Eric Akis: Pork and apples a perfect fall duo

Eric Akis

Pork chops and apple are always a nice combination in early autumn. For today’s recipe, I chose a robust liquid form of that fruit to flavour the meat: hard cider.

Hard cider, of course, is alcoholic cider, which in B.C. is produced in a wide range of styles by a growing number of craft cideries. For my recipe I used a dry — not overly sweet — cider to oven-braise boneless pork chops that I seared first. Also flavouring the pork was sage, mustard and a bit of cider vinegar. The latter helped to balance the sweet tastes in the cider, which are more noticeable when the liquid is cooked and reduced.

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To make a meal of the chops, I served them with easy-to-make mashed parsnips, an earthy-tasting vegetable that I seasoned with a hint of nutmeg. I also served the pork with green beans, which I tossed, after cooking, with lemon, ginger and butter. Both vegetable side-dishes nicely complemented the taste of succulent, tender pork, and created a fine late-September meal.

Cider-braised Pork Chops

Boneless pork chops are seared on the stovetop, then braised in the oven until very tender, with cider, sage and mustard.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 81 minutes

Makes: four (two small chops each) servings

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil

8 (3 oz./85g) boneless pork loin chops

2 cups dry alcoholic apple cider (see Note)

1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh sage, or 1/2 to 1 tsp dried sage leaves

2 Tbsp cider vinegar

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Combine the flour, salt and pepper on a wide plate. Deeply dredge each pork chop in the flour.

Pour the oil into a very large skillet (mine was 12 inches wide) set over medium-high heat (see Eric’s options). When oil is hot, set in the chops and sear three minutes on each side.

Set the seared chops in a single or slightly overlapping layer in a 13-by-9-inch casserole dish.

Drain excess oil/fat from the skillet. Add the cider, sage, vinegar and mustard to the skillet and bring to a simmer, whisking mixture to combine.

When it’s simmering, pour cider mixture over the chops. Cover and bake chops 75 minutes, or until very tender. Serve the pork chops with the braising liquid spooned over the top.

Note: Dry (not overly sweet) alcoholic cider is sold at most liquor stores. When testing this recipe, I used Merridale Traditional Cider, a dry English-style cider made in Cobble Hill.

Eric’s options: If you don’t have a large skillet, sear the chops in a small one, cooking them in batches and setting them in the casserole as you go along. If you don’t want to use alcoholic cider, you could use unsweetened, non-alcoholic cider in this recipe, adding another 1 Tbsp of vinegar to help balance its natural sweetness.

Mashed Parsnips

B.C.-grown parsnips are in season and in this recipe, the root vegetable is cooked and mashed as you would a potato. These mashed parsnips make a nice base for the cider-braised pork chops.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 18 to 20 minutes

Makes: four servings

2 lbs parsnips, trimmed and peeled

2 Tbsp butter, melted (see Note)

1/2 cup warm milk (see Note)

• salt and ground white pepper, to taste

• pinch or two ground nutmeg

Cut the parsnips, lengthwise, in half. Now cut them, widthwise, into one-inch pieces and place them in a pot. Cover parsnips with a generous amount of cold water.

Set the pot over medium-high heat and bring the water to a boil. Now lower the heat until water is just simmering (small bubbles should just break on the surface). Simmer the parsnips until very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Drain parsnips well, then use a potato masher to thoroughly mash them. Vigorously beat in the butter and milk. Season the parsnips with salt, pepper and nutmeg, and serve.

Note: You can melt the butter and warm the milk together in a bowl in the microwave, or in a small pot on the stove.

Ginger Lemon Green Beans

Here’s a simple, but flavourful way to dress up green beans after cooking them.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: about five minutes

Makes: four servings

1/2 lb green beans, trimmed

1 1/2 Tbsp butter

1/2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger

1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest

1 Tbsp lemon juice

• salt and ground white pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When the water is almost boiling, place the butter, ginger, zest and juice in a skillet set over medium-low heat.

When water is boiling, add the beans and cook until just tender, about three minutes. Drain the beans well. Set them in the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Toss beans with the butter mixture and serve.

 

Sip, sample and learn at Cider Harvest Festival

If you would like to sample and learn about a wide range of B.C.-produced cider, check out the second annual Cider Harvest Festival. It takes place next Sunday, Sept. 30, from 1 to 5 p.m., at Merridale Cidery & Distillery in Cobble Hill.

Sample ciders from 15 of our province’s top craft cideries and chat with the folks who made them.

“The educational aspect of having the cider-makers on-hand is what makes this event really special,” said Janet Docherty, president of Merridale Cidery and Distillery. “It will serve as a fabulous, inexpensive introduction to the world of high-quality craft cider, which can be dry, intense and interesting in so many ways.”

Festival tickets, available only to those 19 and older, are $15 per person and include six cider-tasting tokens and a souvenir tasting glass. Additional tokens can be purchased for $1 per tasting. Tokens cans also be used to purchase appetizers from the Merridale kitchen.

Designated drivers and pets get free admission to the festival. A shuttle service to the event, from Victoria and Duncan, is also being offered at $20 per person.

You can buy tickets for the event and the shuttle and learn more about the festival at merridale.ca.

There, you will also find a list of participating cideries and directions to Merridale Cidery & Distillery.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks, including seven in his Everyone Can Cook series. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.
 

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