Cider-Braised Pork Shoulder with Caramelized Apples and Onions

Cider-Braised Pork Shoulder with Caramelized Apples and Onions
Jump to Recipe 👇

About This Recipe

Nestled amidst the sweeping views of Napa's rolling vineyards, there's a tale in every glass of wine and every bite of a farm-to-table meal. And today, I want to bring a piece of wine country to your table with a dish that's steeped in the essence of our Californian heartland. Dive in as I unravel my favorite, "Cider-Braised Pork Shoulder with Caramelized Apples and Onions".

The journey to create this recipe began with the sheer abundance of Napa's produce. The apples, a tribute to the age-old orchards scattered across the valley, were my starting point. With a mission for authenticity in my home chef endeavors, this dish is an ode to the warm summers and crisp evenings that define our valley. Sourcing ingredients from local farmers' markets not only ensures freshness but also brings us a step closer to the farm to table ethos of Napa's culinary heritage.

For sides, you could embrace Napa’s vegetable cornucopia. Consider a light arugula and goat cheese salad or perhaps roasted Brussels sprouts from one of our numerous valley farms. They have a knack for lending any recipes an earthy texture, making them ideal for this dish.

And for dessert? A simple yet elegant poached pear drizzled with honey from our local beekeepers. It’s a healthy dinner idea that pays homage to our valley's bounty, easy yet exuding elegance.

When crafting a dish so intrinsically tied to wine country, the pairing is paramount. A full-bodied Chardonnay, like the ones from Cakebread Cellars, resonates with the sweetness of the apples. Alternatively, a Pinot Noir, especially one from a lesser-known but phenomenal winery like Whetstone Wine Cellars, complements the savory undertones of the pork, creating a symphony on the palate.

As we're on the topic of wine vineyards, let me let you in on a secret. There’s a world beyond the big names and bustling tasting rooms. If you ever find yourself in Napa, venture to El Molino Winery. This hidden gem, away from the touristy hustle, offers authentic Napa experiences. Their wine menu is curated with passion, echoing the history of wine-making in the valley.

And while most visit Napa for its wines, I urge you to explore the restaurants that elevate our homegrown ingredients. The Rutherford Grill, for instance, not only provides a picturesque backdrop of vineyards but also serves meals that any home chef would aspire to recreate. They offer a wonderful chef wine list that perfectly complements their dishes. Perfect for a summer dinner after a day of vineyard hopping.

For those seeking quick dinner solutions, while still savoring Napa's elegance, this pork dish can be prepped in advance. The caramelized apples and onions only intensify in flavor if left overnight.

To all my readers who've wondered about crafting chef meals at home, it's not about intricate techniques but sourcing the right ingredients. In Napa, we're fortunate. The very air, enriched by the Pacific breezes, the fertile soil that has seen centuries of agricultural history, and the tight-knit community of farmers and vintners all contribute to our unique culinary tapestry.

Lastly, I must say, while recipes guide, let your palate lead. The Napa essence isn’t just in its wine but its spirit. From the vineyards' whispering stories of yesteryears to the modern, innovative chef recipe review blogs that populate the digital sphere, Napa’s culinary scene is ever-evolving.

To embody wine country in your kitchen, remember, it's about the journey – from vine to wine, farm to table, and heart to plate.

Hero Ingredient Spotlight: Apple Cider

Apple Cider – The Nectar of Autumn

Apple cider is a fundamental ingredient in this delectable Cider-Braised Pork Shoulder with Caramelized Apples and Onions. Originating from the pressed juice of apples, this flavorful liquid is the essence of fall. Bursting with natural sweetness and a hint of tartness, apple cider amplifies the pork's savory depth while complementing the caramelized apples and onions. Used frequently in Napa's farm-to-table dishes, apple cider’s bright and refreshing notes enhance not only savory dishes but also sweet desserts, beverages, and more. When selecting apple cider for this recipe, opt for a high-quality, pure, and preferably locally-sourced cider to elevate the dish to its peak of flavor.

How To Perfectly Caramelize Apples and Onions

  1. Start With Fresh Produce: Begin with fresh apples and onions. For apples, choose varieties that are firm and slightly tart.
  2. Preheat the Pan: Ensure your pan is sufficiently hot. This will help in searing the apples and onions, locking in their natural sugars.
  3. Stir Regularly: While you want the apples and onions to have direct contact with the pan to achieve a golden color, ensure you're stirring occasionally. This prevents burning and ensures even caramelization.
  4. Patience is Key: Good caramelization takes time. Allow the apples and onions to slowly transform into a deep, golden hue. This slow cooking not only brings out the sweetness but also introduces a complex flavor profile to your dish.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I substitute the apple cider with something else? Yes, if apple cider is unavailable, you can use apple juice. However, be aware that juice may be sweeter. You might need to adjust the amount of brown sugar accordingly.
  2. What are the best apple varieties for this recipe? For a nice balance of sweetness and tartness, Granny Smith or Honeycrisp apples are excellent choices. They also hold up well during cooking.
  3. How can I store leftovers? Place any remaining pork and sauce in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It's often even better the next day after the flavors meld further.
  4. Is this dish gluten-free? Yes, as long as the apple cider, broth, and vinegar you use are gluten-free. Always check labels to be sure.
  5. Can I use a slow cooker instead of a Dutch oven? Absolutely! After browning the pork and caramelizing the apples and onions, transfer everything to a slow cooker, add the liquids, and cook on low for 6-8 hours until the pork is tender.

Tips for Success

  1. Let the Pork Rest: After braising, let the pork rest for a few minutes before slicing or shredding. This allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in a juicier dish.
  2. Use Fresh Herbs: The use of fresh rosemary and thyme truly makes a difference in this dish. They impart a fragrant aroma and depth of flavor that dried herbs might not achieve.
  3. Pair With Wine: As the dish has roots in the wine culture of Napa Valley, pairing it with a Pinot Noir or Chardonnay will enrich the overall dining experience. The wine's notes can beautifully echo the dish’s apple undertones and savory pork.

Recipe Overview

Cider-Braised Pork Shoulder with Caramelized Apples and Onions
Lily Anderson
6 servings
Calories Per Serving:
Prep Time:
Cook Time:
Total Time:

Ingredients List


  • 3-4 lb boneless pork shoulder, trimmed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 large apples, cored and sliced
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Step-by-Step Directions

  1. Season the pork shoulder generously with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the pork shoulder and brown on all sides, approximately 4-5 minutes per side.
  3. Remove the pork shoulder and set aside. In the same pot, add the sliced apples and onions. Cook until they begin to caramelize, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic, rosemary, and thyme, and stir for an additional 1-2 minutes.
  5. Pour in the apple cider, broth, and apple cider vinegar. Stir to combine.
  6. Return the pork shoulder to the pot. The liquid should cover at least half of the pork.
  7. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and let it braise for about 2-3 hours, or until the pork is tender and can be easily pulled apart with a fork.
  8. Once done, remove the pork from the pot and let it rest for a few minutes. Meanwhile, turn up the heat and reduce the sauce by half.
  9. Stir in the brown sugar and butter until melted and combined.
  10. Slice or shred the pork and serve with the caramelized apples, onions, and sauce on top.

Share Your Results

Was it everything you dreamed it could be? Let me know how it turned out for you and share a picture on social media with the hashtag #LilyCooksNapa

Hello and welcome to Napa Home Chef! We're thrilled you're joining us to explore the vibrant world of wine country cooking. Our team has crafted bold, creative recipes inspired by Napa Valley's lush landscapes, bountiful harvests, and world-renowned wines. We hope you enjoy the journey with us!

Get ready to experience the rich flavors and unique culinary delights that embody the essence of wine country living. Happy cooking!

About Me

Don't miss a recipe!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Coming soon - Cookbook!

Loving Napa Home Chef Recipes and wishing for more? Discover print exclusives!

Napa Recipe Cookbook: Napa Home Chef
Grilled Asparagus with Lemon and Parmesan
Napa Valley Cabernet and Cherry Compote
Burrata & Coal-Fired Peppers
Blue Corn Ceviche with Charred Grapefruit and Mezcal Vinaigrette
Garlic and White Wine Cream Sauce
Squid Ink Spaghetti with Rock Shrimp, Calabrian Chili & Lemon Pangrattato
Applewood Smoked Pork Chops with Grilled Peaches and Bourbon Glaze
Ancho Chili Beef Burger with Queso Fresco and Charred Pineapple Salsa
Fig and Port Reduction
Catalina Island Cooler with Tequila, Cactus Juice, and Lime
Dungeness Crab Sandwich with Bodega Bay Sauce
Organic Chicken & Chardonnay Pie

Mandatory (inedible) cookies. By using this website, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.