Cooks have many options when preparing pork at home

Pork tenderloin is one of the leanest cuts and is equivalent in fat to skinless chicken breasts. Pork pairs well with berries such as these haskaps. | Sarah Galvin photo

Here are a few fun facts about pork. It is the world’s most widely consumed meat. So many cultures eat pork, including tacos in Mexico, souvlaki in Greece, salami and porchetta in Italy, jamon Iberico in Spain, satays in Indonesia, tourtiere in Canada and stir-fries in China.

Each market hog represents 371 servings of pork. The leanest cuts have the word loin in them, such as tenderloin or loin chop.

To keep pork juicy and safe you need to cook it to 150 F (65 C) and let it rest for three minutes. The temperature will continue to rise as it rests.

The phrase “living high on the hog” originated among army enlisted men referring to the top loin cuts officers received while the enlisted received shoulder and leg cuts.

The word barbecue originated with French-speaking pirates who called their Caribbean pork feast de barbe et queue. It translates to “from beard to tail,” reflecting the versatility of the hog.

Pork is an excellent source of B vitamins including niacin, B12, B6 and thiamine. It is also a significant source of zinc, magnesium, iron, phosphorus and potassium.

Canada’s Food Guide recommends that one quarter of your plate is protein. Half is vegetables and fruits and the remaining quarter is whole grains in the form of pastas, breads or cooked grains.

Twice-cooked pork tenderloin

This is such a good idea for quickly cooking a pork tenderloin, the leanest of all the pork cuts. It is as lean as skinless chicken breast. Prepare the tenderloin for cooking by first removing the silver skin that is often on the thick end. It will never tenderize so it should be removed.

Another trick for the tenderloin is that if the thin end is very thin, fold it back on itself and tie it to create an even thickness throughout the cut.

  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tbsp. butter, olive oil or a combination 60 mL
  • chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish, optional

Prepare the tenderloin. Season meat with salt and pepper. Put a large skillet over medium-high heat.

A minute later add two tablespoons (30 mL) butter or oil. When butter foam subsides or oil dimples, add meat. Brown it well on all sides for four to six minutes. Turn off heat, remove meat from pan and let it sit on a board for a few minutes to firm up.

Cut meat into inch-thick (2.5 cm) slices. Once again, turn heat to medium-high, add remaining butter or oil and, when it’s hot, add pork slices to pan. Brown on each side, about two to three minutes each. Remove meat to a warm platter.

Add a half cup (125 mL) white wine or water to pan, turn heat to high, and cook, stirring and scraping, for a minute. Add a tablespoon or two (15-30 mL) of your favourite berry preserve such as haskap, raspberry, black or red currant. Heat until slightly thickened and serve this with the pork medallions.

Pork and asparagus stir fry

Often ground pork is only used in making wontons or meatballs. This stir fry is so easy with ground pork. Fresh ginger does not have to be peeled. Contrary to how it appears the skin is very thin. Just chop it finely.

  • 3 tsp. canola oil, divided 15 mL
  • 2 lb. asparagus, trimmed, cut on a diagonal into 1 – 2 in. pieces 1 kg, 3-5 cm
  • 8 oz. ground pork 225 g
  • 6 scallions, white and pale green parts only, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 – 2 inch piece ginger, finely chopped 5 cm
  • 2 tbsp. Chinese rice wine or medium-dry sherry 30 mL
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce 30 mL
  • 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil 5 mL

Heat one teaspoon (5 mL) oil in a large skillet over high.

Once pan is hot and oil is lightly smoking, add half of asparagus and a couple pinches of salt and cook, tossing only once or twice so the pieces have a chance to blister, until crisp-tender and lightly browned, about four minutes. Transfer asparagus to a plate.

Add another teaspoon (5 mL) canola oil to skillet. There is no need to wipe out the pan and repeat process with remaining asparagus.

Reduce heat to medium-high and add remaining teaspoon (5 mL) of oil to skillet, then add pork, spreading out into an even layer.

Season with a couple pinches of salt and cook, undisturbed, until meat begins to brown underneath, about two minutes.

Break up meat with a wooden spoon and add scallions, garlic and ginger.

Cook, stirring, until pork is crisp and mixture is very fragrant, about two minutes. Add wine and soy sauce and return asparagus to skillet. Cook, turning to coat with pork mixture, until heated through, about one minute.

Transfer stir-fry to a platter or large shallow bowl and drizzle with sesame oil. Serve with rice.

Greek pork souvlaki

  • 1 1/2 lb. pork tenderloin, cut into one inch cubes 700 g, 2.5 cm
  • 1/4 c. olive oil 60 mL
  • 3 tbsp. lemon juice 45 mL
  • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar 30 mL
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. dried oregano 30 mL
  • 1 tbsp. fresh thyme 15 mL
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon zest 5 mL
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt 5 mL
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper 5 mL

Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, minced garlic, dried oregano, thyme, lemon zest, salt and pepper in mixing bowl and whisk until well incorporated. Add the pieces of pork. Toss to coat really well, cover and place in the refrigerator to marinate overnight or at least four hours.

Place six wooden skewers to soak in cold water for about 30 minutes before you start building your souvlakis.

When ready to eat, preheat your outdoor grill to medium-high heat. Thread the pieces of pork onto the pre-soaked bamboo sticks. Discard unused marinade.

Grill the kebabs, turning them every two to three minutes, until the meat is cooked through, about 10-12 minutes total.

Serve with tzatziki sauce and lemon herb rice.

Cast-iron skillet pork chops

After years of being told to leave food alone while it’s browning, now there is a new thought. Flipping it several times does produce a nice golden brown crust.

  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil 15 mL
  • 2 thick bone-in pork rib chops
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 sprigs fresh sage
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed
  • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter 15 mL

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season pork chops all over, including the fat cap, with salt and pepper.

Cook pork chops until bottom side is golden brown, about one minute. Turn and cook on other side about one minute before turning again.

Repeat this process, turning about every minute, until chops are deep golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 150 F (65 C), eight to 10 minutes.

Cooking time will depend on thickness of chops. If the chops are very thick, try to sear the edges, too.

Remove pan from heat and add sage, garlic and butter. Tilt the pan and spoon foaming butter and drippings over pork chops, making sure to baste the fat cap as well as the rib.

Transfer pork chops to a cutting board and let rest at least five minutes. Pork will come to 160 F (71 C) as it sits.

Cut away bone and slice pork about a quarter-inch (1 cm) thick. Serve with any juices from the cutting board spooned over top.

Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at allourfingersinthepie.blogspot.ca. Contact: team@producer.com.

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