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Eric Akis: Brining gives pork a boost of beer flavour

If you want infuse the flavour of your favourite ale into pork loin chops, get ready to brine. That technique will deliciously do that; while at the same time make those often lean pork chops juicier.
Ale-brined pork chops, grilled and served with tangy, herbaceous, chimichurri. ERIC AKIS

If you want infuse the flavour of your favourite ale into pork loin chops, get ready to brine. That technique will deliciously do that; while at the same time make those often lean pork chops juicier.

In its most basic form, brine is simply a solution of salt dissolved in water. But most often that’s just a starting point, with most recipes also calling for other taste-enhancing ingredients, such as flavoured liquids, spices, herbs and sweeteners, to be added, depending on what you’re brining.

In my recipe for Island ale-brined pork chops, beer, not surprisingly, was a major component in my brine, that also contained fresh rosemary, peppercorns, bay leaves brown sugar.

The brine contains a higher concentration of water and salt than the raw pork chops do. Because of that, when the chops are soaked in it, the brine is able to permeate them, adding moisture and its flavour into the flesh. During brining, the weight of the pork chops will increase because of that absorption of liquid.

I started brining my pork chops in the morning and eight hours later, took them out of the brine, patted them dry, brushed them with a bit of oil and grilling them for dinner.

When they were cooked and sat a short while you could see juices seeping from the chops, as sign the brine had done its job of adding flavourfull moisture to them.

I served the chops with chimichurri, an Argentinean-style “green sauce” made by blending such things as parsley with garlic, onion, vinegar, olive oil, salt and red pepper flakes. Other herbs are also sometimes added to chimichurri and in my recipe they include cilantro and basil.

Chimichurri has a bright, tangy, herbaceous flavour that wonderfully compliments the taste of grilled meat. And that proved to be deliciously true when serving it with the brined pork chops.

Island Ale-brined Pork Chops with Mixed Herb Chimichurri

Local beer stars in the brine for these pork chops that are richly flavoured and juicy when cooked. The aromatic chimichurri served with them enhances their taste even more.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: seven to eight minutes

Makes: six servings

3 Tbsp kosher salt

2 Tbsp packed brown sugar

1 cup boiling water

2 cups cold B.C. ale (see Note)

24 whole black peppercorns

6 (about 6-inch long) sprigs fresh rosemary

3 bay leaves, each broken in half

6 (each about 275 grams and 1-inch thick) bone-in, pork loin chops

6 tsp olive oil

• Mixed Herb Chimichurri, to taste (see recipe below)

To make the brine, put the salt and sugar into a deep, 13- x 9-inch glass dish or deep, non-reactive (non-aluminum) bowl. Now pour in the boiling water and whisk to dissolve the salt and sugar. Add the beer, peppercorns, rosemary and bay leaves and let mixture cool to room temperature. That should not take long if the beer was very cold.

Pat the pork chops dry with paper towel. Set the chops in the brine, ensuring they are completely submerged. Cover, refrigerate and brine the pork chops eight hours.

Preheat your barbecue or indoor grill to medium-high. Remove the chops from the brine and pat dry with paper towel. Discard the brine.

Brush each pork chop with 1 tsp olive oil. Set them on the grill and cook three and half to four minutes per side, or until just barely pink in the centre. (If you’re not sure if the chops are done, make a small incision into the thickest part of one of the chops and peak inside to how see it’s cooked.) Plate the chops and serve with the chimichurri.

Note: You can use your favourite local ale here, but when testing this recipe I used Down Easy Pale Ale, made by the Hoyne Brewing Company.

Mixed Herb Chimichurri

Parsley, cilantro and basil are blended into this tangy, herbaceous sauce you can use as meat marinade or condiment, for grilled meat and poultry, such as pork chops, kebabs, chicken and beef steaks.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: None

Makes: about 1 3/4 cups

1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced

4 large garlic cloves, thickly sliced

1 cup packed Italian (flat leaf) parsley sprigs (about 1 large bunch)

1 cup pack cilantro sprigs

12 medium basil leaves

1/2 cup olive oil, plus more, if needed

3 Tbsp red wine vinegar

3 Tbsp lemon juice

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste

1 tsp salt

Place ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well combined and sauce like. Add a bit more oil if you prefer a thinner sauce. Transfer chimichurri sauce to a tight sealing jar and refrigerate until needed. Sauce will keep in the refrigerator four to five days.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.