When you hear the name Smucker’s, you probably think of the grape jelly, strawberry preserves, people being 100-years-old or their famous tagline “with a name like Smucker’s, it’s got to be good.” The company, now a giant conglomerate with brands from the coffee aisle to baking products and Southerners’ beloved White Lily flour, had some pretty humble beginnings. Apple butter was their first product.
Apple butter has its roots in European monasteries that had land holdings large enough for orchids. It has historically been seasoned with cinnamon, cloves, sugar and vinegar. In the South, apple butter has always been important, both as a product and a community event that would take place around the making of the butter. Think, hog killin’ without the gore.
Apple butter can be your new secret weapon in the kitchen. Baking a sweet potato? Add a dollop of apple butter before eating. Setting out a cheese tray? Include some apple butter for spreading on good aged sharp cheddar cheese. Tim Smucker, one of the brothers now running the company, taught me a simple barbecue sauce recipe of half apple butter and half barbecue sauce that is great on pork ribs and smoked chicken.
When you shop for apple butter, think locally. There are many North Carolina-made apple butters at farmer’s markets and local product sections in grocery stores that really outshine national brands.
And then there is this simple yet spectacular pork roast. This recipe is a variation of an old recipe that I’ve had since the 70s. The addition of the muesli cereal adds texture, interest and more flavors with raisins, dates and almonds. I know that I’m asking you to buy a box of cereal for a half a cup, but I’m also betting that you will make this more than once. While muesli may have a weird name, it is great in the morning or for a late night snack. You don’t have to go to a health food store to get it either.
Along with proteins like beef tenderloins and standing rib roasts, whole pork loins are usually on sale or fairly inexpensive during December. If you choose to get the whole loin, ask your butcher to cut a nice center cut roast for this dish, and the rest into chops to freeze for later. You can also double the size of this recipe, allowing the roast to be a welcome surprise for a holiday buffet for 10 to 12 or more folks. The simplicity and ease of preparation of the recipe makes it perfect for all the meals of the season.
I love writing this column and I enjoy knowing that so many of you get pleasure from it. Thank you for reading another year, and to all, have a great, loving and safe holiday season.
Fred Thompson is a Raleigh cookbook author and publisher of Edible Piedmont magazine. His latest cookbook is “Bacon.” Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Roast Pork with Apple Butter and a Special Ingredient
Weekend Gourmet columnist Fred Thompson says to serve this roast pork with mashed potatoes and German-style braised red cabbage with onions and apples. To drink, try a good stout beer from a N.C. craft brewer or a dry German Riesling. This recipe can be easily doubled.
2 1/2 pound boneless pork loin roast
1 1/2 teaspoons dry English mustard, like Coleman’s
2 cups apple butter
1/2 cup Muesli cereal with raisins, dates and almonds, crushed with your hands
1/2 tablespoon caraway seeds
Rub the roast all over with the dry mustard. Combine the apple butter and Muesli together in a bowl. Spread the mixture over the top and the sides of the roast and let stand for 1 hour at room temperature.
Heat your oven to 300 degrees.
Place the roast in a shallow baking pan. Place in the oven and roast until the internal temperature reaches 130 degrees. Sprinkle the caraway seeds over the roast and continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees. You can baste the roast if you wish with any leftover apple butter mixture and any pan juices that accumulate.
Remove the roast from the oven and let rest for 15 to 30 minutes. The temperature will rise to 145 degrees while resting. Slice and serve the roast while still warm. You can make the roast at least an hour ahead, but slip into a 200 degree oven for about 10 minutes to allow the glaze to get loose again. You want the glaze to be warm.
Yield: 4-6 servings