Brined Pork Loin with Molasses-Mustard Glaze and Apple Butter

Brined Pork Loin with Molasses-Mustard GlazeFallin’ for Pork
Fall is when pork shines. My family eats pork pretty much year-round—either as pork chops, or in tacos, or whatever. But, when the calendar flips to fall, I start thinking about juicy pork roasts. (Turning the oven on in the middle of July when it is 102º outside is a non-starter.) Fall flavors like apple and cinnamon pair perfectly with the mild flavor of pork.

But, the challenge with pork roasts is that they can dry out if you cook them too long. To solve that problem and to introduce the flavors of the season to the pork, I like to throw any roasts or chops that we’re having for dinner in a brine.

Brining is easy and you don’t have to do it for long periods of time. Pork chops, for example, only need to be brined for 30 minutes to an hour depending on how thick they are. (Double cut chops can go as long as 2 hours.) Over-brining will cause the meat to be mushy which is never pleasant.

There are so many brines to pick from. But, I am partial to any that include apple juice or cider. The end result is just a bit sweeter but not super apple-y. One of my all-time favorite brines for pork is our recipe for Thick Pork Chops with Spiced Apples and Raisins. I use it 90% of the time, as it’s relatively quick and can be managed mid-week.

Sometimes though, you wanna go bigger.

This recipe for Brined Pork Loin with Molasses-Mustard Glaze and Apple Butter is not a quick weekday whip-up. It is better left for a lazy Sunday dinner with friends and family watching the leaves fall from the trees. Serve this with some roasted sweet potatoes and/or Brussel sprouts and maybe our Barley and Pine Nut Pilaf for the best representation of Fall on your plate…

Brined Pork Loin with Molasses-Mustard Glaze and Apple Butter Recipe
Recipe adapted from Bobby Flay and the Food Network
Yields 4 to 6 servings

For the Apple Butter
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

For the Molasses-Mustard Glaze
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
1/4 cup molasses
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Pork Loin
5 cups water
1 container apple juice concentrate, thawed
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 red onion, peeled and quartered
10 black peppercorns
10 mustard seeds
8 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 (2 1/2 to 3-pound) boneless pork loin
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 shallots, finely chopped
2 cups whiskey
5 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf
parsley, plus parsley sprigs for garnish

Make the apple butter
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the apple, water, and brown sugar and cook until the apples are very soft. Stir in the cinnamon and salt and cook for 1 minute. Remove the mixture from the heat and let cool.

Transfer the mixture to a food processor along with the butter and process until slightly chunky.

Scrape into a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to meld. Allow the apple butter to come to room temperature before serving.

Make the glaze
Whisk all the glaze ingredients in a small bowl.

Prepare the pork
Bring the water, apple juice, salt, sugar, onion, peppercorns, mustard seeds, thyme, and bay leaves to a simmer in a large stockpot and cook until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Let cool completely. Submerge the roast in the brine by placing a plate on top, cover with plastic and refrigerate for up to 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 425º F. Remove the pork from the brine, rinse it under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Season the pork on both sides with salt and pepper and brown on both sides until golden (about 8 to 10 minutes). Transfer the pork to a baking sheet, brush it with some of the glaze, and finish cooking the pork loin in the oven until it reaches an internal temperature of 150º F on an instant-read thermometer (about 30 to 40 minutes). While the pork is cooking, brush it with the glaze every 10 minutes.

Remove the pork loin from the oven, loosely tent it with aluminum foil, and allow it to rest for 10 minutes.

Make the sauce
While the pork is resting, add the shallots to the sauté pan that you used for browning the port, and cook until the shallots are soft. Add the whiskey, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. And, continue to cook until the liquid is almost completely reduced. Add the chicken broth and brown sugar and bring to a boil. Cook until the liquid is reduced to a sauce consistency. Whisk in the butter, season with salt and pepper, and stir in the parsley.

Serve the pork
Slice the pork into boneless chops and place them on a large plate. Drizzle a little of the sauce around the pork chop and top it with some of the apple butter. Garnish with parsley sprigs.

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