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I have a confession to make: I am addicted to brining. In addition to being my favorite way to prepare poultry, this recipe for a cider-based brine is my absolute favorite way to prepare a pork loin. The cider-based brine keeps the pork loin moist as it cooks, and the apples cooked in cider provide a ready-made side dish. The brine, spicy honey, fresh thyme, and mustard in this dish help create a delicious balance of sweetness, saltiness, freshness, and heat. This dish is also surprisingly quick to pull together after the pork loin has brined overnight. With a little planning, my cider-brined pork loin makes a great weeknight meal.

To make the brine, you will need…

2 bottles of hard cider

2 cups water

1 tbsp minced fresh ginger

4 crushed garlic cloves

2 tbsp hot honey

1 tbsp fresh thyme, stems removed

1/2 cup kosher salt

1/4 cup dijon mustard

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp white pepper

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp whole allspice

1 tsp whole cloves

To make the pork loin, you will need…

1 pork loin

1 bottle of hard cider

3 medium honeycrisp apples, sliced

3 garlic cloves, crushed

3-4 fresh sprigs of thyme

2 tbsp salted butter

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp white pepper

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp ground mustard

1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika

To make the brine:

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In an eight-quart saucepan, combine all of the brine ingredients. Cook the mixture on medium-low, stirring occasionally, until all of the salt and sugar have dissolved. Allow the brine to completely cool and then transfer the brine to a plastic container with a lid or a large sealable, plastic bag. Add the pork loin to the brine and store the container or bag in your refrigerator for approximately twenty-four hours. If you put the brine in a plastic bag, store the sealed bag in a bowl to prevent spills or leakage onto your fridge shelves.

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To prepare the pork loin:

Remove the pork loin from the brine and rinse any excess brine off of the meat. For food safety, clean your sink and the area around it with a disinfectant after doing this. Rinsing off the pork could cause contaminated water to splash on the area around the sink. So, be careful and clean up.

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Mix together 1 tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp white pepper, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp dried thyme, 1 tsp ground mustard, and 1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika in small bowl. Lightly coat the outside of the pork loin with the spice mix.

Melt 2 tbsp of butter in a cast iron skillet on medium high. When the butter is melted, swirl the butter to coat the pan. Sear the pork loin in the butter for a few minutes on each side. Turn off the heat and remove the seared pork loin from the skillet and place on a plate to the side.

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Turn the heat on low and deglaze the skillet using the bottle of cider. Add the apples and three crushed garlic cloves and coat in the cider sauce. Once the apples and garlic are coated in the sauce, turn off the heat and return the pork loin to the pan. Add a few sprigs of fresh thyme to the pan. The layer of apples will act as a roasting rack that will ensure the pork loin roasts rather than poaching in the liquid.

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Roast the pork loin and apples in the cast iron skillet for approximately 25-30 minutes. The exact cooking time will vary based upon the weight of the pork loin. The internal temperature should be between 145°F and 160°F, when measured with a meat thermometer, per USDA guidelines. I would recommend aiming for the lower end of the 145°F-160°F range, because pork loin has a tendency to dry out. Allow the pork loin to rest for five to ten minutes. Slice the pork loin against the grain of the meat and serve.

Cider-Brined Pork Loin

Cider-Brined Pork Loin

Ingredients

    For the brine:
  • 2 bottles of hard cider
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 4 crushed garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp hot honey
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, stems removed
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp whole allspice
  • 1 tsp whole cloves
  • For the pork loin:
  • 1 pork loin (approximately 2-3 lbs)
  • 1 bottle of hard cider
  • 3 medium honeycrisp apples, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3-4 fresh sprigs of thyme
  • 2 tbsp salted butter
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika

Instructions

    To make the brine:
  1. In an eight-quart saucepan, combine all of the brine ingredients. Cook the mixture on medium-low, stirring occasionally, until all of the salt and sugar have dissolved.
  2. Allow the brine to completely cool and then transfer the brine to a plastic container with a lid or a large sealable, plastic bag. Add the pork loin to the brine and store the container or bag in your refrigerator for approximately twenty-four hours. If you put the brine in a plastic bag, store the sealed bag in a bowl to prevent spills or leakage onto your fridge shelves.
  3. To make the pork loin:
  4. Remove the pork loin from the brine and rinse any excess brine off of the meat. For food safety, clean your sink and the area around it with a disinfectant after doing this. Rinsing off the pork could cause contaminated water to splash on the area around the sink. So, be careful and clean up.
  5. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
  6. Mix together 1 tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp white pepper, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp dried thyme, 1 tsp ground mustard, and 1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika in small bowl. Lightly coat the outside of the pork loin with the spice mix.
  7. Melt 2 tbsp of butter in a cast iron skillet on medium high. When the butter is melted, swirl the butter to coat the pan.
  8. Sear the pork loin in the butter for a few minutes on each side. Turn off the heat and remove the seared pork loin from the skillet and place on a plate to the side.
  9. Turn the heat on low and deglaze the skillet using the bottle of cider.
  10. Add the apples and three crushed garlic cloves and coat in the cider sauce.
  11. Once the apples and garlic are coated in the sauce, turn off the heat and return the pork loin to the pan. Add a few sprigs of fresh thyme to the pan.
  12. Roast the pork loin and apples in the cast iron skillet for approximately 25-30 minutes. The internal temperature should be between 145°F and 160°F, when measured with a meat thermometer, per USDA guidelines.
  13. Allow the pork loin to rest for five to ten minutes.
  14. Slice the pork loin against the grain of the meat and serve.
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