The Briner

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My sister-in-law and I share a serious love of cooking, so her gifts are always spot on. For my birthday she sent me something really unique, called “The Briner.” It’s a large, plastic container designed for brining meat.

As you can see in the below right photo, there is an inside “lid” that holds meat down inside the container and keeps it submerged in the brine. It’s ingenious!

To quote from The Briner website, this patented product “resolves the #1 challenge to successful brining – floating food! Simple design, easy to use, easy to clean, works great.”

Previously, I’d used my largest, deepest pot for brining, and had to stack heavy plates on top of the meat in order to keep it from floating, especially the few times I brined a whole turkey or chicken.

Not being an expert briner, I looked to Paul from That Other Cooking Blog, who is obviously a proponent of brining. I’ve followed Paul for years now; his blog is also a great resource for sous vide cooking. Plus, his professional photography is featured in a cookbook entitled, “The Essential Sous Vide,” published in 2016.

Isn’t that one gorgeous photo on the cover??!!

So I asked Paul some basic brining questions. In a nutshell, here’s what he said.

“Everything is brinable.”

Paul said a lot more than that – he’s quite generous with his knowledge, but that’s the gist of what he said. And I guess, why not?!!

He also brines and then uses his sous vide. That almost hurt my brain to think of how exceptional protein could turn out with everything going for it!

And again, why not?!! So I decided to brine with The Briner, and sous vide a pork loin chunk.

Those of you who don’t own a sous vide machine, I highly recommend you look into one.

This is the model I own. (above) It’s half the size as the commercial sous vide, less expensive, and perfect for a small family.

To me, it’s an essential appliance, especially for tough cuts – brisket, flank and hanger steaks – and easy-to-overcook cuts, like pork and chicken.

Here’s what I did for the brine.

1 cup salt
1/2 cup sugar
8 cups water
1 1/2 pound pork loin
2 oranges, quartered
1 onion, quartered
A few smashed garlic cloves
Rosemary
Thyme
Sage
Bay leaves
Star Anise
Cloves
Some crushed juniper berries

Using a large pot, combine the salt and sugar with the water and heat until dissolved. Set aside the pot to let the mixture cool.

Place the pork loin in The Briner, or a large pot. Pour cooled brine over the top.

Add the remaining ingredients, squeezing the orange pieces a bit into the brine.

If the meat is not covered by the brine, add some more cold water.

Then add the lids to The Briner, place in a cool place like a cold garage or refrigerator for 24 – 48 hours.

After brining, rinse the pork, and dry off well.

Vacuum seal the loin and keep chilled until the sous vide is ready. You can season the pork, add more herbs, and even add butter to the pork before sealing, but I did not.


Preheat the sous vide to 135 degrees. The pork will be done after 12 hours. Plan according to whether you will be removing the pork and immediately browning it and serving it, or if you plan to refrigerate it overnight first.

Here’s what it looks like after the sous vide process.

Brown the pork in a little oil, seasoned with a good garlic pepper or seasoning of your choice. You can brown the whole chunk of loin, but I decided to slice it into serving pieces first.

Honesly, the pork is ready to eat after the sous vide’ing, but most people are put off by pink pork!

I served the pork with a creamed spinach.


Then I tasted the pork. Oh my.

I tasted the brine ingredients!

I could taste the onion and orange, specifically. The depth of flavor was tremendous.

And, of course, the pork was super tender from the sous vide process.

So young Paul was right. Why not take advantage of all the tools and tricks we have to create the best food possible!

Festive Pork Loin

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This pork loin isn’t festive in that it’s holiday-oriented, it’s just festive because it’s a perfect dish for a celebration. The more correct name would be Moscato-Braised Pork Loin with Prosciutto and Gruyère.

The recipe came from the book Rotis, by Stephane Reynaud. I had previously purchased his cookbook Barbecue & Grill, and enjoyed it, so I decided to try another one of his books. He’s quite the prolific cookbook writer if you check him out on Amazon. He has one book called Tripe. I might pass on that one…
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In any case, I’ve bookmarked many recipes from Rotis, and decided to make this pork loin first. It’s prepared quite simply – browned and braised along with white port. I couldn’t find white port, so I substituted a syrupy moscato I’ve used in sangrias, called Electra, by Quady Vineyards.

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I also really liked the addition of bacon and Comté in this roast, but American bacon isn’t the same as the European bacon, so I substituted Prosciutto. Canadian bacon would probably be a more exact substitution. Furthermore, I used Gruyère in place of the Comté.

The presentation is very pretty. It would be a good dish for company if you use an in-the-oven temperature probe. Then there’s just a melting of the cheese and you’re ready to serve.

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Moscato-Braised Pork Loin with Prosciutto and Gruyere
adapted from Rotis by Stephane Reynaud

4 tablespoons bacon fat, divided
2 purple onions, thinly sliced into rings
Pork loin, approximately 2 pounds 10 ounces
Salt, pepper
7 ounces Moscato, or any dessert wine
6 slices Prosciutto
12 ounces Gruyère, sliced into 6 pieces
Thyme, fresh or dried

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.

First, sauté the onion rings in 2 tablespoons of bacon fat over medium heat in a large skillet until they’re caramelized. Set them aside.

Next, have your pork loin close to room temperature. Trim a little of the fat if necessary. Season both sides with salt and pepper.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of bacon fat in a roasting pan over high heat. Have your ventilation on. Roast the pork loin on one side. Then turn over and sear the other side until well browned.

I also brown the “sides.” After all the browning is complete, pour in the Moscato.

Place the roasting pan in the oven. Use an oven probe if you have one, and set it for 145 degrees. This took about an hour, but I would use a thermometer to prevent overcooking.

About 4 times during this hour I basted the pork with the ever-reducing Moscato jus.
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At the point where the thermometer registers 145 degrees, remove the pork from the oven and let sit for about 5 minutes. Have your slices of cheese and Prosciutto handy.
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Using a sharp knife, cut into the pork in 6 evenly-spaced crosswise slices, about 2/3 down.

Stuff the prosciutto into the openings.
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Then stuff the sliced cheese, and top everything with the caramelized onion rings.
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Return to the oven until the cheese melts, which took about 15 minutes.
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Remove from the oven, place the pork on a cutting board, and drizzle on any remaining jus from the roasting pan.

Let the pork rest for at least ten minutes, and then cut the 7 slices of pork loin for serving.


Because of the more involved recipe of this pork loin, I served it simply with steamed Brussels sprouts.
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Make sure the serving of pork includes some Prosciutto, Gruyère, and onions. Sprinkle the servings with fresh or dried thyme, and add a little more black pepper.

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note: The above doesn’t show the pork quite like it was when I first prepared the serving on the plate, because I had to keep microwaving the cheese to get it to re-melt for the photos! It was a cold evening, and I guess I just wasn’t fast enough with the camera. Plus it had already gotten dark outside; lesson learned. But if you don’t allow pork to cook beyond 155 degrees, it will be moist, and slightly pink.

Apple Chutney

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I love making all kinds of jarred stuff, like chutney, cranberry sauce, foriana sauce, pumpkin butter… It’s just fun – especially because you can really create as you go. And chutney is one of those things that you can completely make your own.

I have one apple tree on my property. It grows little green apples. They’re not great. They’re dry, and not that flavorful. But I feel compelled to cook with them because I’m in competition with the raccoons. Overnight, they can rid the tree clean of every apple. It’s like they have their whole families come with apple picking bags.

We know it’s the raccoons because we finally have proof. This July, before we left town, my husband set up his wildlife camera on our peach tree. The raccoons have always beat me to my peaches. On one year, I notated on my calendar that they disappeared on July 17th. So, we were ready in July.

And there they came, along with their teenagers. No bags across their shoulders, but they’re certainly smart. In the photos, you can see the larger raccoons in the tree, and the children gathering them up down on the ground.

We figured out from the span of the dates on the photos (those aren’t the real dates because my husband is electronically challenged) that they really don’t scour the whole tree overnight, like it seems, but they take a few days to do it. So you really don’t notice until it’s too late. Plus, by then, most all of the branches have been broken by their sturdy bodies, which makes this phenomenon doubly frustrating.

But back to the apples. On most years, I let the animals, including my dog, Louie, enjoy the apples.
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But this year, I really wanted to take advantage of some of the apples. Plus some crabapples, that I know nothing about, but that’s another post.

I picked half of a grocery bag of apples and crabapples, and it was heavy. And don’t worry, there are about a million apples still on the tree.

Now to put on my thinking cap. Crappy-tasting apples. What in the world to do?
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So chutney came to mind. Because there are so many other flavors in chutney, like the savory ingredients, the sweet ingredients, the spices, and the vinegar. The apples would just add substance. Perfect.

So here’s what I did, and, as usual, I’m only listing ingredients as a guide, because you can use what you like in your own chutney. But I can tell you that you cannot taste bland, non-juicy apples in this chutney! In fact, it’s one of the best ones I’ve made!

Curried Apple Fig Apricot Chutney

Olive oil
White onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
Apples, cored, finely chopped
Chopped dried apricots
Chopped dried figs
Brown sugar
Curry powder or individual spices like cumin, coriander, cardamom, turmeric, cinnamon
Cinnamon stick, if you’re not adding ground cinnamon
Salt
Apple juice or some white wine

In a medium pot, heat the oil over medium heat. I used some orange-infused olive oil just for a little added flavor.
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Add the onions and sauté them for a few minutes, or until soft. Add the garlic and stir it in.
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Immediately add the apples, dried fruit, sugar, seasoning, and about 1/4 cup or so of liquid. The liquid is just to start the steaming and cooking/softening process of the fruits.


Bring to a soft boil, then cover the pot, turn the heat way down, and let the chutney cook for about 45 minutes.

Occasionally check to see how much liquid is on the bottom of the pot. You want the fruits to keep some semblance of their shapes, not for the chutney to turn to mush.
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Remove the lid of the pot and let the chutney cook if any excess liquid remaining needs to evaporate. Don’t stir.

For the last step, add a little bit of apple cider vinegar to the chutney, and let cook for about one minute. Remove the pot from the heat, then gently stir in the juice of half of a lemon.

Remove the cinnamon stick, and let the chutney cool completely.

The one thing that’s really nice about chutney is that is freezes well. Unless you want to make a dozen jars of chutney and are willing to can them, just make a small amount and stick them in the freezer. It’s so handy and easy. And that way you can make different varieties of chutney!
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And I finally have a labeler!!!

Today I served the chutney with pork loin, and corn on the cob. The curry flavors are striking, especially with the apple, fig, and apricot.

For two actual chutney recipes, check out my Cranberry Apple Chutney for the holidays, and my spring chutney – Strawberry Onion Chutney.

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Just if you’re interested, I paired this meal with an Albariño. Fabulous!!!

This chutney is also good with roasted chicken. I know – it was my lunch today!

note: Typically, I place all of the chutney ingredients, except the final vinegar and lemon juice step, in a pot and cook everything together, an example shown below. This time, just for fun, I decided to sauté the aromatics first. It added a little oiliness to the chutney, which worked fine. But make sure, if you sauté the aromatics first, that you serve the chutney warm or at room temperature.

all of the chutney ingredients ready to cook

all of the chutney ingredients ready to cook