Malt-Braised Pork Shanks

Lorrie made this for a class about Frey that Hrafnar held in September 2016. The inspiration for this dish is Smoked Pig Knuckle as aired on New Scandinavian Cooking, a tourism-inspired food show on PBS. The episode and the website don’t agree on the recipe except in the broadest strokes, and in any case not even a butcher could decipher what was meant by “knuckle”–the shanks will emerge with a deep mahogany hue and won’t disappoint. The rich stock can enliven any starchy side; the original recipe recommended mushy peas or a sort of traditional flat bread that closely resembles pita or naan.

Pork shank may be difficult to find at the typical grocery store, and when found may be smoked and offered as a ham shank; this is fine.

Another potentially unusual ingredient is barley malt syrup. If you cannot find it at local or specialty groceries, a homebrewers’ supply shop will be able to help you. If one of your prospective diners is sensitive to barley or to gluten grains, rice malt syrup can be found in specialty groceries. If neither can be found, any dark-colored liquid sugar will suffice (although perhaps not molasses).

Lorrie made a slow cooker butternut squash “barloatto” (rhymes with risotto) with dried tart cherries to accompany this and would recommend a cooked dish of cabbage or any stronger green to round out the plate.

Ingredients:

  • 3 fresh pork shanks at 2-3 pounds (1-1.5 kg) each, skin on
  • 24 oz dark beer (~700 mL) (I used barleywine)
  • 6 Tbsp (90 mL or 126 g) malt syrup
  • 2 medium yellow or white onions, diced
  • 9 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced
  • 4 Tbsp (60 mL, 2 oz, 55 g) unsalted butter
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt & pepper

Special Equipment:

  • 5 1/2 qt (28 cm) cast iron Dutch oven with well-fitting lid (enameled is lovely)
  • Hand-held propane or butane torch (optional, but efficient and entertaining)

Instructions:

Pat the shanks dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture.

If you have a torch: Ignite according to manufacturer’s directions sweep the flame slowly across the meat to brown on all sides and cut edges. Once meat has been browned, melt butter in Dutch oven over medium heat.

If you do not have a torch: melt butter in Dutch oven over medium heat and brown shanks on all sides and both ends. Remove meat.

Add onions and a generous pinch of salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until onions have softened and grown translucent, about five minutes. Add garlic and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, thirty to sixty seconds.

Position meat atop onions and add beer. Pour malt syrup on top of pork shanks to coat (it will not cover the meat; this is fine). Bring all to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cover. Cook, rotating shanks every hour or so, until meat parts easily from the bone, about three hours.