/ by Stephanie Burnette / photography by Chelsea Lane Photography

Brining, pickling and preserving are age-old practices, adding seasonal flavor to meats and produce. The steps are simple but require some time to sit around and marry, which equates to a bit of planning.

Proteins that have been brined cook evenly, ideally presenting a soft earthiness that’s hard to replicate otherwise. Paired with what’s been pickled and preserved, the crux of spring– a bridge between a season  of want and a season of abundance— can be clearly identified in each bite.

The finished plate is photo-worthy for sure. Cooking at home can sometimes mean relying on butchered, boneless proteins but it’s fun to play with chops and bone-in pork is a glorious cut of meat. Area butchers are happy to supply same sized chops, simply call ahead. A 12-hour brine inserts a hefty amount of flavor into buttery pork, the addition of honey in this recipe balances a tincture full of late winter’s heavy hitters, rosemary and bay, and early spring’s fresh green super star: parsley.

Remember to pat a brined chop  dry before adding it to a greased cast iron pan creating a sear that is restaurant worthy.

Fruited entrées do not need to taste sweet or be calorically charged. Chef Bollhoefer created this dish to crown a chop with what speaks to spring in our part of the Carolinas: the rhubarb harvest and a flush of strawberry, herbs and produce on hand.

 

Cast Iron Pork Chop with Pickled Rhubarb and Strawberry Compote

 

Pork Chop Brine

2   tbsp Honey

2   Bay Leaves

½  sprig Rosemary

2   sprigs Thyme

4   sprigs Parsley

6   cloves Garlic, crushed

1/8     tsp Red Pepper Flake

½  tbsp Peppercorns

1/4     cup Salt

8   cups Water

 

Method:

Combine all ingredients and bring to
a simmer. Remove from heat and chill completely before adding pork chops.  Allow pork chops to brine for 12 hours. Remove from brine, rinse and pat dry
with paper towel.

 

Pickled Rhubarb

1/2     cup Red Wine Vinegar

1/4     cup Water

1/2     cup Sugar

2   tsp Salt

1   tsp Mustard seed

1   Whole clove

15 Black peppercorns

1   tsp Pink peppercorns

2   Lemon slices

2   Rhubarb stalks or 1 cup

 

Method:

Trim off tips (leaves) of rhubarb.  Slice the rhubarb stalk in ¼ thick slices and reserve. Place lemon slices, peppercorns and clove in a cheesecloth and tie with a piece of twine. Combine all ingredients except rhubarb in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes. Allow
to cool to room temperature and pour over rhubarb. Refrigerate for 24 hours before serving.

 

Strawberry Compote

1   tbsp Shallot, minced

1   tsp Vegetable Oil

½  cup Red Wine, pinot noir preferred

½  tbsp Cornstarch

1   tbsp Water

1   tsp Black Pepper, ground

1/2     tbsp Sugar

1/2     tbsp Rhubarb pickling liquid

1/2     tsp Salt

1   cup Small Diced Strawberries

 

Method:

In a small saucepan heat the oil on
medium heat. Add shallots and cook until translucent, about 1 minute. Add red wine, salt, black pepper and sugar and simmer for 5 minutes. Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl or ramekin to make a slurry. Add to red wine mixture and return to a simmer.  Add Strawberries and cook 1 minute. Remove from heat and add pickling liquid. Sauce can be used immediately or chilled and stored for up to 2 days.

 

To Finish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat cast iron pan over medium high heat. Add enough oil to create a thin “film” in the cast iron pan. Sear pork chops on one side for 2-3 minutes until golden brown, flip and transfer into oven. Cook pork chops until an internal temperature of 145 degrees is reached.