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Iron Range Porketta 

You can buy prepared porketta in most supermarkets in northern Minnesota and in other parts of the country these days, but it is well worth making your own. I use the porketta recipe from B.J. Carpenter’s “Come, You Taste: Family Recipes From the Iron Range.”

It can be served as a traditional roast, but I like the porketta sliced thin and served on rolls with a slice of mild cheese such as provolone. If you don’t want to tie up your oven for hours, the pork will cook well in a slow cooker, but the meat will be shredded rather than sliced. Porketta is a great dish to serve to folks watching the football game at home, or to bring to a tailgate party to have alongside cold beer.

Serves 10

  • 1 (5-pound) pork butt or shoulder roast, boned
  • 2 tablespoons kosher or coarse sea salt, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground pepper, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder, or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons fennel seeds, toasted and finely ground in a mortar and pestle or spice mill
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 7 to 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups fresh fennel fronds, minced, or 2 tablespoons dried and crumbled
  • Handful of flat Italian parsley leaves, minced
  • Optional: Italian hard rolls, mustard, mild cheese such as provolone

Lay pork roast on a rimmed baking sheet; open flat and dry all surfaces with several sheets of paper towel. In a small bowl, mix together salt, pepper, garlic powder, and ground fennel; remove 2 tablespoons and set aside. Mix the remaining 6 tablespoons with the olive oil and rub onto the inside surface of the roast, making sure to get some into all the cuts. Combine minced garlic with fennel fronds and parsley and spread over the surface. Tightly roll the roast and tie securely with kitchen string. Rub the outside of the roast with reserved dry spice mixture. Wrap in parchment or waxed paper, place in a large (gallon-sized) zip-top bag, and refrigerate overnight.

Remove roast from refrigerator, unwrap, and place in a roasting pan or slow cooker, seam side down, fat side up; let come to room temperature. If roasting in an oven, preheat to 325 degrees F; if roasting in a slow cooker, let meat rest for 30 to 45 minutes, then place on high. Slow roast for 4 hours in the oven or up to 6 hours in a slow cooker, until the meat shreds easily when pulled with a fork.

Serve warm or at room temperature, either with a side dish or on hard rolls with mustard and/or cheese.

Author’s Notes: Properly seasoning a porketta is important; getting the herbs and spices deep into all nooks and crannies is key, so boning the roast is essential—and never, ever trim any of the fat. If you don’t know how to, or don’t want to, bone a roast, ask the butcher to do it. Once seasoned, rolled, and tied, the meat is wrapped and refrigerated for at least 24 hours to become infused with all the flavors of the rub. While you’re at it, why not make several and freeze a couple uncooked; they’re great to have on hand, and the flavor will only improve.

Recipe reprinted with permission from “Come, You Taste: Family Recipes From the Iron Range” by B.J. Carpenter, published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press.

Emma Buls


Emma Buls is a writer, avid cook, wine lover, and travel enthusiast currently based in Duluth, Minn., but who recently lived in San Francisco and New York. She and her husband documented their 18-month long journey through Europe, Australia, and Southeast Asia on her travel blog

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