Mother Earth Living

Cooking with Vanilla: Roast Pork with ­Apricots, Prunes, and Vanilla

December/January 1995
By Madalene Hill and Gwen Barclay


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6 to 8 generous servings

This wonderfully fragrant dish is worthy of any occasion. It’s delicious served with steamed new potatoes, noodles, or rice.

• 8-pound bone-in fresh pork roast (Boston butt or shoulder)
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 2–3 tablespoons grainy or dijon-style ­mustard
• 1 cup each finely chopped carrot, celery, and yellow onion
• 1 large clove garlic
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 3–4 sprigs each of sage, thyme, sweet ­marjoram, and rosemary, each 3 inches long
• 3 cups red wine
• 2 cups granulated sugar
• 1/2 cup water
• 2 pieces vanilla bean, each 3 inches long, split
• 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
• Zest of 1 orange (colored portion only), finely chopped
• 1 tablespoon ground coriander
• 1 cup each pitted dried apricots and prunes
• 1/2 cup brandy
• 1 1/2–2 cups broth or water
• Sprigs of the fresh herbs used above plus chopped fresh parsley for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Trim the meat well, salt and pepper, and spread the mustard on all surfaces. Sauté the carrot, celery, onion, and garlic in butter until wilted but not browned. Place the vegetables in the bottom of a heavy shallow roasting pan and arrange them in the same shape as the roast. Remove any woody stems from the sprigs of herbs and place them on top of the vegetables. Add the meat and pour the red wine over all. The wine should cover the bottom of the pan to a depth of no more than 1/2 inch. Roast the meat 3 to 4 hours (25 to 30 minutes per pound), or until a meat thermometer inserted in the center registers 170°F; baste with pan juices every 20 minutes. Add more wine as needed to keep the pan moist until the last 1/2 hour, then add water or broth if needed.

2. While the meat is roasting, prepare the sauce. Caramelize the sugar by heating in a medium-sized heavy skillet over low heat; as the sugar begins to melt and change color, add water carefully while stirring. When the sugar mixture is golden brown and fragrant, remove the pan from the heat, transfer the mixture to a large saucepan, and stir. Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes, then add the pieces of vanilla bean, vinegar, orange zest, coriander, apricots and prunes, and brandy. Stir to combine and set aside to allow the fruit to plump. (Caution: the vinegar may cause the mixture to foam vigorously for a short time.)

3. When the meat is done, remove it to a warm platter and loosely cover to keep warm. Scrape the pan juices and vegetables into the caramel sauce, removing the herb sprigs. Bring to a boil, adding more broth or water to make a pourable sauce. Season with salt and pepper and more balsamic vinegar as needed. Slice the meat and top with some of the sauce; garnish with herb sprigs and chopped parsley. Serve the remaining sauce in a warm dish.


Madalene Hill and Gwen Barclay are a well-known pair of longtime chefs and herb gardeners who make their home in the tiny town of Round Top in central Texas.

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