer to a 2-quart oven-proof casserole dish OR add the stuffing to the roasting pan after the pork has been roasting for approximately 1-1/2 hours. If you are baking the stuffing in the same pan as the roast, place an aluminum foil "bowl" in the roasting pan between the roast and the stuffing to prevent the grease from the roast from invading the stuffing and making it soggy. FOR CROCK POT COOKING, OR if you placed the dressing in a casserole dish, cover it and place it in the oven (at 350° F) about 1 hour before serving time.
- Begin making the Sauce.
- Bake the stuffing in the casserole dish for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until heated through.
- Combine all the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and stir until the the cranberry sauce breaks down and the brown sugar dissolves.
- Place the pan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until it begins simmering, about 10 minutes.
- Reduce heat to simmer and stirring occasionally, simmer for approximately 1 hour, or until it thickens. You will need to check it from time to time to make sure it hasn't gotten too thick. You may need to add more water.
- When the sauce has reached the right consistency, remove from the heat, cover with a lid and keep warm until serving time.
- Transfer the sauce to a serving dish and serve the sauce over the pork and stuffing.
¹To prepare the Dried Bread Cubes, cut 14-16 slices of Bread into ½ inch cubes and spread in a large roasting pan (do not butter or spray the pan with non-cook cooking spray). Bake, uncovered, in a 300° F oven for 10-15 minutes or until dried, stirring twice. Or let bread stand, loosely covered, at room temperature or in a single layer on baking sheets in a single layer in an unheated oven for 8-12 hours. Turn the bread at least once to insure drying on both sides.