Pork cheeks are among the favorite cuts of meat in Swabia. The reason for that: They are incredibly tender with an indulgent gelatinous mouthfeel. And it’s super easy to prepare them. All you need is wine and a good amount of time.
I like to marinate the beef cheeks overnight in red wine with a few warming spices like cloves and juniper berries. This step tenderizes the beef and lends it a rich burgundy color. Another popular alternative in Southern Germany that is more often used for game meat is to marinate the meat overnight in buttermilk. This serves a very similar purpose as red wine.
You can serve these pork cheeks with any kind of side dish that you prefer to soak up the sauce. This time, I decided to go with German sourdough steamed buns. A great alternative would be spätzle or bread dumplings.
Red Wine Braised Pork Cheeks (‘Geschmorte Schweinebäckle’)
For marinating the pork cheeks:
- 4 cups dry red wine
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 cloves
- 1 teaspoon allspice berries
- 1/2 teaspoon juniper berries
- a few sprigs of thyme
- 2.5 pounds (1.2 kg) pork cheeks
For braising the pork cheeks:
- salt, to taste
- a few tablespoons of white flour, for dusting the pork cheeks
- 3 tablespoons clarified butter
- 2 onions, finely chopped or grated
- 2 carrots, grated
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
For thickening and seasoning the sauce:
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon white flour
- salt, to taste
For serving (optional, examples, up to your choice):
Marinate the pork cheeks:
- In a pot, combine the red wine, spices, and thyme for the marinade. Heat the red wine to just below a light simmer to infuse it with the spice aroma. Then set it aside and leave it to cool down to room temperature. Pour the mulled red wine marinade over the pork cheeks. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge overnight.
Braise the pork cheeks:
- Preheat your oven to 140 °C (285 °F)
- Take the pork cheeks out of the marinade and season them from both sides with salt. Dust them with flour. Heat the clarified butter in a Dutch oven over high heat. Sear the pork cheeks from all sides until golden brown. Then take them out of the pan.
- Turn down the heat to low and sweat the onions, carrots, and tomato paste briefly in the Dutch oven until the onions are translucent for about 3-4 minutes. Strain your marinade through a sieve and discard the spices. Deglaze the Dutch oven with the strained marinade and add the pork cheeks back into the pot. Bring to a simmer. Then cover the Dutch oven with a lid and transfer it into your preheated oven. Leave the pork cheeks to braise at 140 °C (285 °F) until fall-apart tender, about 3 hours.
Finish the sauce and serve the pork cheeks:
- Once tender, remove the pork cheeks from the Dutch oven. Strain the sauce through a sieve and discard the vegetables. In a pot, heat the butter for the sauce over medium heat. Add the flour and sweat the butter-flour-mixture (“roux”) until it smells nutty but is still pale in color, about 3-4 minutes. Then whisk in your sauce. Bring to a simmer and season the sauce to taste with salt.
- Add the pork cheeks into the finished sauce to reheat them. Serve with any starchy side of your liking. For example, steamed buns, spätzle, or potato noodles.