Apple Butter Pork Loin
Last fall I tried my hand at making a seasonal favorite, apple butter. The quest was successful, but it left me an amount of apple butter I had never experienced previously. It ended up going on everything—toast, biscuits, fruit, waffles, cheese, etc.—and I still didn't come close to finishing it. Getting all apple buttered out, I made a final effort to use the last of the lot in one fell swoop, which is how I came to this recipe for an apple butter pork loin.
If you've never made apple butter before, it's worth a try. It's actually a fairly simple recipe of softening apples, pureeing them, and then letting them cook down for a couple hours until thick and spreadable. The intensified sweetness from the apples combined with a light spice from nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice give a very seasonly appropriate flavor—and it also makes a great homemade gift if you take the extra step and can it.
Of course, I didn't think of gifting mine, and it turns about a cup is probably all a two-person household really needs of this stuff before you've had too much. Already past my breaking point, I sought to put an end to this endless cycle of apple-butter-with-everything and turned to my solution to all of life's problems—meat!
A pork loin to be exact, which I thought was also another seasonably appropriate choice, since I seem to eat my yearly share of hearty pork loins in fall or early winter.
Almost never taking on pork without a brine, I came up with a complimentary mixture of apple cider, salt, brown sugar, and spice to soak the loin in prior to grilling. Even though I've taken to undercooking pork now, which means it should always come out juicy, I think a brine adds enough extra moisture and flavor to turn a good piece of meat into a great one.
Out of the brine, I gave the pork loin the standard two-zone sear and roast on the grill. This starts with browning the exterior of the meat well on all sides while the grill is still very hot. It's then moved to the cool side of the grill, covered, and let cook until is hits the desired internal temperature—which has become 140 degrees for my pork loins now.
After the sear and before the roast, I took the opportunity to instantly shed myself of about three-quarters of a cup of apple butter by slathering the entire pork loin in it. I thought this would cook down further as the pork finished roasting and make a nice glaze, but apparently the already thickened apple butter was about as thick as it was going to get and it just kind of sat on the pork, never baking in or caramelizing.
But that wasn't a problem; the pork was still downright delicious. The meat was incredibly juicy and the brine did wonders, filling the pork with a nuanced sweetness that mimicked the apple butter crust. Having about 1/4 of a cup of apple butter still remaining, I smeared the rest on the pork slices, which made them even better. When all was said and done, this was a pretty sweet pork loin, but the real thrill laid in the accomplishment of finally ridding myself of a seemingly endless supply of apple butter in the most tasty of fashions.
Apple Butter Pork Loin
- Yield 4-6 servings
- Prep 15 Minutes
- Inactive 6 Hours
- Cook 45 Minutes
- Total 7 Hours
- For the Brine
- 2 quarts apple cider, divided
- 2/3 cup Kosher salt
- 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 small onion, quartered
- 5 whole cloves
- 1 tablespoon whole allspice
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 orange, quartered
- 1 boneless pork loin, about 3 lbs
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- Kosher Salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup apple butter, plus more for serving
- To make the brine, place 1 quart apple cider, 1/3 cup salt, brown sugar, onion, cloves, allspice, garlic, bay lead, peppercorn in a medium saucepan. Squeeze orange quarters into brine and drop in peel. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil for 1 minutes, stirring to dissolve salt and sugar. Pour brine into a large container, add remaining 1 quart of apple cider, and place in refrigerator until chilled completely. Submerge pork loin completely in brine and set back in refrigerator for 3-4 hours.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. While fire is lighting, remove pork from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Brush lightly with vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sear pork over hot side of grill until browned on all sides, about 4-5 minutes per side.
- Move pork to cool side of the grill and spread with apple butter all over. Cover grill and and cook until an instant read thermometer reads 140 degrees when inserted into the thickest part of the pork loin, 15 to 30 minutes longer. Remove from grill, let stand for 15 minutes; slice and serve with additional apple butter.