pork loin with blueberry sauce
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There are two things worth mentioning about this recipe: it’s pork, but not as you know it; and it comes with the dressing that usually hangs out in the company of pancakes.
The blueberry sauce goes so well with lean delicate pork I might just pair them forever now. Use frozen blueberries for the sauce, and feel free to scoff any leftovers with your breakfast or dessert.
Now pork but not as you know is not exactly sous-vide as I don’t possess the apparatus – but I have a good, new electric oven which tells me the temperature range on a standard programme is 30 – 250C. We’re in business: low temperature cooking.
It seems a bit of a hocus-pocus, out there with sous-vide and molecular foams and essences, but it isn’t really. Subjecting meat to gentle heat means that it doesn’t dry out – which I thought was the ideal method for cooking pork loin which, let’s be honest, is usually stupidly dried out.
The downside is of course the lack of Maillard reaction – the complex process that results in humans salivating over a chunk of food (not necessarily meat). The smell, the appearance and in the case of my pork: a tasty-looking scorched outside of the joint will be utterly lacking when cooked at 80C – so we have two options, either sear the meat beforehand or blowtorch it after cooking.
My blowtorch went walkies in the building project so I opted for the searing. And to be absolutely sure the roast wasn’t dry I’d brined it to start off with. The result was astonishing: I’d never had such tasty roast pork before.
Donald Russell, the esteemed Scottish online butcher is an invaluable source of approximate timings and advice on low temp cooking.
pork loin with blueberry sauce
- For the brine:
- 1l (a quart) water
- 70g (¼ cup) salt
- 50g (¼ cup) light brown sugar
- 1-2 star anise
- 1tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
- about 500g (over 1lb) boneless pork loin, skin and half the fat layer trimmed
- black pepper
- a little oil, for searing
- For the blueberry sauce:
- 200g (2 cups) frozen blueberries
- 3 tbsp. soft light brown sugar
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- a sprig of rosemary
- 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1. In a pan or a bowl large enough to fit the meat and brine, dissolve the sugar and salt in the water, add the spices and submerge the pork; you might want to weigh it down with a small plate. Place it in the fridge for 8-10 hours.
2. Remove the pork from the brine and pat dry; season it with black pepper. Preheat the oven to 80C/175F/minimum gas – it won’t work so well in a gas oven unless you monitor the temperature closely with an oven thermometer; gas heat is more volatile.
3. Sear the pork on all sides in a skillet with a little oil on high-medium heat; for a joint that size it should take about 8 minutes. Place the seared meat in a roasting dish (don’t re-use the searing skillet). If you have an oven-in temperature probe, stick it in the thickest part of the joint and place the meat in the oven. The roasting time is about 1 ½ hour until the internal temperature reads 70-72C/160F.
4. While the pork is roasting, prepare the sauce: place all except a handful of the blueberries (don’t defrost them) in a saucepan with the sugar, pepper and the rosemary sprig and bring to a vigorous boil. Cook it for 7-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the liquid starts to evaporate.
5. Remove the rosemary and add the balsamic vinegar, cook it down until it thickens (take care not to burn it) and stir in the reserved blueberries.
6. Meat cooked at such low temperature doesn’t need resting so you can slice it as soon as it’s out of the oven. Spoon the sauce over the pork and serve extra in a little dish alongside the meat.