Credit: Earl Carter

Christmas pork

Annie Smithers is the owner and chef of du Fermier in Trentham, Victoria. Her latest book is Recipe for a Kinder Life. She is a food editor of The Saturday Paper.

Credit: Earl Carter

This year has left me longing to live a quieter, simpler life. One where I tread more gently upon the earth. So for Christmas, I’m looking for an old-fashioned favourite. This variation of a roasted pork loin fits the bill nicely.

First, make sure that your pork loin is bred by a farmer who works sustainably and practises good animal husbandry. Lining the meat with a simple puree of prunes and Armagnac will give the rolled pork a very luxurious, Christmassy feel, without being too involved.

When roasting a full loin such as this, it is important to make sure the skin is very dry so you get good crackling. Rubbing with a little vinegar helps this process along, as does leaving the meat uncovered to air-dry in the fridge for a couple of days. I always roast my pork cuts on a bed of vegetables with a little stock once the crackling has set. Whether it’s a shoulder or a loin, this achieves two things. One, a simple but beautiful sauce develops, and, two, it means the washing up is easier. To this end, I never turn the pork – I love the juxtaposition of all that crisp skin on top with a bottom that is soft and gelatinous.

The whole roasted apples bring in the classic pairing of apples and pork with a little twist. There are some beautiful small pink lady apples around at the moment that are perfect for the job.

I would serve the pork loin and apples with a crisp green salad and a tray of golden roasted potatoes.

Go well this Christmas, stay safe and here’s to a new year that will hopefully be a little easier to navigate.


Serves 12 to 15

  • 1 x 4.5-5kg pork loin with full belly, skin on
  • white vinegar
  • salt flakes
  • 300g pitted prunes
  • 100ml Armagnac (or quality Cognac)
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 onions
  • 3 sticks celery
  • olive oil
  • 500ml chicken or veal stock
  • 12-15 small apples
  • 100g butter
  1. Dry the skin of the pork well. Score with a very sharp knife at half-centimetre intervals. Once scored wipe down with white vinegar (this will help dry the skin and create excellent crackling). Turn over to the meat side. With a small sharp knife, loosen the skin on the loin side to facilitate getting the loin more centred in the roll. Season well with salt.
  2. In a food processor, puree the prunes and Armagnac. Spread the puree evenly across the whole belly section of the pork. Roll the pork into a cylinder (the two pieces of skin should meet underneath). Tie with string at two-centimetre intervals.
  3. Refrigerate the pork, uncovered, for one to two days to allow the skin to air-dry.
  4. Let the pork sit at room temperature for two hours. Preheat oven to 240°C.
  5. Rub a generous amount of salt flakes into the skin of the pork. Cut the carrots, onions and celery into one-centimetre dice. Place the pork in a large roasting pan and sprinkle with a little oil. Roast for 40 minutes until the crackling has formed.
  6. Reduce the heat to 150°C, scatter the vegetables around the pork and add stock to a one-centimetre level. The stock and vegetables will absorb flavour and some roasting juices, creating a delicious sauce and preventing the pan from burning and becoming a washing-up disaster.
  7. Cook for another 1.5-2.5 hours, adding more stock if the vegetable mix becomes dry. The meat is ready when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the centre of the meat registers 65°C. If the skin has softened for some reason, increase the heat to 240°C and roast for 10 minutes more to re-crisp. Remove from the oven and let the meat rest for 30 minutes.
  8. Set the oven to 180°C, arrange the apples in a roasting dish and season the tops with some salt and little cubes of butter. Roast for 15 minutes.
  9. While the apples are cooking, strain the cooking juices from the pork dish into a saucepan and keep warm. To serve, use a serrated knife to slice the pork into 1- to 1.5-centimetre rounds. Add a little sauce and a roasted apple each.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on December 19, 2020 as "2020: Just roll with it".

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