Pork stew is a type of thick soup that has been slow-cooked for many hours to create a satisfying main dish. Stew is known for using cuts of meat that are not tender until after they have been cooked for quite some time. This cooking technique has been used since ancient times in countries all over the world, as it is a way to utilize many parts of an animal to make them taste good. Ingredients such as vegetables, herbs and spices are often added, but vary depending on the type of stew being made.
The stew has traveled all over the world with popular versions coming from India, Mexico, and South America. Europe, Canada, parts of the Middle East, and the U.S. all have versions of pork stew. The ingredients used in the different variations reflect what is naturally found in these areas.
Cheaper cuts of pork, such as the shoulder and offal, are often used to make pork stew because after hours of cooking, the meat becomes fork-tender. More expensive cuts would be wasted in this type of cooking process. The pork is cut into pieces that are slightly larger than bite-size before being placed in a large, hot pan. When the pieces are placed in the pan, they are salted and quickly browned to add additional flavor to the pork stew. Once the meat has been browned, liquid can be added into the pan.
A Dutch oven works well for cooking stew because it is large and heavy, so the stew will cook slowly and evenly. Depending on the type of pork stew being made, the liquid can consist of water, stock, wine or beer. Usually, the main liquid is either water or stock, but adding wine or beer can add flavor to the gravy. At this point, other ingredients can be added including vegetables, herbs, and spices. The stew is then cooked over low heat for two to four hours until the meat is tender and the liquid is reduced to a gravy.
There are many recipe variations for pork stew depending on its country of origin. Mexican and South American styles use vegetables, chile peppers, and many types of herbs and spices. Ingredients such as lentils, rice and beans are included in Indian and Middle Eastern versions of the stew. Common vegetables for pork stew are potatoes, carrots, and tomatoes.