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Braised Pork with Prunes, Ukrainian Cuisine (VIDEO)

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pork pieces on a plate with prunes and glossy sauce

There are many interpretations of this slow-roasted pork, which is eaten all over Ukraine and along its borders - this Braised Pork with Prunes is a bit like a dandy version of Polish bigos with tender meat and smoky sweet prunes.

Sometimes when I cook this pork, I have to almost forcibly prevent my family from polishing it off so I can use the leftovers as a filling for varenikipyrizhky, crepes.

Dutch oven with open lid ad meat inside, also wooden spoon

Even though this meat takes time to cook, it's really a hands off process. Simply place it in the oven and forget about it for a good 2 hours.


How to serve Braised Pork with Prunes?

The best way to enjoy this pork is with the inclusion of a most delicious sauce and to allow the pork to soak in its goodness. Never forget the sauce and your goal should be to eat all of it! Something so delicious deserves to be completely consumed.

HERE is what I like to serve with it:

mashed cauliflower and parmesan on a side
mashed potatoes in a bowl
rice in a bowl and on a fork

Meat for Braised Pork with Prunes

"The best meat is pork, and the best fish is flax". This proverb aptly describes the attitude of Ukrainians to meat, and especially pork.

Everyone knows that historically Ukrainian people have a primary meat source - pork. And I'm speaking about the majority of the country but not all the regions. Ukrainian food is mostly vegetarian paired with lots of grains with just enough meat to merely compliment the meal. We love pork, I grew up on pork. As a child I remember one of those adult conversations about how crazy it is that in other countries people pay more money for other meat. It was truly bazaar to hear that for my parents.

And for this recipe you can use any cuts of pork, but the parts of the animal that are located closer to the bone, are more flavorful and require longer cooking and are perfect for this dish.

raw pork country ribs on a white platter

In the video I chose country pork ribs, but you can decide what cuts to use; maybe baby ribs or pork shoulder can be a great choice too.


Prunes for Braised Pork with Prunes

Historically Ukrainians have used dried prunes as one of their most prized ingredients and they use them in so many tasty ways, like in this braised pork, to bring deep smoky and sweet-savouriness.

Just like chipotle (smoked jalapeno peppers ) in Mexican cuisine, in Ukraine smoked prunes and pears are used in the same applications. Trust me it's absolutely delicious.

Unfortunately in the US this ingredient is not available, but I created a little trick to replicate this old Ukrainian recipe by using good quality dried prunes combined with smoked salt to create the same outcome: sweet, smoky, savory.

prunes

Liquid for Braised Pork with Prunes

To braise any meat, the most important element of this cooking process besides the chosen protein is the liquid. Yes, usually it's a stock liquid, which is gold in the kitchen. But I have to say, not here. Traditionally, kvass is used in this recipe.


What is kvass?

Kvass is an accident drink, which is also used to add a sour note to dishes.

It is a fermented bread-based very low-alcohol beverage of cloudy appearance and sweet-sour taste. For centuries this drink has played the same role in Ukrainian cooking as has wine in French cuisine.


How can I substitute the kvass?

On occasion I do make it, and usually during the summer months. But I don't make it on a regular basis. What I usually make and have on hand is kombucha. I make it all the time. It is the perfect substitute for kvass because it is a sour fermented beverage. If you don't make kombucha, no worries, this beverage can be found at just about any grocery store in the US. Please don't attempt to buy kvass, because what you find in European based delis is not authentic kvass. Commercial kvass is not much different than drinking a big bottle of cola!


What flavor of kombucha you should use in this recipe?

These days there are so many choices, but I would go with something fruity because that is reflective of Ukrainian cuisine.  I used a tart cherry and it's another go to flavor even for many savory dishes, including Borscht in some cases. Cranberry flavor is another option for this dish.


Spices/Herbs for Braised Pork with Prunes

Very simple, not much spices are needed at all. Salt, of course and I used smoked sea salt, black pepper (freshly ground is always ideal), and oregano.

bush of oregano

In Ukraine, there is an accident herb that has been used for centuries named ma-te-rin-ka, Unfortunately, during the Soviet time, this herb was forgotten and not used in Soviet cuisine. So my mom didn't use it in her cooking, but my grandmother did as well as her mother. Nowadays, it's as a new discovery under the name oregano and Italian cuisine is bringing it back to Ukrainian cooking. I'm so excited about that and other things that are happening with young Ukrainian people. They are appreciating and recognizing their own nationality and traditions.


MORE OLD FASHION UKRAINIAN DISHES:

stuffed cabbage
vareniki with blueberries and creme fraiche

Let's do it...


Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 2 and half hours

Total time: 2 hours 35 minutes

Author: Inna of innichkachef.com 

Served: 8-9 people with a side dish

ingredients for the dish

Ingredients

4-4.5 lbs. Country pork ribs (or pork shoulder)

475 ml. kvass or fruity kombucha

1 cup prunes

1 bulb of garlic

4-5 teaspoons smoked salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Bunch a fresh or 1 tablespoon dried oregano

2 tablespoons butter, room temperature

Few sprigs of thyme (optional)


Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 300F.

  • Wash and paper dry meat, cut in big chunks 3 inches or so.

  • Generously season the meat with smoked salt and freshly ground black pepper.

  • Preheat a well seasoned cast iron pan, and cook meat on each side for a few minutes or until a beautiful brown crust appears. Don't overcrowd the pan and always start with the fat side down. Do it in 2-3 batches, depending on your pan size.

  • Place the meat into a Dutch oven. FYI, you can substitute the cast iron pan and use the Dutch oven to sear the meat with a little avocado oil added. You will still cook the pork in batches and don't overcrowd the Dutch oven.

  • Pour in the kombucha until it has almost covered the meat, 1-inch shorter. Spread prunes around the meat, then cut in half the whole garlic bulb, no peeling is needed and stick it in the middle of the pot. Add oregano and thyme.

  • Cover with a lid and place into the oven for a good 2 hours or until the meat is tender and falling apart.

  • Remove the lid and fish out the thyme, scoop the meat and half of the prunes onto a platter, cover with foil and let it rest while you make the sauce.

  • To make the sauce, squeeze out the garlic pulp, discard the peel and add back into the Dutch oven with the remaining liquid. Place it on the stove and simmer on low heat.

  • Using an immersion blender, puree everything nicely and don't rush. The liquid should be soupy. You may want to add half a cup of water at this point. Watch closely, because it can easily stick to the bottom. Using a wooden spoon, mix and scrape everything from the bottom.

  • Now, put the cup with flour into a bowl and add butter. With your fingers, massage everything into a nice crumbled consistency, which should have the appearance of the beginning stage of pie crust dough. Add the flour mixture to the pot. Stir with a wooden spoon. Using flour to thicken any stew in Ukraine is a very traditional method.

  • Cook and keep stirring. Now, return the meat and prunes back to the pot. Cover and allow all the ingredients to become incorporated and cook for 1-2 minutes or until the glossy sauce attaches to the meat. Now please serve it. ENJOY!

pork with prunes on a plate

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