If you live on or near the Iron Range in Minnesota for any length of time, you will learn to love and appreciate the 3 P’s: Potica, Porketta and Pasties. They represent some of the best of the diverse culture of the region. Serbia/Croatia/Slovenia for its Potica, Italy for Porketta and Cornish miners for the pasties. Having moved away from the “Range”, our family has really missed these traditional dishes. In the past, I’ve taught myself how to make Pasties and Potica, now it is time to learn how to make a Porketta. With two pork roasts on hand, I can make one to roast now and one to freeze for later.
It was so fun to research this boldly seasoned roast. I found many slight variations on a common theme of four staple ingredients: lots of fennel, salt, garlic and pepper. Around these seasonings were a variety of other fresh and dried herbs. I chose to concentrate on a Porketta with dried herbs only, since that is what I have in my pantry.
Toasting the fennel seeds would bring out a warmer, nuttier flavor and release their aromatic oils. After toasting, I ground them to a fine powder with a mortar and pestle. Fresh ground pepper, coarse sea salt and garlic powder completed my base spices. A few recipes had paprika in the mix. I love the flavor of paprika and incorporated that as well. Oregano and coriander were included to blend with the fennel as additional herbs.
The aroma in the house was amazing. And our Porketta sandwiches were delicious. It brought a bit of the Iron Ranger to our Wisconsin home.
5 pound Boneless Pork Roast (or 2 smaller roasts)
2 Tablespoon Fennel Seeds (toasted, and ground in mortar/pestle)
2 teaspoons Garlic Powder
2 teaspoons Coarse Ground Salt
1 1/2 teaspoons Black Pepper (Fresh coarse ground is best)
3/4 teaspoon Smoked Paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons Oregano
1/2 teaspoon Coriander
I Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup apple juice (optional)
Toast the fennel in a frying pan on the stove for three to four minutes or until just slightly browned (be careful not to burn them). When cooled, grind in a mortal and pestle. In a small dish, mix the ground, toasted fennel with the other listed spices.
Butterfly your pork roast so that it lays flat in a cookie sheet. Pat dry with paper towels. Score the open roast with a one inch grid pattern, about I/2 inch deep, being careful not to cut all the way through the meat. Spread the inside with olive oil. Rub about 3/4 of the spice mix on the inside of the roast. Roll the roast, starting with the shorter edge. Tie roast with kitchen twine to hold together. Rub the remaining spice mix on the outside of the roast. Wrap the Porketta in plastic wrap and place in ziplock bag. Refrigerate for at least six to eight hours. Overnight is the best.
Pour the chicken broth and apple juice in to a slow cooker. ( I use a Nesco roaster). Unwrap roast and place it in the liquid with the seam side down. Cook on low heat for six hours or until the meat is tender and pulls apart easily with a fork.
Porketta is best served on a fresh crusty hard roll. We like to make our sandwiches ahead of time and refrigerate. The roll takes on some of the flavor of the meat which makes the Porketta sandwich taste even better.