As a boy, when my family was eating pork chops for dinner, I couldn't eat them without plum sauce. This year, I wanted to recreate a sweet-and-sour sauce using the last of the apples from the fall. This caramelized apple purée recipe, which we have used at the restaurant, has robust flavours. It is, hands down, my favourite way to cook pork chops to keep them flavourful and moist. The almond milk adds fat while the apple juice adds a tangy and sweet flavour.
It is very important to brine pork chops because it is such a lean cut. During the cooking process, meat inevitably loses its moisture. Brining the meat adds it back into the protein through the process of osmosis, which also helps the protein retain its juices after it is cooked. The chops are also cooked sous vide (under vacuum), which traps the flavour in the meat.
24 ounces (4 chops) pork chops, bone in
1 L almond milk
1 L apple juice
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 cup butter
1 tablespoon canola oil
Caramelized apple purée
1½ cups apples, sliced
(Granny Smith preferred)1 tablespoon canola oil
¾ cup white onion, sliced
¹/³ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
In a bowl, combine 2 cups of almond milk and 2 cups of apple juice. Add the brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and half of the thyme. Whisk to dissolve the sugar and salt.
Place the pork chops in large zip-lock bags. Pour the brine into the bags, squeeze out as much air as possible and seal the bags. Store in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours or leave overnight to maximize seasoning.
Caramelized apple purée
Place a medium-sized pot over low heat and line the pan with the oil. Add the onions and stir every few minutes to slowly caramelize them. Once the onions have developed a light caramel colour, add the apple. Slowly cook, searing occasionally. Make sure the apples and onions don’t stick to the pan. If the mixture starts to stick, scrape the bottom of the pot. If it continues to stick, deglaze the pot with water until it scrapes off. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until the apples are brown in colour. Once the apples are soft and caramelized, add the apple cider vinegar and brown sugar. Cook for another few minutes to make sure the vinegar is slightly reduced and the sugar has melted.
Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth. Season with salt and reserve in the fridge.
Cooking and plating Combine the leftover almond milk and apple juice in a bowl.
Fill a large pot with water and place it over low heat. Using a probe thermometer, monitor the temperature of the water. You want to keep the water between 50 C and 60 C. The ideal temperature is 55 C.
Remove the pork chops from the bags, discard the brine, and place the chops back into the bags. Pour the new mixture of almond milk and apple juice into the bags. Divide half a cup of butter between the bags. Place the unsealed bags into the water one at a time, holding the seal just above the water. Let the water surround each bag and naturally suck out all of the air within. Seal the bags completely, and using a clothes pin, clip the bags to the side of the pot. Ensure all of the meat is under the water. Leave the pork chops in the water for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove bags from the water, place the pork chops on paper towels and discard the bags.
Place a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add the canola oil to the pan and wait for it to start smoking slightly. Make sure the pork chops are dried off. Pull the pan off the heat before placing the chops to make sure the oil doesn’t flare up. Let the chops sear for about 5 minutes before flipping to sear the other side. Let sear for about 2 minutes and then add the rest of the butter and thyme to the pan. Using a big spoon, baste the pork chops with the butter in the pan for about 5 minutes. Remove the chops from the pan and let rest for 5 more minutes. Slice the pork chops and serve with the caramelized apple purée.