Juniper-Brined Double-Cut Pork Chops
- ACTIVE: 30 MIN
- TOTAL TIME: 1 HR 10 MIN Plus 2 Hr 30 min brining
- SERVINGS: 8
Before cooking the locally raised Berkshire pork they sell, butcher-shop owners Jessica and Joshua Applestone like to brine it for a few hours in a mixture of juniper berries, orange zest and peppercorns to help season the meat and keep it juicy. Then Jessica Applestone recommends cooking it simply with a sprig of rosemary. "Salt, pepper and flame is all you need. Why lose the beauty of the meat by adding more?" she says. The brine works well for a number of pork cuts, including rib chops, loin chops (bone-in or boneless), tenderloin and ribs.
- 1 gallon cold water
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons cracked black peppercorns
- 8 juniper berries, lightly crushed
- Zest strips from a 1/2 orange
- 2 rosemary sprigs
- 4 bone-in double-cut pork rib chops (about 1 1/2 pounds each)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- In a large stock pot, bring 4 cups of the water to a boil. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the salt, sugar, bay leaves, peppercorns, juniper berries, orange zest and 1 of the rosemary sprigs until the salt and sugar dissolve. Add the remaining 12 cups of water and let the brine cool to room temperature. Add the pork chops and let stand at room temperature for 2 1/2 hours. Drain the pork chops. Pick off the spices and pat the chops dry.
- Preheat the oven to 350°. Heat a large ovenproof skillet until very hot. Add the oil and the pork chops and cook over high heat, turning occasionally, until crusty and brown on both sides, about 10 minutes.
- Stand the pork chops upright in the skillet and add the remaining rosemary sprig. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast the chops for about 35 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted near the bone registers 140°. Transfer the chops to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes; reserve the pan drippings.
- Using a boning knife, cut the pork chops between the bones, then run the blade along the bones to separate the meat. Transfer the pork chops and bones to plates, spoon the reserved pan drippings on top and serve.
These meaty chops deserve an equally substantial red wine as a partner. Merlot has been out of favor in recent years, but it's one of the world's great wine grapes, as bottlings from Washington state often prove.