Ever since humans discovered the pleasantly mind-altering effects of alcohol, we've been busily fermenting almost every kind of fruit and vegetable we can get our hands on. Not surprisingly, strong regional links have developed between agricultural crops and their alcoholic drinks: grapes and wine in the warm, southern Mediterranean countries, apples and cider, pears and perry in the cooler north of Europe. Like cider, perry is an alcoholic, usually sparkling drink made by fermenting the juice of pears specifically grown for the purpose: smaller and sourer than pears intended for eating. It's typical of Britain's West Country and Wales and France's Normandy and Anjou. At its best, perry has the heady aromatic flavour of pears combined with a sometimes refreshingly tart juiciness that is a perfect foil for the salty, earthy, dense, sweet flavours in this warming, wintry dish. Perry is also a great match for soft, white-mould cheeses such as brie - especially if you serve the cheese with some nutty wholegrain bread and a few slices of chilled green pear on the side.
The tart juiciness of this light and fruity fizz is the perfect foil for the salty but sweet flavours of bacon in a pear-rich pairing.
- 750 ml (3 cups) perry (see note)
- 60 ml (¼ cup) cider vinegar
- 110 gm (½ cup firmly packed) brown sugar
- 1 tsp cloves
- 1 kg piece of bacon, cut lengthways into thirds
- 400 gm (about 6) parsnips, peeled and halved lengthways
- 2 firm Packham pears, cut into wedges
- 200 gm peeled chestnuts (see note)
Lemon and nutmeg spinach
- 50 gm butter, coarsely chopped
- 4 bunches (about 1.2 kg) English spinach, trimmed, washed
- 2 lemons, finely grated rind and juice only
- ¼ tsp finely ground fresh nutmeg
- 1Bring perry, vinegar, brown sugar and cloves to the boil in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until reduced to 2 cups (about 25 minutes). Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then cool.
- 2Place bacon in a roasting pan, pour over reduction, turn to coat, cover with foil and refrigerate overnight, turning occasionally.
- 3Preheat oven to 200C. Remove foil from roasting pan and add parsnip, pear and chestnuts. Replace foil and roast for 35 minutes. Remove foil, increase heat to 220C and roast, basting frequently and turning pork halfway through cooking, until pork is golden (about 1 hour).
- 4Meanwhile, for lemon and nutmeg spinach, melt butter in a large frying pan over medium heat, add spinach and lemon rind and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted (about 5-7 minutes). Season to taste with lemon juice, nutmeg, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve pork with roasted parsnips, pears and chestnuts and spinach to the side.
Note Perry is available from select liquor shops. If it's unavailable substitute with cider. Peeled chestnuts are available from Cheznuts. You will need to start this recipe a day ahead. Drink suggestion by Max Allen