Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder with Savory Apple Gravy

Updated. First posted in 2005.

Now here’s a good one for a cold winter day. Talk about melt-in-your-mouth delicious! A hefty pork shoulder is slathered with a rub of fennel seeds, pepper, thyme, rosemary, and garlic and set to marinate for a day or two in the fridge. It is then nestled in a bed of sliced apples and onions, first browned on high heat in the oven, and then covered and allowed to cook low and slow, until it is almost falling apart. You don’t need a knife to eat this slow-roasted pork shoulder. Just a big appetite.

We first encountered this recipe by Napa chef Maria Helm Sinskey in the Wall St. Journal years ago. We’ve made just a few changes—reduced the salt rather dramatically, added some mustard, puréed and strained the gravy. I love this method of slow cooking a pork shoulder and think you will too!

Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder with Savory Apple Gravy Recipe

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 3 hours, 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6 with leftovers.

The pork shoulder should be marinated in the rub overnight or up to two days.



  • 4-5 pounds (1.8 to 2.2 kg) boneless pork shoulder, sinew and excess fat (beyond 1/4 inch) trimmed
  • 1 Tbsp fennel seeds, toasted
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 2 Tbsp packed, fresh thyme leaves, lightly chopped, or 1 Tbsp dried thyme
  • 2 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, lightly chopped
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • Olive oil
  • 4 medium good cooking apples, such as Fuji or Jonagold
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) dry white wine (can sub water)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Freshly ground black pepper


1 Put the fennel seeds, peppercorns, thyme and rosemary leaves, garlic and 2 teaspoons salt into a spice grinder or coffee grinder and grind to a paste. Alternatively, you can pound the mixture with a mortar and pestle. Put the mixture into a bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil.


2 Rub the mixture evenly all over the pork shoulder. If the roast is tied, untie it to rub the inside with the rub mixture as well, then retie it. Wrap the roast tightly in plastic wrap to hold the rub against the skin and marinate overnight (or up to two days).

3 Peel, halve, and core the apples. Cut each apple half into about 4 wedges. Peel the onions. Cut in half from tip to root. Trim the root and tip. Cut each onion half into about 12 thin wedges. Put the onions and the apples together in a bowl and toss to mix.

4 Preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C).


5 Toss the apples and onions with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with a little salt and pepper. Place the apples and onions in the bottom of a roasting pan or Dutch oven with a cover. Place the marinated pork shoulder on top of the apples and onions.

6 Roast uncovered for 30 minutes. Turn the oven heat down to 325°F and add the wine. Cover the roasting pan and slow roast for 2 1/2 to 3 hours until the pork shoulder is falling apart tender and pulls apart easily when probed with a fork.

7 Transfer the pork shoulder to a serving plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Put the apples and onions into a blender. Add about 1/2 cup water and the mustard and purée. Check the texture, and add water until you get the desired thickness for the gravy. Press through a sieve for a silky smooth textured gravy. Check the seasoning and correct to taste.

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Adapted from a recipe by Napa chef Maria Helm Sinskey, published in the Wall St. Journal 9-24-05


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Showing 4 of 63 Comments

  • Lisa

    Hi Elise,

    I tried this recipe for Sunday dinner and highly recommend. Put it on to cook while we watched the football games and play offs. I liked the fennel and had no complaints from my 5 family members (2 of these are picky eaters). The apple gravy is odd but very very good. I will make this again and again and again…I also plan to share the recipe with other friends who love to cook. Love this blog.

  • Sharon

    I make something very similar to this every year, although my recipe serves 15 and uses a whole pork loin. Another difference is that I put the herbs into a mortar and pestle to create the rub. Doing this omits the need for olive oil. I also use apple cider to deglaze the pan, and add chopped walnuts to the sauce.

  • Sheeijan

    I made this last night, except I made the egregious error of forgetting the garlic! I can’t believe I left that out, but I can only blame my distraction on my two cats. Nevertheless, the pork was incredibly tender and tasted great. I will just have to make it again sometime soon and see how much better it tastes with garlic.

  • Elise

    Hi Lisa – ooo, I’m so glad you liked it! The apple gravy is good, isn’t it?

    Hi Sharon – a pork loin for 15? That’s a big roast! I like the idea of using apple cider to deglaze, and chopped walnuts would be a nice addition.

    Hi Sheeijan – oops! I’m glad it was still good, even without the garlic.

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