Cider-Stewed Pork Loin Blade Roast Recipe

Compotée d'Echine de Porc au Cidre

[Cider-Stewed Pork Loin Blade Roast]

I find cuts of meat confusing.

I find them confusing because the terminology straggles from the technical to the vernacular and back again, because readable diagrams are few and far between, and because the matter only gets murkier when you try to juggle French and English terms used in different countries.

Can’t we all be friends and agree to cut and name meat in the same fashion? May I suggest the creation of a United Nations Symposium of Butchers that will draw up a comparative report — with diagrams — and put an end to my puzzlement?

Case in point: the échine de porc I cooked for a dinner party last Saturday. What I really had a mind to cook was joues de porc — pork cheeks. Don’t ask me why, I just did. I pictured the rosy pinch-me cheeks of the three little pigs (don’t you love that there’s a spoiler warning on the Wikipedia page?) and figured they had to taste good.

But when I called my butcher on Friday to place an order it was too late for him to get the cheeks by the weekend — I should have called before noon on Thursday; who plans that far in advance? — so he had me explain what I wanted to make (a cider-flavored stew), and suggested I fall back on échine, which he’d cut in cubes for me.

As it seems to turn out after a frustrating bit of online and offline research, l’échine is a cut from the back of the animal that includes the neck and the first five ribs, and seems to be called the blade end of the loin in English. It may be sold bone-in (as ribs or chops) or boneless (in cubes or as a roast), and is reasonably marbled with fat, a feature that makes it moist, full-flavored, and stew-friendly. It is also not the most noble of loin cuts, and is hence afforable (check with your butcher, but mine charged 25€ for 2kg, which was enough meat to feed eight).

This was my first time cooking a pork stew of that sort — I usually just rub roasts with spices and stick them in the oven or braise them — and I have an inkling it won’t be the last. I improvised an effortless recipe, leaving the meat to marinate from morning till night in hard cider with shallots and spices, then dumping the whole thing in a pot to simmer for two hours — I didn’t even sear the meat first — and adding apples halfway through.

The meat took kindly to that treatment, softening to a flavorful pulp (not chewy, not spongy) and gradually turning the marinade into a slick sauce that was a beautiful complement to the pasta gratin I served it with — recipe coming up next.

Compotée d’Echine de Porc au Cidre

– 2kg (4.5 pounds) boneless pork loin blade roast (échine de porc désossée), cut into 8-cm (3-inch) cubes
– 12 shallots, peeled and halved
– 2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
– 6 cloves
– 1 stick cinnamon
– 1 bay leaf
– 3 pods cardamom
– 75cl (3 cups) hard cider (cidre brut)
– Fine sea salt
– 2 baking apples
– Freshly ground pepper

Serves 6 to 8.

Start the marinade 10 to 12 hours before the time of serving. Put the meat, shallots, garlic, cloves, cinnamon, and bay leaf in a large salad bowl. Split the pods of cardamom open and add the seeds to the bowl (discard the pods). Pour in the cider and stir with a wooden spoon so the pieces of meat swim comfortably in the marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 to 10 hours (or until 2 hours before the time of serving), stirring once or twice during that time.

Set a large pot or, preferably, cast-iron cocotte over medium-low heat. Pour in the contents of the bowl, bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every now and then.

Core the apples and cut them into slices (you don’t have to peel them). Remove the lid from the pot, season with salt, add the apples, and stir. Keep to a low simmer for another 30 to 45 minutes, uncovered, until the sauce is reduced enough to cling to the meat, stirring regularly — to prevent the meat and shallots from sticking to the bottom — but gently — so as not to mush the now-soft pieces of meat.

Taste the sauce, adjust the seasoning, sprinkle with freshly ground pepper, and serve with steamed potatoes, rice, or a pasta gratin.

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  • Griffin

    Oh that just sounds like heaven… and I’m trying to get off of pork too (not good for my heart… unlike chocolate of course!)

    Fortunately you went and put three pods of cardamom in and I could feel my mouth revolt!!! I have memories of my mum using cardamom and me chewing on a whole pod in growing disgust… bleh, ick, phooey… as the philosopher has it!

    Of course… I could always try it without the cardamom… who wants a heart anyway?!

  • Que ce doit être parfumé et fondant! :-)

  • Hi Clotilde,

    I like your pork recipe, at first I was surprised that you marinated the meat for so long in the acidic apple cider. I’m sure it made it very tender, I might now try something like that one of these days. What a great comfort food.
    I love the addition of cardomon and cinnamon. Yummy!

    All the best,
    Monika Korngut

  • Hey Clotilde! I was hoping you might have another simmering meat dish coming up soon… I’m so happy to see this recipe! Every week I seem to be repeating the same roast recipes these days, and I wanted to try something new, but for some reason I couldn’t come up with anything. Although I did make a filet mignon de porc en croute last weekend, and it turned out pretty well…

    This recipe is right up my alley: effortless, like you said, with some nice herbs and spices, and you can let it simmer while you get a lot of other things done — or as the case may be, while you enjoy your afternoon relaxing…

    Thanks — you’ve done it again, as usual! :)

  • Hi Clotilde,

    This looks amazing (as usual). Here’s a nifty resource for the pork cuts (US), here.

  • Looks wonderfull recipe. I have never tried yet any long cooking recipes using some cider. Maybe you could add some calvados during the cooking. I always add some cognac in the Boeug Bourguignon

    I see you really love “plat mijotés” ;-)

  • Taraja Anderson


    I love your writing. It’s nice to see someone who is as fanatical about food as I am but actually commit it to word for others to enjoy as well.

    I am coming to Paris in a few weeks and was wondering could you recommend a good restaurant guide in English?


  • Marguerite

    Hi I’ve been looking around recently for a good pasta gratin recipe. Would you mind sharing yours?

  • I wish I had a quality butcher who could help with all of these explanations. Thanks for the post!

  • many of us non-professional cooks have the same confusion as you regarding cuts of meat. i’ve found that even regional differences in names can confound a shopping trip.
    your recipes show a true ease and skill in the kitchen. some folks paint, some write or perform music. you build culinary masterpieces!

  • Jane

    Sounds delicious. What exactly is hard cider. Is it the non fizzy one?

  • Too right about confusing cuts of meat – I live in Italy (where names for cuts frequently differ from the north to the south of the country) and my cookbooks are an unhelpful mixture of US and UK. My butcher has quickly tired of me pretending to be a cow and pointing to various parts of my anatomy to request a cut. Does anyone know a good site/wiki for eurozone meat translations? And, while we’re at it, fish are tricky too…

  • Jane – By hard cider I mean the fizzy, lightly alcoholic one that is just called cidre in French.

    Zoe – Ah yes, don’t even get me started on fish! helps with the different names, but not with the availability (or lack thereof) at one’s local market…

  • You’re right about the confusion surrounding cuts of meat–and the international aspect of blogging just makes it more frustrating. Patricia, in her Brazilian food blog Technicolor Kitchen, recently had a post using a cut of beef called tail of round. Try as I may, I couldn’t find an equivalent name here in the U.S. Thankfully, her husband suggested using striploin instead. There’s a link to Patricia’s excellent blog on mine.

  • Estelle

    This recipe sounds fantastic! I think I’ll try it as soon as I get back home!

    Just a note for the translation of ‘cidre brut’, what do you think about dry cider? (At least, the British version o dry cider is close-ish to the French cidre brut with only a higher alcohol content).

  • Meg

    Clotilde, this sounds like a fantastic candidate for my crockpot! Thanks – I’m always looking for flavourful stews to make with it as most of the ones I’ve found online are pretty bland!

  • Don’t get me started on confusing cuts of meat… Just when I started learning the different cuts and what I liked in Brazil, I moved to Canada and had NO idea what was what…

    Anyways, we discovered porc cheecks here in Spain. In Catalunya they are called galtes and in Spanish galtas. You are right, they are VERY good…

  • Marcia

    Mon Dieu! In a perfect world: universal terms for all cuts of meats and types of fish AND shoe sizes!

  • DKH

    Julia Child’s Mastering The Art of French Cooking has useful equivalents of French/American cuts of meat. Marketing terms are always evolving, so some of the explanations may be outdated, but it’s still a good reference.

  • Another great resource for meat-cut names on both sides of the atlantic is the Field Guide to Meat by Aliza Green. Cuts are listed by their most-common (that is, common in America) name, with cross references to International and regional terms.

    Of course, butchers do cut along different lines in each country, and even regionally, but it’s better than nothing.

  • Great recipe. I found the link to the cuts diagram really useful.

    In the UK, ‘couture’ butchery is a growing trend…

    The more digestible info that gets out there, the better in cuildiong connoisseurship.

  • Poulette

    I seem to remember that the old version of the Joy of Cooking had equivalent meat charts, too…

    Here in France, I’m always at a loss to figure out which cut of meat to use, unless I can easily tell by looking. What is “skirt steak” in French?! And no such thing as “chili grind” beef… or ground chicken. Or hog jowl or ham hocks. And nary a ham bone to flavor a split pea soup. It’s awfully tough for a Southerner to live and Paris and cook the foods she loves! (and what I lack most here: liquid chicken or beef stock…just those awful, awful granules)

    However, on the matter of split pea soup: I’ve got some simmering in the crock pot as we speak, but not made with a yummy bone from a Honey-Baked Ham, rather with a little “demi-sel”. And, boy, was that tray of “pot-au-feu” veggies handy, too, especially with its handy herb bundle. 500g of “pois cassés”, the demi-sel and those veggies (leeks, turnip, carrots, onion) are on the way to making dinner while I type.

    As for the bread that will accompany it: from Raoul Maeder (17e… One of the best bakeries around, and 2 time winner of the “meilleure baguette” designation. Worth a serious detour. Add a little Brittany butter with the seasalt crystals, and you might think seriously about skipping the rest of the meal!

  • veron

    I agree, there should be a symposium on meat cuts. This pork dish sounds lovely, I shall try it soon!

  • Jim

    For stewing, in the USA, try pork shoulder, not loin. Loin won’t have enough fat and it’ll dry out. Should is very high in fat and does well in stews that cook for 45 minutes to an hour after browning.

    For an interesting variation, Paula Wolfert’s got a pork stew in her mediterranean slow cooking book where you cut it into 3/4″ (1.5 cm) dice and brown it up before stewing it with carrots and onions. She adds hot-water soaked prunes near the end of the cooking time and carmelized pearl onions at the end. It disappeared fast.

  • Kreategirl

    I made this pork dish for Easter Saturday dinner, the whole 2 kilos of which was rapidly scoffed down by 6 people (yes, someone even ‘licked’ the serving bowl with a piece of bread). Mind you, adding to the mystery cut phenomenon, when I ordered the meat the butcher had no idea about the cut of pork I was referring to!? The loin he gave me worked a treat – served with new potatoes cooked in shallots, white wine and sherry vinegar. Same again next Saturday?

  • amy in nyc

    ok, i admit first off that i was totally rushing on the morning that i made this… i did not allow myself nearly enough time. but all that aside, i think i really messed this one up but i can’t figure out why.

    i used cubed pork, marketed as being for “stews” (it didn’t look particularly fatty, but it said it was from the shoulder), so i went with what was available. for the hard cider i used Doc’s hard cider ( it’s very bubbly and i don’t know if that partially contributed to the problem.

    the marinade went very well, easy peasy. putting everything into my beloved 15 qt Le Creuset ( and the liquid frothed up quite a bit. i turned the flame on and waited (and waited and waited and waited) for it to reach a simmer. this took about 45 min, but all the while it was very hard to tell what was going on underneath all that foam. once the meat reached simmering, this scum-like substance floated to the surface and mixed with the foam. hm, interesting. the scum-stuff was much like when i make chicken and beef short rib soup, but i laboriously skim it all off. however, it was really hard to skim the stew, so after a few attempts i just didn’t bother (like i said before, i was rushing… and now starting to panic that lunch wouldn’t be ready for my guests). so i put the cover on and let things go their course. maintaining a simmer seemed next to impossible; the stew kept boiling and if i turned down the flame, it wouldn’t even simmer. now, i’m confused. it took 45 minutes to reach a simmer; so do i let it simmer for another 30 minutes (making total time on the stove 1:15, or do i let it simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes as instructed in the recipe)? but… yikes! there’s no time to let it simmer for 1:15! ok, 30 minutes it is. so, i let it simmer for another 30 minutes with the lid on, then i decide it’s time to take the lid off and let that liquid get thick. so, i take the lid off and i swear—there’s *more* liquid in there than when i started! thank goodness company is running late because this is gonna take some time! i take the lid off, i add the apples and i make sure everything is simmering without boiling (which is proving rather difficult). another 45 minutes go by and it looks no better. the liquid has reduced by maybe ¼ inch at most. however, i must say, it smelled delicious! so i just decided to scoop out the meat (which was really dry) and the apples into a dish and admit defeat.

    the flavor was truly wonderful, and i really want to try this dish again as it has such an amazing autumn flavor to it. however, i’m nervous about trying again because i don’t want to risk ruining another 4.5 lbs of meat.

    what went wrong? is there an alternative way to create this dish in the oven? i have much success with braising in the oven but the recipes i use require very little liquid in comparison to what this recipe calls for.


  • Amy – Sorry this didn’t turn out well for you. It is extremely difficult to troubleshoot a dish from a distance, but I can think of a couple of possible explanations: first, you used a different cut from the one I used (pork loin blade roast) which may behave differently. Second, I suspect that while it seemed you were struggling to bring the liquids to a simmer, they may really have been at a rolling boil, which would indeed toughen/dry up the meat. Third, as you probably know, many cuts of meat that are meant for stews go through a phase of toughness before they soften again, so they do need a long cooking time, which seems to have been shortened in your case.

    In short, when you try this again, I suggest you use the recommended cut if possible, and plan to have enough time to cook the dish as indicated. But I see no reason why it wouldn’t work in the oven if you prefer to use your usual method, using less liquid as you suggest.

    Hope that helps!

  • amy in nyc

    thank you so much for responding! yes, this is very helpful. i will try as you suggest for next time: the right cut of meat, not rushing, don’t let it boil and perhaps in the oven instead. do you think perhaps lightly flouring and searing the pieces beforehand would help too?

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