The menu my wife devised for a recent catered dinner party included a pork tenderloin brined, then grilled. The pork was so outstanding–as evidenced by guests visiting the kitchen to make comments–I thought the process was worth sharing.
There’s nothing really new about brining meats to infuse flavor, but pork seems to benefit especially. This particular recipe comes from ”Chez Panisse Cooking,” writtten by Paul Bertolli with Alice Waters. Bertolli knows his way around meats. They suggest the brine for a roast loin of pork, noting that they prefer the shoulder blade end of the loin “cut from just behind the shoulder and nine ribs down.” This particular cut is solid muscle, not much separation or connective tissue.
We simply substituted tenderloin, which also is a solid muscle.
For the brine:
3/4 cup additive-free kosher salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 gallon ice water
20 whole juniper berries
20 whole allspice berries
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 leafy stalk celery, thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
1/4 yellow onions, thinly sliced
3 sprigs thyme
3 sprigs parsley
3 bay leaves
In a large bowl, dissolve the salt and sugar in the water. Crack the juniper, allspice and pepper in a mortar. Add the vegetables, herbs and spices to the water. Place your pork in a clean, non-reactive container (we used a large, lidded plastic food storage container) and pour the brine over the meat. The meat should be completely submerged. Sometimes I use an inverted ceramic bowl to weigh the meat down. Cover and refrigerate two or three days for tenderloin, five days for a larger pork loin.
If you are grilling the meat, make sure to pat it completely dry with paper towels after removing it from the brine. We like to cook ours to a rosy pink, or an internal temperature of around 137 degrees. The temperature will usually rise a few degrees more while the meat is resting on a cutting board. Let it rest 15 minutes or so before serving.
My wife served this with red cabbage braised with Riesling wine and mashed rutabaga topped with fried shallots. A perfect fall menu.