Because the weather is finally starting to cool off just a little, the Master Taste Tester suggested grilling out for dinner. What a great idea, I thought! I said “what about grilling some pork (that’s what I had in the freezer)?”
With a nod of his head, I decided that it would be a perfect opportunity to try my hand at brining pork, given that my first experience at brining chicken was so successful! For the brine, I used an adaptation of Sage-Garlic Brined Pork Chops from Ruhlman’s Twenty. OMG, was it good!
The ingredients included water, Kosher salt, black peppercorns, fresh sage, lemon, garlic and sliced pork loin. I omitted the shallot and bay leaves called for in Ruhlman’s recipe. The reason for omitting the shallot was that I didn’t have any. The master taste tester despises bay leaves, so I wasn’t going to put any in the brine. The pork that I used was half-inch pieces cut from a whole pork loin because that’s what I had on hand. Ruhlman’s recipe suggests using pork chops.
Before combining the ingredients for the brine, I peeled the garlic and smashed the cloves with the flat side of a kitchen knife. Then I put the peppercorns in a Ziploc bag and cracked them with my meat pounder. You could also use a mortar with a pestle or the bottom of a heavy pan to crack the peppercorns.
In a large saucepan, I combined the water, salt, lemon, garlic, cracked peppercorns, and sage, and gave the mixture a stir.
Next, I heated the mixture over high heat to a simmer, and removed it from the heat. I let the brine come to room temperature, and refrigerated it until it was cold. I poured the cold brine over the pork, covered the container, and refrigerated it for about 7 hours.
In the meantime, I prepared the basting sauce which consisted of honey, low sodium soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard and Emeril’s Essence.
I added all of the basting sauce ingredients to a plastic container, and shook it to ensure that everything was well combined. You could also put the ingredients into a bowl and whisk to combine.
About an hour before grilling time, I removed the pork from the brine and discarded the brine. I rinsed the pork well under cold water, and patted it dry with paper towels. In the meantime, the Master Taste Tester prepared the coal fire. Right before grilling, I brushed both sides of the pork with a little vegetable oil.
Now it was the Master Taste Tester’s turn. He grilled the pork over a hot coal fire, basting the pork often with the basting sauce until the pork reached an internal temperature of about 160° F. This took about 10 minutes – the fire was really hot.
When the pork was done, he removed it to a plate, and loosely covered it with aluminum foil for a rest of about 15 minutes.
For dinner, I served the pork with mushy peas (cooked dried peas), baked potato, and a chilled Chardonnay. A number of times during the dinner, the Master Taste Tester remarked how good the pork was and how we needed to do this again. I definitely agree. Yum!
UPDATE: Last evening’s pork was incredible. However, how much was attributed to the brine, and how much was because of the actual pork? To answer this question, we again grilled pork tonight. The pieces were from the same whole pork loin, so that was a constant. Everything else related to last night’s pork was also the same, except for the brining, or lack thereof – thickness, removal from refrigerator an hour before cooking, hot coal fire, basting sauce, internal temperature when removed from fire, and allowing for a 15 minute covered rest.
Tonight’s unbrined pork was tough, dry and totally devoid of favor! Interestingly, the amount of liquid that ended up after the covered rest was significant tonight. Last night, there was a bit of liquid, but not an excessive amount.
The master taste tester remarked that he wouldn’t serve tonight’s pork to company, much less to us again. However, he’d definitely serve last night’s brined pork to company, and to us as well.
Bottom line, the brining works!
The key to juicy, tender pork is brining.
- 1 quart (32 ounces) cold water
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons (50 grams, 1.75 ounces) Kosher salt (do not use table salt)
- 10 cloves garlic peeled and smashed with the flat side of a knife
- 1 lemon cut in half
- 1 packed Tablespoon fresh sage leaves
- 1 Tablespoon black peppercorns cracked in Ziploc bag with meat pounder, a mortar with a pestle
- 1 shallot sliced optional
- 2 bay leaves optional
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon Emeril’s Essence
- 1 1/4 pounds (4 half-inch, 5 ounce pieces) pork loin, trimmed
In a large saucepan over high heat, combine water, salt, garlic, lemon, sage and peppercorns; bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and allow the brine to come to room temperature. Refrigerate uncovered until cold.
- Submerge the pork in the brine; refrigerate 6 to 8 hours.
Combine all basting sauce ingredients in container. Mix well. Set aside.
Remove pork from the brine, discarding the brine. Rinse the pork well; pat dry with paper towels. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour before cooking.
- Brush both sides of pork with vegetable oil. Grill over hot coals on both sides, basting often, until an internal temperature of 160° F, about 10 minutes. Remove from grill; cover with aluminum foil and let rest for 15 minutes. Yield: 4 servings.