Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Autumn Pork & Squash Stew

First, the bad news...

Guys, I have been looking at my calendar and it's not looking good. December's schedule is going to be busy. Busy with a capitol B! I've started physical therapy again, 3 times a week. Christmas shopping needs to be finished. Our niece's birthday is at the end of the week, and we've planned a shopping trip and a sleepover. Not to mention making her a cake and getting her back home for her official birthday party at my sister-in-law's. There's Christmas with our Kentucky relatives. Packing to go to Oregon in 12 days. And goodness knows what we're going to get into while we're on the West Coast! We may only have a trip to Southern Oregon and a wine-tasting date planned, but that always changes. Fast

So, December is going to look different than it has in past years. I'm not making Christmas cookies this year. With the holiday, traveling, and then trying to visit a million people in Oregon, it would just be too stressful to try to take that on. I'm still going to try to post a few recipes this month, but... I'm not sure how much that is going to happen. I'll do my best! 

And I'll try to make next years cookies extra extravagant to make up for it😉

But now it's time for the good news- the first recipe of December! You are going to love this stew. The pork is so tender you can cut it with a fork while the butternut squash lends the perfect autumn flavor. The broth is killer. That's the only way to describe it. The broth is born from a combination of moonshine and a long, slow cook in the crock pot. You just have to try it for yourself, the combination of sweet and savory.

I browned the meat before putting it in the slow cooker. Pork shoulder is one of those cuts you don't have to worry about overcooking too much, so really crank up the heat on your frying pan and brown that meat! One trick I've learned with cooking is how to cook with high heat. When I first started cooking, I was seriously scared to turn up the heat. I was afraid of burned food and overcooked meat. But cooking over high heat adds tons of flavor in the right situation, and this is one of them. Don't even worry about the meat sticking to the pan because you'll deglaze the pan before putting it in the slow cooker. Those little brown bits add so much to the final flavor of the stew, they're actually a good thing! Besides, like I said, they come right up as soon as you add the alcohol or the vinegar.

The recipe I used actually called for apple juice, but Miss Jessica didn't have apple juice in the house. I almost made a batch of apple cider. But an oft-hand glance at the liquor cabinet saw Apple Pie Moonshine and I couldn't resist. I had to try it. This being said, the moonshine is initially reduced so a lot of the alcohol is cooked off in the first reduction. But then you cook it for 6-8 hours in the slow cooker? 

Yeah, there's no alcohol left. Just amazing flavor. 

If you don't keep Moonshine in the house and can't see any reason to purchase any (don't blame you there! 😂), I say substitute that for apple juice or apple cider. 

This was my first experience with a butternut squash. Another food I've eaten plenty of and prepared never. Since this is a recipe blog, I have another tip for you- get a sharp vegetable peeler before you try to peel a butternut squash. My vegetable peeler has to be at least 10 years old, and I was a frustrated, red-faced hot mess that took 30 minutes to peel a squash. Not a happy camper. Just make sure yours is sharp and save yourself some exasperation. 

Put everything in the slow cooker-

And cook long and slow until it looks like this. The smell is incredible!

I thought some toasted pumpkin seeds would make the perfect autumn soup topper. I was right 😬

I also added some parsley and chopped red onion as toppers. 

Looooooooove 😍

There you have it folks. I don't know about you, but it's shaping up to be a cold and rainy day here. Anyone would appreciate coming home to this on such a dreary day! All you need is some crusty bread to soak up that dreamy broth. 

I'm off to physical therapy! Happy Tuesday everyone!

Recipe adapted from: Fake Ginger

Ingredients (serves 6-8):

Cooking spray
1 (2 1/2 lb) pork shoulder roast, cubed
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 cup Apple Pie Moonshine (substitute apple juice or cider, see note below recipe)
1 onion, chopped
2 cups butternut squash, diced
2 cups Chicken Broth
1 tsp Italian Seasoning
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt, pepper

toppings: chopped red onion, chopped parsley, toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)


1. Coat a large skillet with cooking spray. Heat skillet over high heat. Season pork with salt and pepper. When hot, add pork. Cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is browned all over. Add moonshine to pan and allow to come to a boil. Using a spatula, scrape brown bits from bottom and stir them in. Allow liquid in pan to reduce by 1/2, about 2-3 minutes. Empty contents of skillet into a slow cooker, making sure to scrape all brown bits into the slow cooker.
2. Add onion, butternut squash, chicken broth, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes to the slow cooker. Cover, and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. Stew is done when the pork is fork-tender. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with toppings, if using.

*Chef's Note- If you substitute apple juice for the moonshine, you'll find that apple juice doesn't deglaze the pan nearly the same way as alcohol. Make the following changes for using apple juice- after browning the meat, omit the moonshine. Instead, add 2-3 tbsp of apple cider vinegar to the pan. The vinegar will deglaze the pan just as well as the moonshine. After deglazing the pan, add the contents to the slow cooker and proceed to add 1 cup apple juice and 1 cup chicken broth. Follow the rest of the recipe as written.

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  1. This looks absolutely amazing!!!! And, with the change in our weather, I am craving warm hearty meals like this so much! We do have a couple moonshines, but not apple pie. Darn it! Honestly, I never considered cooking with any moonshine. Not sure if my husband while mind if I sneak a little bit of his stash? lol

    Have a wonderful time away! Merry Christmas to your and your family :)

    1. It had never occurred to me to cook with moonshine either. I mean, what?? But, when I saw that apple pie moonshine sitting there, I wondered what it would taste like after being reduced and cooked all day in the slow cooker. I mean, pork and apple make a good combo. It was worth a shot! Anyhoo, it twas a happy experiment! 😁

      Merry Christmas to you too Kris!

  2. This does sound amazing! I love soups and squash and pork... mmmmmmm, good! Have a merry Christmas and enjoy your trip home!

    1. Thank you Carlee! I'm very much looking forward to our trip, I know it will be awesome 😀

      Merry Christmas to you Carlee!


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