In the past I have made brines with boiling water, sugar, kosher salt, a bit of apple cider vinegar and various seasonings. It is great and I still do that often. But as you may have noticed, I am a sort of an impatient person and the only thing that I don’t like about my normal way of making brines is that I have to wait for the water to cool down before adding the pork chops. We wouldn’t want to put raw pork chops into hot brine, it would compromise the chops.
So I figured if I could use another form of sweetener that was already in liquid form I could skip the boiling water, use cold water and if I choose the right sweetener, could make the recipe refined sugar free also. Makes sense, right? I figured molasses would go well with pork and I happened to have a bottle of organic molasses from Wholesome Sweeteners on hand so I gave it a whirl, and it not only worked well, everyone loved the depth of flavor the molasses added to my lowly chops!
Since the chops were already getting all gussied up with molasses brine, I decided to elevate the whole rest of the meal. Apples are a natural accompaniment to both pork and molasses but I didn’t want to do the whole pork chops and apple sauce thing (it just seems so 1975 to me!) so I just pan roasted some sliced apples on the stove top and then to really “fancy up” my weeknight meal, I added a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and some bitter greens dressed ever so lightly with some olive oil. Seriously – this is a Wednesday night meal fit for a Sunday!
I wrote a whole blog post on brining earlier – if you like the science of it all, go here to read all about it. If you could care less and just want great pork chops, then just follow the recipe.
In my recipe I used ¾ inch boneless pork chops but you can use bone in, just buy whatever is on sale – the brining is going to make them amazing no matter how cheap they are! Just realize you will have to adjust the cooking times depending on the thickness of the chops.
For the pan roasted apples, keep the skins on; not only will they be prettier and more nutritious that way, they won’t fall apart it the pan. You want them cooked until tender but still firm – remember, we aren’t making apple sauce here! I used Fuji apples but any kind will work except Red Delicious – they get a bit too soft.
Balsamic glaze is a great way to fancy up almost anything and it tastes great on all sorts of things including (and I am not kidding!) strawberry ice cream! It couldn’t be simpler to make, you just boil balsamic vinegar until it reduces in volume by half. That’s it! And you don’t have to buy expensive balsamic for this, the cheap stuff tastes just as great! If you cook it a little too long it may harden up too much when it cools down but no worries, just reheat it until it comes back to a glaze consistency.
Back to the pork chops for a minute – any brining is better than no brining so you can do it for as little as one hour and up to 24 hours. Personally I think the perfect thing is to whip up the brine before you leave the house for work (or whatever it is you do all day) then cook them up at dinner time. If you do that, you can have a fancy-pants dinner on the table in about half an hour!
Gluten Free Molasses Brined Pork Chops with Roasted Apples & Balsamic Glaze Recipe
2 quarts cold water
½ cup kosher salt
½ cup organic molasses
1 bunch fresh thyme
2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon black pepper
Four ¾ inch boneless pork chops
2 tablespoon olive oil – use divided
3 medium apples, cored and sliced into 8ths
Additional kosher salt and pepper
¾ cup balsamic vinegar
Combine the water, salt, molasses, thyme (no need to remove the leave from the stems), apple cider vinegar and black pepper. Pour into a large, freezer weight food storage bag, add the pork chops and refrigerate anywhere from 1 – 24 hours.
Remove the pork chops from the brine, discard the brine and rinse the chops under plenty of cold, running water. Pat the chops dry with paper towels and let them sit for a few minutes at room temperature before cooking. Brush the pork chops on both sides with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
Heat a large skillet or grill pan over medium heat until hot and add the pork chops. Cook for 5 minutes per side. Remove from heat and let sit for a few minutes before serving.
Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and then add the apples. Cook for 1 – 2 minutes (until they are browned on one side) then flip over, season with a large pinch of salt and pepper, cook for 1 minute then reduce heat to medium and cook until tender, about 10 – 12 minutes.
Put the balsamic vinegar into a sauce pan, bring to a boil over high heat and cook until the mixture is reduced by half, about 4 minutes.
To serve, place some of the apple slices on each pork chop and drizzle with balsamic glaze.
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