This Italian method for cooking pork shoulder tenderizes the meat as it cooks and creates a buttery, rich, incredible sauce.
When the weather turns cool, I tend to embrace low-and-slow braising. But my biggest worry when it comes to cooking meat this way is overcooking—resulting in dry unpleasantness. A low and slow simmer in a flavorful braising liquid helps to lessen that degree of uncertainty, and braising in milk produces the most enjoyable sauce as it cooks down and concentrates.
While braising meat in milk is by no means a new or novel method, it’s also not a technique that I see very often. In fact, this technique was one that I first encountered several years ago on an extended trip to Ireland.
At first glance, this braised pork recipe may look like any other braised meat method. You sear the meat on all sides, reduce the heat, add some liquid, and simmer for several hours until it’s fall-off-the-bone tender. Enter the milk, along with white wine. The milk proteins help to tenderize the pork, which results in a tender piece of meat. I like to season the braising liquid with lemon peel, dried chiles, whole cloves of garlic, and fresh sage. The lemon adds acidity, the dried chiles supply a faint pop of heat (I added a few extra chiles since I prefer my food spicy), and the fresh sage leaves contribute an earthy herbaceousness that goes hand-in-hand with pork.
When it comes to buying pork, if you can, seek out heritage breeds such as Berkshire or Tamworth. Heritage pigs are prized for their juicy tenderness and porcine flavor. That “other white meat” business is a thing of ancient history. While milk braising requires a fair amount of cooking time (approximately three hours), it’s mostly passive cooking time. So you can go about your business or just relax on a weekend afternoon as the pork slowly simmers away.