So they’re ‘half-crocked’ because there is far less salt in this brine than most. It still flavors the chops and keeps them moist but it isn’t the salt-fest that most brines are. I also don’t like the super juicy effect that a heavy brine gives. It reminds of those hams in a can. Orange zest, thyme and honey round things out. Use the same brine for pork tenderloins, chicken breasts or shrimp. (Cut the brining time for shrimp to 3 to 4 hours.)
Makes 4 servings
4 cups water
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/3 cup aromatic honey, such as acacia or buckwheat
3 tablespoons cracked black peppercorns
Zest from 2 oranges, removed in wide strips with a vegetable peeler
1 bunch fresh thyme
4 1-inch thick pork loin chops
Bring the water, salt, honey, peppercorns, zest and thyme in a 3-quart pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the salt and honey. Cool to room temp.
Place the chops in a container large enough to hold them and the brine comfortably but snugly. (A 2-quart container that is about as tall as it is wide works well.) Pour the brine over the chops, cover the container tightly and refrigerate for 8 hours.
Drain the chops and pat them dry. (You can cook the chops at this point, or wrap and refrigerate them for up to 2 days.) Lightly oil a gas or charcoal grill. Cook the chops, turning them only once, until well browned and uniformly cooked with a slight trace of pink near the bones, about 12 minutes. If you have an instant reading thermometer, this is a great place to use it. A safe temperature for pork is 145° F. Pay attention to the area along the bone, it is usually the slowest to cook. That’s why the chops in the picture are doing a head stand; I always finish off the cooking by standing them on their bones to make sure everything is good to go.
If it’s not grilling weather, try a seasoned or non-stick griddle over two burners set to medium high. Adjust the heat under the griddle as necessary so the chops brown slowly but evenly.