Lamb with mint, turkeys with cranberries, beef with mustard, and pork with apples – there are some combinations whose origins are mysterious, but of such long-standing that we hardly question them at all. There are various theories of how these particular associations developed, and one strong possibility is that simple proximity explains them: lamb thrives in the same places as mint, turkeys and cranberries both originate in the New World, and pigs are often turned out to forage in orchards to enjoy the dropped apples. A corollary to the theory is that the flavour of the flesh is improved by the mint or cranberries or apples – and the flesh then also has a natural affinity with the mint or cranberries or apples.
The Genessee Farmer in 1859 explored the relationship between pigs and apples and pork and apples in an article which asked the question “Would it be profitable to raise sweet apples for feeding to cattle or swine?”
For Swine, nothing equals and apple-pie, either for relish or for fattening power. The pig is not very dainty about his pie, however. If you merely cook the apples and stir in a little bran, he wont refuse the dish; substitute shorts, or corn-and-cob-meal, or ground oats or buckwheat, and it will suit his palate and pile on the fat amazingly. And, for finishing up a piece of pork, an apple-pudding, thickened with good corn-meal, is as far ahead of hard corn as the corn is of raw pumpkins.
Pork made with apples is sweeter, and quite as free from shrinking, as the “corn-fed.”
There is more to the culinary association than simply serving apple sauce with roast pork.
Pork and Apple Fritters.
Prepare a light batter as for pancakes. Take cold pork, boiled or roast, the latter being preferable, mince it rather fine. Take apples peeled and cored, chop them small, and mix them and the minced pork with the batter. Then fry them as you would apple fritters, stirring up the batter every time you take any. Fritters can be made in like manner with cold minced pork, and any approved chopped vegetable (previously cooked), as potato, parsnip, salsify &c.,instead of apple: but unless used in moderate quantity, the fritters will not hold together.
Cassell’s Household Guide (London, 1859)
Fried salt pork and apples is a favorite dish in the country; but it is seldom seen in the city. After the pork is fried, some of the fat should be taken out, lest the apples should be oily. Acid apples should be chosen, because they cook more easily; they should be cut in slices, across the whole apple, about twice or three times as thick as a new dollar. Fried till tender, and brown on both sides—laid around the pork. If you have cold potatoes, slice them and brown them in the same way.
The American Frugal Housewife, (1838) by Lydia Maria Child.