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I used to be a vegetarian.  For ten years.  Between graduating college and getting married, I ate no meat.  Well, not real meat.  I ate lots of meat substitutes and soy meats, stuff that I won’t touch today.  Today, I eat lots of real meat and whole foods and my diet is unrecognizable from the one I had a decade ago.  I went from an omnivore to a vegetarian overnight but the transition back was much more gradual.  Once I realized that I wasn’t getting the nutrition I needed, I started to incorporate animal proteins one at a time.  First came fish, then chicken, then beef.  I refrained from eating pork for a long time because I didn’t like where most pork came from.  Having worked for a large grocer, I’d seen first hand where the spoiled deli meats and produce went – the hog farms.  Pretty nasty.

We’ve since found a reliable source of quality pastured pork and are enjoying all kinds of piggy products now.  Just a few nights ago, we had some juicy pork chops.  Because the chops I get are usually thick, I’ve learned that brining is the best way to get a lot flavor and keep them moist.  I found a great site on preparing and cooking meat and I used the basic brining recipe that is very adaptable.  I didn’t have any chicken stock on hand, so I used water and increased the apple cider vinegar.

Brined Pork Chops (adapted from How to Cook Meat)

Serves 4

4 loin pork chops

2 cups water

1/4 cup sea salt

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon ground sage

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 cups ice water

  1. Combine everything except the ice water in a saucepan and heat on low just until the salt dissolves.
  2. Remove from heat and add the ice water.  Let brine cool.
  3. Place cooled brine in gallon-sized zip top bag and add chops.  Place bag in a large dish in case bag leaks.
  4. Refrigerate for 2 to 8 hours.
  5. Remove chops and pat dry.  Discard brine.
  6. Grill chops to desired doneness then let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

I always ask hubby, the in-house grill master, to leave the chops just slightly pink in the middle.   Unlike steak, we don’t eat our pork underdone but to have a dry, overcooked piece of meat is criminal.  The great thing about brining is that even if you leave them on the grill a bit longer, you’ll find that the brine really helps keep the chops tender and juicy.  Hope you’ll try it.

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