The flavorful aroma of apples, pork, spices and fennel truly is the perfect combination for any cold night. I recently attended a cooking class where the focus was apples and how their flavor added bright and tangy notes to simple dishes. Like adding Granny Smith apple into oatmeal as it cooks or searing sliced Gala apples then adding it to butternut squash soup. From the original varieties to todays amazing creations I was fascinated that an Envy apple can be cut, exposed to air and not brown for up to 6 hours with out the traditional lemon juice bath! Scouts honor, I’m telling the truth.
The bright and vibrant green of a Granny Smith apple (circa 1868), that tart lemon like firm flesh is perfect for an apple pie, apple chutney, and salads. I learned a surprising fact; the Honeycrisp apple has a different cell structure to its wall than all the other apple varieties it has unique honeycomb walls. Which, once broken by either a bite or a slice of a knife JUICE and lots of it is released. Hence the sweet taste and flood of juice is why they named that apple the Honeycrisp.
Choosing the correct apple.
When I’m at the grocery store or farmers market looking at all the apple varieties I get a bit tripped up at times. Which apple is best for baking? What about an apple I can grill? Which variety holds its shape while cooking and just the opposite what type breaks down? If you are like me and have similar questions, no fear I have the answers for you.
Top 5 Eating Apples
Honeycrisp, Sweetango, Piñta, Pink Lady, Fuji
Best Apples For Cooking & Sauces
Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Gala, Pink Lady, McIntosh
Best Apples for Salads
Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, Gala, Envy, Fuji
Best Apples for Baking
Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Rome, Pink Lady, Envy
Best Apples for Grilling
Pink Lady, Granny Smith, Fuji, Envy, Piñata
Best Apples Paired with Cheese
Rave; sharp cheddar cheeses, brie, soft creamy cheeses
Honeycrisp; smoked cheese, creamy cheese and cheddar
Piñata; Goat cheese, blue cheese, creamy cheeses
I could fill this post with amazing facts I learned but for now I will leave you with a recipe that will not only bring out the rich flavor of pork but it will also celebrate the sweet and delicious flavors of my new favorite apple, the Envy apple. Enjoy!
Serves 4-6 Servings
This rich, flavorful roasted pork loin has the sweet-floral scent of fennel seeds, apples and onions. Then the bright spice of red chili flakes comfort you with every warming bite.
- 10 cups cold water
- 2 cups apple cider
- 1 cup Kosher salt
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 1 head garlic halved
- 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons dried thyme
- 4 pound pork loin
- Fennel Spice Rub
- 2 tablespoons whole fennel seed
- 2 teaspoons red chili flake
- 6 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Apples & Onions
- 2 Envy apples, cored and cut into ½ inch slices
- 2 medium sweet onions, cut in half then cut into thick slices
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ cup apple cider
- Brine; in a large container with a lid all the ingredients and mix well until salt and sugar dissolve.
- Place the pork loin in the container, make sure it is completely covered in the brine, if not add in water until it is.
- Place in refrigerator for 8-24 hours.
- Remove pork from the brine, rinse with cool water and pat dry, set on a baking sheet.
- Rub: place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until a smooth paste forms.
- If you do not have a blender a spice grinder or mortar and pestle will work. Remove 1 tablespoon of the rub and set aside, take remaining rub and spread over all sides of the pork loin.
- Lightly cover with plastic wrap and place back in the refrigerator.
- Heat oven to 350 degrees
- Place sliced apples and onions in a bowl and add remaining ingredients, except the apple cider, toss well.
- Add in the reserved 2 tablespoons of the spice mixture and stir well, set aside.
- Heat a cast iron pan for 15 minutes over medium heat, make sure it is large enough of fit the pork lion.
- In a deep baking pan add the apple mixture to it, spread evenly, set aside.
- When your cast iron pan is hot, remove the pork from the fridge, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sear the pork loin, fat side down for 8 minutes.
- Turn off the flame, carefully take the pork out of the pan and place on top of the apples and onions.
- Pour apple cider in the hot pan to deglaze, scrape up any bits left from the pork. Carefully pour the hot cider over the pork loin.
- Place pork in the hot oven and roast for about 1 hour or until the center is 140 degrees.
- Remove pork from oven once cooked and transfer it to a cutting board, tint with foil for 20 minutes.
- Return the apples and onions to the hot oven and cook for an additional 12 minutes to brown them.
- Slice the pork and serve the roasted apples and onions on the side.