Cooking pork in milk is an old Italian method that is comfortingly good. It doesn’t sound particularly alluring to boil meat in milk nor does it rank high on fashionable recipe lists (right now; watch this space) but sometimes it’s worth revisiting older methods to see why we cooked that way originally.
Firstly cooking in milk serves a practical purpose because the lactic acid in the milk tenderises the meat and makes it lovely and juicy and sweet and prevents the meat from drying out.
Secondly, as the milk slowly bubbles away and evaporates slightly, it becomes amalgamated with the other ingredients, and congeals beautifully into a risotto like consistency, creating flavour levels that have evolved throughout the cooking process. The milk transforms into a rich gravy and the dish becomes self-saucing. So the flavour and texture benefits to this relatively primitive process far out way its status
Cooks often use dairy in many recipes to tenderise and moisten meat. Meat is marinated in yoghurt whilst fish is cooked in milk for kedgeree and chowder. Pork requires a good long soak in milk for the tenderisation process to complete its job, but equally as well as serving a practical purpose the milk adds a delicious creamy and rich flavour to the dish.
Cooking the potatoes in the milk is a must as they are like little sponges just ready to soak up the salt and spices in the warm liquid.
This isn’t the sort of dish you can throw in the oven on a low setting and forget about for hours. It requires a certain level of attention and care as milk is a liquid that will evaporate and has a tendency to burn. Just like the Italian culture is all about food and socialising, so this dish must follow in the same way. Embrace the time in the kitchen and incorporate the social aspect of cooking with good friends and wine.
Pork Slow cooked in milk recipe
- 2 kg pork leg or shoulder with most of outer fat trimmed.
- 2 litre of full fat milk
- 80g salted butter
- 80g chopped bacon or bacon lardons
- 2 onions finely sliced
- 2 bay leaves
- Salt and pepper
- 1 kg of floury potatoes like Maris pipers
- Heat the milk in saucepan until nearly boiling
- Take a large cast iron pot or a ceramic casserole pot and cook the onions and bacon in the butter until they are brown and caramelised.
- Add the pork and brown on all sides
- Add the garlic
- Add the bay leaves
- Add all of the heated milk
- Add 2 pinches of sea salt and some cracked black pepper
- Peel and roughly chop the potatoes
- Place around the meat
- Cook the potatoes in the milk for 20 minutes, remove and roast for the remainder of the cooking time.
- Simmer the meat for 1 ½ – 2 hours on the hob with a lid or transfer to an oven at 150 -160 degrees
- KEEP AN EYE ON THE DISH. CHECK IT REGULARY. ADJUST TEMPERATURES ACCORDINGLY IF NECESSARY OR ADD A DASH MORE LIQUID IF REQUIRED
- The meat should be tender and the sauce should resemble a risotto consistency. A curdled appearance is usual
- Let the meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving with a spoonful of the sauce