Terrible experience with the Beer-Braised Pork Knuckle recipe. The pork fat didn’t crackle, the potatoes and apple got mushy from the beer and the gravy was bitter. Why?
Nigella's Beer-Braised Pork Knuckles With Caraway, Garlic, Apples And Potatoes (from KITCHEN) cooks pork knuckles (the shank end of the leg bone) on a bed of onions, potatoes and apples. The dish should be cooked in a roasting pan that has enough room to spread out the apples and vegeatbles and they should not be completely submerged by the beer. The pork skin should crisp up during cooking as it is started in a hot oven, to help the fat to start rendering, then finished in a hot oven at the end to give plenty of crackling. The basting is to help to keep the meat moist but only happens twice in the recipe, which is not enough to really make the skin soft.
We would suggest making sure that the pork knuckles have well-scored skin, as this will also help it to crisp up. When the knuckles are sitting on the sliced onions they should be protruding above the sides of the roasting pan, so that the skin gets direct heat. For the final 30 minute "blast" in the oven, you could transfer the knuckles to a rimmed baking sheet to make sure that the skin crisps and crackles. The apples and potatoes should be in fairly chunky pieces, so that they don't break down during cooking and we suggest using a firm variety of apple, such as Pink Lady, and an all-purpose potato, such as Desiree. The sauce will depend on the type of beer used and the bitterness should mellow in the oven, but if it is still too bitter then you can usually balance the taste with a teaspoon or two of brown sugar.