A hearty family roast, done right, is a cause for celebration – and a great reason to know your local butcher! This roasted pork loin is flavored with herbs and served with spiced apple chutney. And look at that crackling!
Crackling, I’ve decided, is a really good reason to have a good relationship with your local butcher. Given a few days notice, they’ll be able to procure a pork loin to the size required (we ordered a 4-5lb cut, which contained 5 ribs – plenty enough for 6 people at one sitting).
Ask them to partially detach the ribs but leave them attached at one end (this lets you season with salt and herbs in the pocket between bones and meat). You can ask them to fully detach the bones, but you’ll just need to tie everything together more securely when you bake it. Finally, and this is the crucial step, you want the fat cap and skin left on (not detached), and then scored parallel to the ribs at 1/4-inch intervals. You’ll see from the prep pictures how this looks. The cuts should go just past the skin into the fat, but not fully into the meat. You (or your butcher) can alternatively cross-hatch the surface, which results in smaller pieces of crackling which are more liable to burn in the hot oven. The way we’re recommending here ensures that everyone gets large, crispy slices of crackling.
We prepare the loin in approximately the same way that we get a turkey ready for Thanksgiving: adding a good, almost surprising amount of salt to the meat, and letting it sit, uncovered, in the fridge for a couple of days. This allows the skin to dry and the salt to permeate through the meat (basically a ‘dry-brine’, which plumps up the cells, adding moisture and flavor when the pork is roasted.
We start the oven very hot, which does most of the work to render the fat and crisp the skin. After half an hour, you reduce the temperature. If you use a leave-in thermometer, push it straight into the thickest part of the pork. You should pull it and let it sit when it reaches 135ºF (the USDA recommendation is to cook to 145F, so the carry-over heat will take care of the remaining cooking). We estimate around an hour, but it may be a little less depending on your oven.
We served this, as is traditional, with Yorkshire puddings, a tart and spicy Apple Chutney (recipe below) and a simple salad with spicy arugula, shaved red cabbage and fresh apples.
- 4 - 5 pounds pork loin, center cut with a thick rind/fat cap, skin intact*
- 1½ tablespoons coarse kosher salt, divided
- ¼ cup neutral oil, like canola or grapeseed
- 2 heads garlic, cut in half across the bulbs
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 4 apples, peeled, cored and half-inch diced (recommended: Honeycrisp or Granny Smith)
- ¾ cup chopped yellow onion
- 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
- ½ cup pomegranate juice
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- ¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 star anise pod
- 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- Combine the apples, onion, ginger, pomegranate juice, vinegar, brown sugar, mustard seeds, pepper flakes, star anise and salt and in a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to simmer and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 45-50 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove the star anise and allow to cool.
- For the Pork:
- -3 days ahead, Rub the flesh with 1 tablespoon of the kosher salt, including where the bones pull away. Dry the skin as much as possible with a paper towel. Place on a sheet tray on a wire rack, skin-side up and place in the refrigerator, uncovered, to let the skin dry.
- Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.
- If the butcher has not done it for you, score the rind with a very sharp knife, using long, parallel slits ¼-inch to ½-inch apart across the width of the loin; be careful not to cut into the flesh. Rub the rind with the last ½ tablespoon coarse salt, ensuring that the salt is rubbed well into the slits. Coat the rind with ½ of the oil.
- Flip the loin over and rub the flesh side with the remaining oil. Place the garlic, thyme, and rosemary up against the flesh. Using butcher's twine, tie the herbs and garlic to the loin. If you have ribs, tie ribs to loin as well.
- Place the loin, skin-side up, on a rack in a roasting pan and roast for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 425 degrees F and cook until an instant-read thermometer poked into the center of the loin reaches 135 degrees F, about 1 hour. Skin should be puffy and crisp, if it’s not puffy enough, set the roast under the broiler for a minute or two until it puffs.
- Remove from the oven and let the loin rest on a carving board for 30 minutes; the internal temperature will continue to rise about 10 degrees F, and the juices redistribute to make it moister).
- Remove the ribs by cutting the remaining flap, discard the garlic and herbs. Carve the loin into slices following the scores so that each slice has a segment of crackling (approx ¼-inch strips). Serve the warm pork loin with cracklings, Yorkshire Puddings and a bitter green salad.
- The loin is easiest to find at a real butcher shop. Ask for “easy carve” which means the bones are mostly separated from the meat. You can also go completely boneless, but the ribs make a striking presentation. You can also have your butcher score the skin with parallel slits ¼-inch apart across the width of the loin. If you can’t find a skin-on loin, you can still make the recipe (minus the crackling). Make sure you find a loin with a thick fat cap, or the meat will be dry.
- Special equipment: butcher's twine, a roasting pan and rack