Us Southerners have always loved pork.
Perhaps it is because our great grandparents could let their hogs run free, and so they became an economical source of protein.
Hogs also grow quickly and in less than a year can be close to 300 pounds. That’s enough ham and bacon to get a family through a cold winter.
Pork was rarely eaten fresh in the days before refrigeration.
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Hogs were typically slaughtered in the fall, and that was the only time fresh pork could be had.
Bacon and hams were salt cured and smoked, but they would not be ready until around Easter, thus the traditional Easter ham. Sausages, and other cured meats didn’t take as long to prepare and so were a big part of their diet.
Regardless, people love pork because it is delicious. A serious testament to our love of pork is the number of local restaurants that have a weekly pork chop special.
The best-quality is expensive, but don’t worry, grocery store pork is good, and it can be made better by brining.
A brine can be as simple as salty water, a bit of sugar or by adding fresh herbs of your choice. Try rosemary, black pepper corns (whole), a bay leaf or two and salt.
Do not overcook pork, keep pork refrigerated and avoid cross contamination. Pork does not have to be cooked well done.
Traditional Pork Chop
1 center cut pork chop per person
3 cups cold water
3 tablespoons sea salt
2 smashed cloves of garlic
big pinch whole black pepper corns
1 bay leaf
Place the brining ingredients in a large, non-reactive pot, add the pork, cover and refrigerate or at least 6 hours. Remove the chops and dry. Season with salt and pepper, add olive oil to a heavy bottomed sauté pan, and heat to hot, but not smoking. Sear the pork in the hot oil, reduce the heat and cook to medium rare. Let rest for 5-10 minutes, then serve at once.
Sous Vide pork chop
Prepare the brine as in the traditional pork chop recipe with this story, and brine for the same amount of time. Set your immersion circulator to 140°F (60°C) and the timer for 2 hours. Make sure to use a vacuum sealer, but if you can’t, put each pork chop in a freezer bag that can be sealed. Immerse the bag in water to force all the air out, carefully seal. Sous vide for 2 hours, remove and allow to cool. Sear in clarified butter (butter that has been melted so that it separates and the solids removed) until it is well browned.
If you really want to make your pork chop a hit, serve with Creole mustard mashed potatoes and beer cooked collard greens.
Creole Mashed Potatoes
3-4 large potatoes
Salt and pepper
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add the potatoes and cook until tender, just 15 minutes or so. Chop, mash, add as much butter as you like and mix until melted, add cream until the consistency is right for you, 2-4 cloves roasted garlic and whip. Add just a tablespoon or so of Creole mustard, mix well and taste. Re-season as necessary.
Collard greens with beer
1-2 bunches collard greens
2-3 smoked pork chops (any grocery store)
1 can locally brewed beer
Red pepper flakes
Stem and wash the greens. Heat oil in a large, heavy bottomed stock pot, cube the smoked pork chops and brown (if they are bone in, don’t forget to add the bones to the stock), add red pepper flakes. Add the beer and a cup or two of water, then bring to a simmer for 30 minutes. Add the greens and simmer until tender, 15-20 minutes. If you like, thicken the liquor (liquid from the greens) with a tablespoon of dark brown roux. Remember to taste and re-season as necessary.