Few aromas herald the arrival of cooler weather better than the smell of delicious roasted pork.
When Sa Va'afusuaga, head chef at Bopp & Tone, was asked to devise the ultimate midwinter comfort dish, his mind immediately turned to hearty pork. The result is a recipe for wood-grilled pork loin chop served with glazed Granny Smith apple and crispy sage. "It's a classic pairing of pork and apple with a little bit of a twist," Va'afusuaga says.
Most of us have warm memories of sitting down to a delicious pork roast with applesauce in wintertime. "We're trying to replicate that," he says. "We wanted to create something hearty and warming."
Apple and pork is a classic combination thanks to their complementary qualities. "The apples give a really nice sweetness and cut through the fat of the pork," says Va'afusuaga.
Their union is a culinary tradition hundreds of years old. Historically, pigs often grazed in apple orchards, where they’d devour the fallen fruit. The pairing on the plate arose from the timing of seasons: pork was prepared in autumn before the onset of winter and was preserved as cured meat and sausages. The remaining fresh pork was eaten at pre-winter feasts with perfectly ripe autumn apples.
When cooking pork at home, make sure you buy free-range meat. "Have a chat to your local butcher about what's good and what cuts of meat they have," says Va'afusuaga. "I look for a nice fat-to-meat ratio – I like one to one-and-a-half centimetres of fat on top of the loin. It keeps the meat nice and juicy, and it's really good for crackling."
At Bopp & Tone, meat is cooked on the in-house wood grill or in a charcoal oven. "You get nice smoky tones coming through the meat when you cook over wood and charcoal," says Va'afusuaga. At home, he recommends using a barbeque to achieve a similar flavour. "If you have a coal barbeque that's even better."
Recipe: Pork loin chop, glazed Granny Smith apple and crispy sage
Start this recipe the day before.
1 x 1.5kg pork rack with skin on
500g caster sugar
1kg Granny Smith apples 50ml canola oil
250ml apple-cider vinegar
1 lemon 1 bunch of thyme
1 bunch of sage
Start with the pork rack. It’s best to prepare the pork the day before. You want to trim any excess meat or fat from the frenched bones. On the bottom of the rack there will be small round bones in-between each rib bone – take a paring knife and slice in a circular motion to remove these.
With a very sharp knife lightly score the skin of the pork about 2mm deep on a diagonal one way and then come back on the diagonal the other way to create a hash pattern. Wrap the bottom flesh side of the pork rack in plastic wrap and leave the skin side exposed. Place it in the fridge overnight to dry out.
The next day, cut your portions. Slice down between the bones trying to cut a 300 to 350g chop. This will vary depending on the size of your pork rack. Place them to the side to be cooked later.
Next, take the sugar and place in a heavy-based saucepan on a low heat to make a caramel. While the sugar is cooking, peel the eschallots and cut them in half. Take your apples and cut into six wedges and remove the cores, leaving skin on. Put another saucepan on the stove and heat it to a high temperature. Place a little oil in the pan and then give the apples and eschallots a really good sear to get a nice brown colour on them.
By now your caramel should be a nice golden-brown colour. Toss the apples and eschallots into the caramel along with the apple cider vinegar, a squeeze of lemon juice, the thyme leaves and a good pinch of salt. As the caramel, vinegar and juice from the apples heat up they will create the sauce for the pork. Set aside in a warm spot.
Take your pork chop and oil it both sides and season with salt and pepper. Cook the chop for 5 minutes on both sides on a barbeque and then rest for a further 5 minutes. While the pork is resting, pick the sage leaves and deep-fry them in oil at 150 degrees. Once they are crispy, take them out of the fryer and place them on some paper towel.
To finish, slice the pork down the bone and then across. It should be a little pink and nice and juicy. Place on the plate and then take your caramelised apples and eshallots and spoon on top. Be sure to get a good amount of the sauce on. Garnish with the crispy sage leaves on top.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Applejack.