Pork Chops with Roasted Apples, Lavender and Juniper Berries

Pork Chops with Roasted Apples, Lavender and Juniper Berries
 
Prep time
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Using juniper berries as a spice is so much fun during winter months! Harvest them fresh from juniper trees, or find them dried at natural food stores. Piney, citrusy juniper berries add an intriguing lightness to savory dishes. In this recipe, juniper pairs beautifully with slow-roasted pork chops and lavender-kissed apples.
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Ingredients
  • 4 pork chops, good thick ones with lots of fat
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed lavender buds
  • a good glug fruity olive oil
  • 1 large onion, or 2 small ones, peeled, chopped
  • a couple of eating apples, each cut into 8 wedges, and at least 3 eating apples left whole
  • a few fresh sage leaves
  • a few juniper berries, squashed using the back of a knife
  • a good glass of dry cider
Directions
  1. Brine the pork chops (optional). If you have time, brining the pork for even a brief period adds flavor and ensures juiciness in the finished chop. Bring 1 cup of the water to a boil, add 3T salt, and stir to dissolve the salt. Add 2 more cups of cold water to bring the temperature of the brine down to room temperature. Place the pork chops in a shallow dish and pour the brine over top. The brine should cover the chops — if not, add additional water and salt (1 cup water to 1 tablespoon salt) until the chops are submerged. Cover the dish and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.
  2. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F. Place a large ovensafe skillet in the oven to heat as well. While the oven heats, prepare the pork chops.
  3. Remove the chops from the brine; if you didn't brine, remove the chops from their packaging. Pat dry with paper towels. Season the chops well with olive oil, salt, freshly ground black pepper and crushed lavender buds. Set the chops aside while the oven finishes heating.
  4. In a separate pan, add the onion and brown a little over medium-high heat before adding in the apple wedges and sage leaves (add only a few as sage can overpower the dish) with the juniper berries.
  5. Using oven mitts, carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven and set it over medium-high heat on the stovetop. Turn on a vent fan or open a window.
  6. Sear the pork chops. Place the pork chops in the hot skillet. You should hear them immediately begin to sizzle. Sear until the bottom of the chops are golden-brown, about 3 minutes. The chops may start to smoke a little — that's ok. Turn down the heat if it becomes excessive.
  7. Flip the chops, and add the apples and onions, along with the remaining whole apples. Pour over the cider, enough to just cover the ingredients, season to taste and place in the oven for about half an hour, or until the pork and apple are cooked.
  8. Rest the chops. Transfer the pork chops to a plate and pour any pan juices over the top (or reserve for making a pan sauce or gravy). Tent loosely with foil and let the chops rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.

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