Cider Brined Pork Loin w/ Dijon-Brown Sugar Glaze and Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Meijer has had this Center Cut Half Boneless Pork Loin on sale for $1.79/lb off and on for about a month now. I've been looking for something to do with it because... well, look at it. Its awesome. I'm only like a few steps removed from having hunted and killed the pig myself. Between this and the chicken wings I am on track for certified butcher status.

The word "brined" in the case of this dish is actually a bit of a misnomer. After researching this cut of meat I found that a typical grocery store meat department sells these cuts "enhanced", meaning they were injected with an 8%-12% salt water preservative. In effect the brining process has already been started for you, minus all the flavor of flavorful liquids and spices.

So I did some more research and tried to figure out a way to short brine this pork loin with less salt, which lead me wandering on to some tailgating BBQ forum where I eventually decided my best bet would be a marinade. As it turned out the marinade I found was essentially the same as a few of the brine recipes, minus the salt. So here is what I did:

  • 1 center cut half boneless pork loin (4.5-5.5 lbs)
  • 4 cups apple cider
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp orange juice concentrate
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
Whisk together the ingredients in a heated sauce pan, then allow the marinade to cool (5 mins). Add some ice cubes if you want to hasten the process. Taste the marinade to make sure the ingredients suit your taste. I found it to taste somewhat like warm apple cider.

If you want to go to a butcher and buy a natural cut of pork and brine it yourself, just add about 1/2 cup of kosher salt and 2 cups of water to the above ingredients and let it sit at least overnight, if not 12-24 hours.

Take a gallon slide lock freezer bag and stick your pork loin inside it. Make sure you can zip it shut before you pour in any liquid. If necessary, cut the pork loin into two parts so that it fits in your freezer bag (or use two). Pour in the liquid, squeeze out the air and zip the bag shut.

For safety's sake place the bag in a dish and put the dish in your refrigerator, in case anything leaks. Leave it there for 2-3 hours.

Take the pork out of the refrigerator, pour out the marinade, pat the exterior dry with a paper towel and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. At this time preheat the oven to 350.

Place the pork loin on a rack, or if you don't really have a roasting rack do what I did and lay a cooling rack over a 13 x 9 inch baking dish and put the pork loin on that. FAT SIDE UP! You want that big layer of fat to drip down into your meat while it cooks. You can cut if off of the individual pork loin medallions when you slice and serve.

A pork loin this size and cut usually has a cook time of about 20 minutes per pound. Given the extra liquid from the marinade it takes roughly 25 minutes per pound. So anywhere from 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours 30 minutes is a safe bet. However you're going to need a meat thermometer to judge its final temperature.

Around the 1:45 to 2 hour mark (or once the temperature hits 140 degrees), glaze the top of the loin (recipe below).

When the thickest part of the loin hits an internal temperature of 155 degrees, pull it out, cover it with foil and let it rest for 10-15 minutes.

Now I don't know if I spilled vinegar somewhere and never saw it, but I'll warn you right now that the first hour of this roast may make your kitchen smell like vinegar. I felt nauseous in part because of the smell and partly because I thought I was going to ruin Lauren's birthday dinner.

As far as the glazing goes here is what you need to do:
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
Heat the ingredients in a sauce pan and allow to cool (5 mins). Generously brush the top of the roast with the glaze about 30 minutes before its finished cooking.

If you want a sweeter glaze that might be more prone to crusting the exterior of your loin, use the full 1 1/2 cups of sugar. If you want more of a sweet mustard BBQ glaze, use just 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Save any extra to use as dipping sauce for your pork loin.

Lastly, we have the roasted garlic mashed potatoes. These are the ingredients:
  • 6-7 (3 lbs) Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 whole bulb garlic
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick) (room temperature or melted)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
In order to coordinate everything so that the potatoes and pork loin are ready at the same time, here is what you need to do:

Prior to glazing your pork loin, wash and peel 6-7 Yukon Gold potatoes. Then cut them into large chunks. Cutting the potatoes into small chunks will allow them to cook faster, but they'll also retain more water, making your mashed potatoes more like a paste. So large chunks it is.

Immediately after you glaze the pork loin, cover the potato chunks in cold water, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and let cook for 15 minutes or until fork tender. Then cut the top off a bulb of garlic, pour in one tablespoon of olive oil and stick that in a foil covered pan on the rack below your pork loin. Roast at 350 for about 30 minutes or until the garlic cloves have become soft and brown. Remove the garlic from the oven and let cool (5 mins).

Peel the skin off the garlic, drain the potatoes and mash them together. When you're done combine the garlic and potatoes add the milk and butter. DO NOT USE the residual heat of the potatoes to melt the butter or warm the milk. I'm not Alton Brown, but from what I understand the combination of hot potatoes and cold milk/butter makes the potato starch a bit more fragile and will most likely lead to texture issues (paste) in your mashed potatoes.

Once you've added all your ingredients to the mashed potatoes, mix thoroughly. I threw them in the mixing bowl of the Kitchen-Aid and ran it on medium speed for 2 minutes to give it a more whipped potato texture.

Given that I had a hot oven and a few minutes of resting time for my pork loin, I took the resulting mashed potatoes, stuck them in an 8x8 baking dish, topped them with shredded Colby Jack cheese and stuck them back in the oven for about 5 minutes or until the cheese was melted and the potatoes were heated all the way through.

This dinner was awesome. Way too much for two people, but it was definitely worth the experience. In the future we can use half for a roast, cut the other half into uncooked chops and freeze them. The leftovers are at Lauren's house, and I'll be sitting at work all morning hoping that she doesn't eat all the mashed potatoes or take them to work and "accidentally" leave them there.


Rach said...

duuuuuude...are there any leftovers? because if there are...then I am coming over NOW. that looks so fricking delicious