The palatable truth about eating pork.

Roast pork and apple (7 of 9)Doesn’t the headline make you feel just a little bit uncomfortable? “He’s going to do something ironic and make us feel awful about eating pork.” “He’s going to pull at our heartstrings and make us think of the three little piggies and their curly tails.” “He’s possibly turned into a vegetarian!” Wrong on all counts. I just want to make the case for eating free-range, rather than cement cubicle raised, pork. That’s not unreasonable, is it?

The bit we have to face is that truly free-range animals have a better life (It wouldn’t be difficult.) than those brought up in artificial light, in a small concrete pen with little prospect of ever developing any real muscle or flesh tone. By letting the critters run about in the fresh air, they get tastier. I’m not going to make the case on any humanitarian grounds. You can settle your own accounts on that score. A nice piece of free range pork tastes better. I know. I just cooked Roast Loin of Pork with Apple. It was delicious. 

The first thing I did was get my hands on a nice piece of free range pork. Not as easy to do as one might think. Given that it had spent most of its life out in the air, I thought it best to take my ingredients shot out there too.

Quite frankly, I'd rather have spent the time indoors. It was bitter cold!

Quite frankly, I’d rather have spent the time indoors. It was bitter cold!


  • A six-rib joint of pork loin, with skin on and bones in.
  • Olive oil to rub the skin.
  • Salt and pepper to season.
  • A few apples (Granny Smith in this case)
  • Sugar to enhance the apples

The apples are enhanced by the addition of a few drops of Highbank Orchard Syrup. It’s a real apple treat. Grab some if you can. First thing to do is to rub the pork skin all over with oil. I used a cheaper olive oil for this. Then season it very well all over the skin.

Note the fat. Fat is good. Fat is natural. Nice fat is free range fat.

Note the fat. Fat is good. Fat is natural. Nice fat is free range fat.

Wrap the tips of the bones with foil to prevent them burning and causing acrid tastes. Pop the pork into a hot oven at 220ºC with the fan for 20 minutes. Then, turn the fan off and reduce the oven to 200ºC and cook (this depends on weight and preference) until done. I used a meat thermometer and cooked the pork until it hit an internal temperature of 71ºC.

With about half an hour to go on the pork cooking (Sorry, you will have to work this bit out for yourself) half the apples and rub them in the sugar.

This is a very easy bit of the process. Apple goes so well with pork.

This is a very easy bit of the process. Apple goes so well with pork.

Add a few drops of the orchard syrup, if you have any.

I'm proud of this shot. I was focussing, lighting and pouring, all at the same time.

I’m proud of this shot. I was focussing, lighting and pouring, all at the same time.

Pop the apples in the oven and let them break down in while the pork cooks.

Remove the pork and let it rest for about 10 minutes. This will be a critical time for you. For this brief time, you will be very, very tempted to break the delicious crackling and have just a little piece. The crackling is excellent. That’s partly because of the quality of the meat. With cement pen raised pork, you tend to end up with a more rubbery skin. Not nice.

The proof of the pork is in not eating the crackling when it comes out of the oven. Resist the temptation.

The proof of the pork is in not eating the crackling when it comes out of the oven. Resist the temptation.

When the pork has rested, Carve it between the bones and serve it.

I couldn't resist a gratuitous free range pork slicing shot. Very hard to not eat the crackling at this stage.

I couldn’t resist a gratuitous free range pork slicing shot. Very hard to not eat the crackling at this stage.

I made a little gravy from the pork juices and some of the apple syrup. I served the pork with a nice creamy mash and the apple.

Chef's bonus. The additional piece of crackling and one of the end chops.

Chef’s bonus. The additional piece of crackling and one of the end chops.

Make your own moral call on cement pen pork. I’m making the taste call on free range. This was simple to prepare and really, really fantastic to eat. It really is the palatable truth.

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  • That’s a beautiful piece of pork 🙂

    • Thanks MD. The difference by going free range is incredible.

  • What a colour you’ve achieved, Conor.

    • What sticks in my mind Nick is the lovely crispy crackling. Delicious.

  • Am all for free range anything. Happy animal life, happy conscience eating. If giant aliens took over the earth and farmed all of us humans for consumption, I would like to fattened up in a free range manner. (God, I hope that isn’t really happening, is it?) This pork looks The Business and that Apple syrup looks fab.

    • You have me looking nervously towards the sky…

  • From a taste point of view, free range always wins hands down. The animal gets fresh air, exercise and a degree of choice in its diet. I suggest we too would taste inferior if kept locked up in the cellar and force fed the equivalent of kilos of porridge every day… Stress hormones do not improve the flavour or quality of meat, and give the animal a hell of a life. Bravo on the pouring shot, by the way… I’m one of those weirdos who do not like crackling. The Husband loves it when I cook roast pork. Piggy heaven…

    • Thanks Kate, I am shocked that you don’t like crackling. I’ll bet your other half doesn’t complain.

      • No, indeed he doesn’t! I’ve also perfected a method of making crackling from a smoked ham which he adores even more.

        • Come live with me Kate!

          • Himself would definitely have something to say about that!

  • that looks like a wonderful piece of porky heaven!

  • for just a second, i thought it was the birth of One Man’s Tofu.

    fantastic shout-out for humane-ness, anyhow. props.


    • The thought of it repels me. Tofu, as a meat substitute, that is.

  • Lovely rack you have there, Conor. I’m with you all the way on free range versus intensively farmed – there’s no contest.

    • Thanks Linda,
      That’s a compliment I would be slow to use. Though I do appreciate it.

  • I love the idea of cooking it as a joint, but with the bone in so that it carves as chops. Looks really good. Great post Conor.

    • Thanks Adam,
      I had fun cooking, photoing and writing this one.

  • What a beautiful and beautifully cooked roast!

  • No cement pen raised pig for this girl…….I love love crackling, can’t stop eating it.

  • That piece of pork is gorgeous!! Love the dipped apples and the combination with the pork is classic. Such a great pairing. This is truly my kind of pork! Much better to me than my husband’s saucy grilled BBQ’d pork.

    • I should have spoken to you about that husband of yours before! Do serve it with a nice bittersweet apple. Nothing to beat it.

  • Apples and pork one of my all time favorite pairings! That pork looks marvelous. And the crackling… I don’t think there is any chance I could cook this without stealing pieces off at every possible chance!

    • It really is an act of extreme will power to wait until it’s on the plate.

  • Looks tremendous. A very nice cook by all accounts, and well documented. Free range critters eat better stuff, so it follows that so do we… I don’t think there’s any danger I could ever go vegetarian – I mean, if you really care about animals, why eat all their food – right?

    • A very good take on the subject. A pity I missed such an obvious point.

  • The pork looks outstanding, Conor, and the pouring shot is superb. I would pull the pork (so to speak) at a core temp of around 60 or so, but that is a matter of taste.
    Completely agree that the best reason for eating free-range pork is the flavor. (On a side note, “free-range” is a much better term than the American “organic” or the Dutch “biological” as all meat is by definition organic and biological in the literal sense.)

    • Thanks Stefan. I went for 62 and it was beautiful. Free Range pretty well describes how it should be.

      • Your post says 71? That’s why I commented.

        • Sorry Stefan, 71 it was. I followed a guide and we were very impressed with the outcome.

          • If the pork has good marbling, it will still taste juicy.

    • FYI – Free Range and Organic are two separate designations. “Organic” refers to a set of growing and raising standards instituted by the government, focusing heavily on the avoidance of synthetic chemicals and food sources for animals, and mandating a certain amount of outdoor access. “Free-range,” by contrast, does not address food sources or chemicals, but solely the fact that animals have the ability to access the outdoors.

      • I know Stefan will have something to say on this but, it really differs from country to country. Irish, as is so often the case when it comes to food standards, it top of the heap. (Commercial over).

      • You are correct. Here in the Netherlands organic and free-range go hand in hand in most cases. Only for chickens we have ‘free-range’ that is not organic, but that range is actually a lot less free than that of the organic ones and more symbolic than that it has an actual impact. For cattle and sheep ‘free-range’ should amount to grass-fed. So I tend to lump it all together even though I realise technically it is not precise.

  • Wouldn’t be difficult to resist eating the crackling in my house, Conor. I wouldn’t get near it in the first place. It’d be gone before the roasting dish hit the counter. But just in case, I’m going to punish my thief by never ever cooking this fabulous looking dish. Thanks for the weaponry.

    • Your thief will not thank you if they read this little exchange. The crackling fight is half the fun.

      • The above comment was from me, Conor! It appears the thief in my house stole my Gravatar too. Seriously, I’m going to have to get cameras in. Someone’s going to get a… wait for it…. hiding

  • Well, Mad Dog, Gerlinde and Kate at least would loudly yell together with me ‘free range’ and then: ‘don’t show this to Sheila’ !!! [Yes, well!!] . . . .

    • You nailed it Eha. No question.

      • That was not quite the point! We love you all !! Oh, Sheila has just wandered over and asked’ ‘what all the fuss was about ‘ . . . Please do not show her!!!!

  • I have to try this one! Looks absolutely lovely! Now I am hungry…still no kitchen to cook in… Be well! ^..^

    • Doing my best to stay healthy Barb. I’m in the US for a couple of days. Not long enough for a trip to you unfortunately.
      Best as ever,

      • You are welcome anytime Conor! I am almost finished with the new kitchen that is to die for! I loved this pork recipe! Looks yummy! Have a good trip!

  • What a beautiful pork roast. Looks so tender and juicy and delicious. What is orchard sauce? Is Ireland getting prepared for St. Patty’s Day? Sharing, of course!

    • The orchard sauce is highly concentrated apple juice. Made by a small orchard here in Ireland. Very creative and very tasty.

  • I steal the crispy skin off of everything I cook, free range or not! (Although I’m trying to buy more of it lately and have a free range, grass fed cow (parts) in my freezer) I am enjoying cooking with. Pork cracklings?? Get Outta Here! To die for.

    • You gotta try the free range crackling. Wonderful.

  • Looks delicious, Conor! And, isn’t it wonderful that “humanitarian grounds” and taste lead to the same conclusion?

    • It is indeed Michelle. If I had made the humanitarian argument, nobody would listen.

  • Beautiful shot, Conor…really wonderful.

    • Thanks indeed. It was pretty easy to shoot. Less easy to resist.

  • ,,,,,and a very good denouement on the plate:)

  • Lovely! Photos are tantalizing as always.
    Once you have naturally raised or free range pork, the grocery store stuff just won’t cut it for flavour anymore!

    • Too true indeed. Thanks for the kind photo words. I had a good model for this set.

  • 100% with you on that Conor. I find decent outdoor reared pork has bags more flavour and generally a decent layer of fat for good crackling – I get it whenever I can. Lovely dish.

    • Thanks Phil,
      This was a good one, for sure. Free range all the way from here.

  • I have no problems with that headline… but that opening pic – damn that pork looks good. I’m salivating here! 🙂

  • Reblogged this on dani furniture.

  • Now I am feeling Hungry.. I have to go my kitchen to Make it..Thanks for sharing it!!

    • Thanks Sanjay. I appreciate the kind comment.

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