Cooking with meat now is a much different affair than it was before the baby. I always liked simple recipes where meat was roasted or braised and didn't require much supervision, but I still cooked more involved dishes too: chicken thighs stuffed with ricotta and baked, thin pork schnitzels, chicken and vegetable stew - all easy, but all requiring some degree of preparation and time. Time is luxury now. Uninterrupted time is a unicorn.
This recipe is really simple, hearty, flavourful, delicious and quick to prepare before the pot goes in the oven to finish cooking. It's inspired by the famous Alsatian dish called Choucroute garnie - various kinds of pork sausages, pork chops and bacon cooked together with sauerkraut, onion, garlic, juniper berries and often served with potatoes. Just like with Russian borscht there's no set recipe for Choucroute garnie. I had it a few times at restaurants and even made it myself many years ago.
I have a soft spot for sauerkraut, although Russian version is quite different as it is lacto-fermented. My husband, being of Dutch descent, also loves sauerkraut, potatoes and sausage combo. So, when I saw a package of two jars of sauerkraut at an incredible price at Costco a few months ago I grabbed it right away (in case if you haven't noticed, I'm a Costco addict). Those jars were waiting in my pantry for a while and then I had a pork loin leftover from a package of four (also curtesy of Costco) in my fridge as well as a couple of apples (leftover from these Apple Pie Rolls) and all these ingredients melded beautifully. This recipe just came together easily and turned out absolutely delicious. It is a tiny bit more involved then a few of my previous posts, but not much, preparation time is about 10-15 minutes only and then a few minutes cleanup. The one step that I don't like that takes extra time but I recommend not skipping is searing the pork loin. It really adds a nice flavour and texture to the meat, but in a pinch it could technically be skipped. While the loin is sizzling in the pan you need to slice an onion and a few apples, no need to be precise there as they will melt into the sauerkraut while cooking in the oven. Once the pork is golden on all sides, transfer it to a plate, add the onions and apples to the pan and cook for a few minutes until softened. Splash some vermouth to deglaze the pan then add drained sauerkraut, a few cloves of garlic and a handful of juniper berries; rest the pork loin on top and transfer the whole pan to the oven where sauerkraut and apples will mingle together with the pork juices.
My oven is really weird and it always takes much longer to cook and bake, so please adjust cooking time to your oven. It took a little bit over 1.5 hours for my 3 pound pork loin to cook. Depending on your oven and the size of the pork loin it could take less time, so I'd start checking after an hour. Internal temperature should be between 145 to 160F. I always err on the side of caution and cook to 160F.
Pork Loin with Sauerkraut and Apples
Olive oil - 2 tablespoonsPork Loin - 1 (between 2 to 3 pounds)Sweet onion - 1/2 largeApples - 2 medium (or more)Garlic - half a headJuniper berries - 1 tablespoonVermouth - 1/4 cupSauerkraut - 1 jar (720 ml)
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Season pork with salt and pepper if using (I only used pepper as sauerkraut is salty enough for me).
- In a large ovenproof pan (I used cast iron) heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil, add pork loin and sear in all sides for about 3-5 minutes.
- Transfer pork to a plate.
- While pork is searing, slice an onion, core apples and slice in wedges, peel garlic and drain sauerkraut.
- Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan. Add onions and apples. Sauté for about 5-7 minutes until softened and onions are slightly browned.
- Add vermouth to deglaze the pan and cook for a minute.
- Add drained sauerkraut, garlic and juniper berries to the pan and mix.
- Place seared pork loin on top and transfer the pan to the oven.
- Cook for 1- 1.5 hours until pork is cooked through to 145-160F.
- Serve with boiled potatoes.
I really like combination of savoury and sweet, so I love apples in this recipe. I find they add a nice touch of sweetness to briny sauerkraut. To be honest, I would use more apples, maybe about 4 small apples in this recipe instead of 2 listed above, but my husband isn't a fan of salty and sweet together, so I used fewer apples that I would like.
Juniper berries add a slight peppery tang to the recipe as well. They are traditional addition to Chacroute Garnie, so I added them here too. If you don't have Juniper berries, I wouldn't go crazy trying to find them, I'd use a few peppercorns instead.
You don't have to use vermouth to deglaze the pan. White wine or even chicken stock are a good substitute. You can even use just water too. I love using vermouth in savoury dishes, it adds a little depth of flavour and rounds up the food nicely with its earthy and grassy tones. I rarely have a bottle of wine opened just waiting for the deglazing and I wouldn't open a bottle if I only needed a quarter cup, but vermouth is perfect for it as it keeps for a long time and frankly has more flavour than white wine.