A Recipe for Awesomeness: Fischer Farms Porketta

Porketta is one of those recipes that you shove in the oven and forget about. The meat emerges tender and succulent. It serves a bunch of people, and the leftovers – sliced high and piled on crusty baguette, or slathered with bbq sauce on a soft, whole wheat bun, or diced and simmered in ragu for pasta – make things easy on the cook.

It’s one of those recipes that came to the Iron Range with Italian miners, was adopted by Czech neighbors and Norwegian farmers, and is now found on menus throughout the Twin Cities (and given an uptempo spin).

This humble dish doesn’t require much. But you’ve got to use the right pork. Not the super-lean meat from conventionally raised pigs we see in most supermarkets, kept in confinement, given steroids and antibiotics. (Back in the early 70’s producers bred out the fat, in response to consumer demands, and they bred out the flavor, too.)

Photo Credit: Beth DooleyPhoto Credit: Beth DooleyTim Fischer, Fischer Family Farms, raises heritage pork the old fashioned way. These heritage porkers have a fine layer of fat, their meat is richer tasting (the result of a natural diet that includes his farm’s corn). No steroids, no hormones, no antibiotics, their meat is more tender and flavorful (and yes, it has more fat). You can order directly from Tim – 507-351-9910. When you do so, pick up his amazing Maple Coil Sausage, Bacon (try the Raspberry Chipolte); and his kick ass Bacon Brats.

Porketta (with Apples and Fennel)

Serves 4 - 6

Fennel is the traditional seasoning in this classic Italian pot roast, the apples and fennel add a tart-sweet note. Leftovers are wonderful served on a crusty roll.

Serves 6 or so

  • 3 to 3-1/2 pounds pork butt, well trimmed
  • 4 cloves garlic, slivered
  • 1 bulb fennel, coarsely chopped (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 3 shallots, minced
  • 3 tart apples (Haralson), peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cider
  • 1/4-cup dark beer
  • 1/4-cup low-salt chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoons fennel seeds, chopped
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Heat the oven to 350-degrees F. Poke the meat all over with a thin-bladed knife and insert the garlic slivers into the holes. Put the fennel, shallots, apples, fresh fennel, cider, beer, and stock into a large casserole or small roasting pan; toss to combine. Put the pork in the pan and pat the fennel seeds over the pork. Sprinkle the pork with the salt and pepper. Cover the pan with a lid or foil, and cook the pork until it’s easily pierced with a fork and its juices run clear, about 3-1/2 to 4 hours. Remove the roast from the oven and allow it to rest in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes before carving. Degrease the pan juices by tilting the pan forward and scooping off the top layer of fat. Slice and serve the roast with the fennel and pears and spoon the pan juices over the top. It’s wonderful on fat noodles, wild rice, or crusty wheat bread.

Beth Dooley (, is author of six cookbooks, including SAVORING THE SEASONS OF THE NORTHERN HEARTLAND, co-authored with Lucia Watson, a James Beard nominee, published by the University of Minnesota Press. Beth is a restaurant critic for Mpls/St. Paul Magazine, and a frequent contributor to the Star Tribune's "Taste" and The Mix. She appears monthly on the news show, "On Live", KARE-11 TV. Married with three (hungry, teen-aged) sons, Beth lives in Minneapolis (and in the summer, on Madeline Island).