- 1 boneless pork loin roast, 1 1⁄2 to 2 pounds, trimmed of any excess fat
- Scant cup (about 4 ounces) pitted prunes
- 1⁄2 cup warm unsalted chicken or vegetable stock
- 4 cups water
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 bay leaf
- 1⁄2 teaspoon peppercorns
- 1⁄2 teaspoon fennel seed
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 45 min
Total time: 1 hr
Combine the brine ingredients in a large bowl or 4-cup measure, stirring to dissolve the salt.
Place the meat in a strong, food-grade plastic bag (a gallon-size sealable bag is ideal), pour in the brine, and gather up the bag to surround the meat and expel all the air. Seal the bag and refrigerate 6 hours to overnight. Drain, rinse, and pat dry before roasting.
Insert the tip of a boning knife into the center of the roast from one end and cut a slit about an inch wide. Make a matching slit from the other end. Insert a straight, slender tool (a clean sharpening steel works best, or the handle of a wooden spoon) into the slit and force it through, making one continuous tunnel the length of the roast.
Stuff prunes into the tunnel from both ends. If the roast is in danger of coming apart, tie it in 3 or 4 places with cotton twine. (The roast can be prepared to this point several hours before roasting and refrigerated; if time permits, remove it from the refrigerator a good 30 minutes before roasting.)
Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Place the roast fat side up in a roasting pan and roast to an internal temperature of 145˚F, about 45 minutes.
Remove from the pan and let rest on a platter, loosely covered, while you deglaze the roasting pan as follows. The internal temperature will rise by 5˚ to 10˚ as the roast rests.
Swab out the fat from the roasting pan with a paper towel. Pour in the stock and scrape the pan well to dissolve the browned drippings. Strain the sauce into a warmed bowl, let it settle for a few minutes, and skim the fat off the surface with a ladle.
Slice the roast crosswise and arrange the slices on a warm platter. Drizzle with a little of the pan sauce and pass the remaining sauce on the side.
Serve with Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage to complete the dish.
Good to know:
Pork has changed so much in recent decades that cooking times and temperatures in most older recipes should be suspect. The earlier practice of cooking pork until no trace of pink remains (an internal temperature of 175 F or more) was based on a fear of trichinosis, a parasitic disease, and also on much fattier animals.
Today, trichinosis has been virtually eradicated from commercial pork (and any lingering risk is eliminated by cooking to a mere 140 F). More important, today's pork is much leaner than that of a generation ago, and thus less forgiving of overcooking. If you can get over old prejudices, you will find it most flavorful and juicy at the medium stage, when the meat is still slightly pink and the juices definitely run pink. For further insurance against drying, I always brine lean cuts of pork like the loin (see Perfect Roast Chicken, Brining Meats for Moisture and Flavor).
One thing that has not changed is pork's affinity for fruit flavors and sweet and tart mixtures. Prunes are a traditional Middle European stuffing ingredient; dried apricots (plumped in water if especially dry) also work well. Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage makes a perfect accompaniment.
Which beer should I drink with this?
A malty, slightly sweet ale like Alaskan Amber works well with this, but I prefer the sharper edge of a dry-finishing pale ale or IPA.
The Microbrew Lover’s Cookbook
From The Microbrew Lover’s Cookbook, Copyright © 2002 by Jay Harlow. Used by arrangement with Jay Harlow.