Roast Pork with Roasted Stuffed Apples with Thyme and Parsley
Buy the pork a couple of days before you need to cook it, remove any plastic wrap, put it on a plate immediately and dry it as thoroughly as possible with absorbent kitchen paper.
After that, leave it uncovered in the lowest part of the fridge so that the skin can become as dry as possible before you start the cooking.
While the oven is pre-heating, score the skin of the pork.
It will be scored already, but it's always best to add a few more lines. To do this you can use the point of a very sharp paring knife, or Stanley knife, or you can now even buy a special scalpel from a good quality kitchen shop! What you need to do is score the skin all over into thin strips, bringing the blade of the knife about halfway through the fat beneath the skin. The golden rule for crunchy crackling is firstly, not to use too deep a roasting tin as this created too much steam, and secondly, to keep the rind of the pork so it sits above the sides of the tin - this can be achieved by using a roasting rack or, failing that, take a very large piece of foil and crumple it to make yourslef a roasting rack to sit the pork on.
Then put the onion halves in the tin, as these will caramelise and give a lovely flavour to the gravy. Now take about 1 tablespoon of crushed salt crystals and sprinkle it evenly over the skin, pressing it in as much as you can. Place the pork on a high shelf in the oven and roast the joint for 20 minutes. Turn the heat down to gas mark 5, 375 F (190 C) and cook for a further 2 1/2 hours. There's no need to baste pork as there's enough fat to keep the meat moist.
About half an hour before the end of the cooking time of the pork prepare the apples.
First of all in a small basin mix the sausage meat, chopped parsley and thyme and add a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Using a potato peeler or an apple corer, remove the core from the apples then cut out a little more apple with a sharp knife to make the cavity slightly larger. Now divide the sausage meat mixture into 8. Then roll each portion into a sausage shape and fit that into the cavity of each apple. There will be some at the top that won't go in, so just pat that into a round neat shape. Now make a small incision around the central circumference of the apple. Brush each one with melted butter and insert a little sprig of thyme on top. Place the apples on a baking tray. Then when the pork comes out of the oven, pop the apples in to roast for about 25 minutes.
NOTE: If you're using the oven for roast potatoes and turning the heat up when the pork is cooked, the apples will cook quite comfortably on a lower shelf at the higher temperature.
The way to tell if the meat is cooked is to insert a skewer in the thickest part and the juices that run out should be absolutely clear without any trace of pinkness. When the pork is cooked, remove it from the oven and give it at least 30 minutes' resting time before carving. While that is happening, tilt the tin and spoon all the fat off, leaving only the juices. The onion will probably be black and charred, which gives the gravy a lovely rich colour. Leave the onion in, then place the roasting tin over direct heat, turned to low, sprinkle in the flour and quickly work it into the juices with a wooden spoon. Now turn the heat up to medium and gradually add the cider and the stock, this time using a balloon whisk until it comes up to simmering point and you have a smooth rich gravy. Taste and season with salt and pepper, then discard the onion and pour the gravy into a warmed serving jug.
Serve the pork carved into slices, giving everyone some crackling and a roasted apple.
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 9, 475 F (240 C).
Using a fan-assisted oven? Click here
You will also need a solid roasting tin, approximately 12 x 10 inches (30 x 25.5 cm).