For the last several years, turning the corner of summer into fall has been marked by the Niman Ranch Farmer Appreciation dinner. It’s when we pool our collective talents and orchestrate the most important event of the year by saying Thank You to our farmers. Farmers who work outdoors in both sunshine and rain, hot and cold weather to produce the greatest tasting pork on earth.
The weekend is held each fall in Des Moines and features farm tours, sustainability seminars and lots of eating. It’s crowned with a 400-person dinner celebrating the connection between the farmers raising our food and the chefs committed to honoring it. It’s a Farm-to-Table Celebration!
So I thought it would be fun to give you a little taste of the dinner by offering a pork recipe that captures the spirit of the dinner and marks the symbolic corner from summer to fall with a dish that’s fun for everyone to make. The intention when cooking Niman pork is to enhance it with complementary flavors while celebrating the wonderful flavor it has from the love and attention given by the farmers throughout the year.
Grilled Bone-In Pork Chops with Sweet Soy Butter
Makes 4 servings
8 cups water
½ cup brown sugar
1/3 cup kosher salt
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons Chinese five spice
4 Bone-in center cut pork chops, approximately 8 ounces each
Sweet Soy Butter
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup minced shallots or yellow onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
6 ounces butter, softened
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon Chinese five spice
To brine the pork chops: In a medium saucepot, combine the brine ingredients and heat over a medium flame, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Transfer brine to a large plastic container and allow to cool completely. Once the brine is cool, submerge the pork chops, cover and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.
To make the butter: In a skillet, met the 2 tablespoons of butter, add the shallots and garlic, and sauté until soft and aromatic. Allow to shallot mixture to cool and combine with the remaining butter ingredients. Cream mixture together and transfer to a small container. The Sweet Soy Butter can be made a day in advance.
To grill the chops: Remove the pork chops from the brine, discard the brine and pat the chops dry. Brush lightly with oil and place on a hot charcoal grill or grill pan. Cook pork for approximately 10 minutes per side, or until pork reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees. Cooking time will vary based on temperature of grill, but do not over cook the pork, which will ideally be slightly pink.
To serve: Simply place pork in the center of the plate and add a dollop of room temperature Sweet Soy Butter. The butter will melt on the hot chops and season the inside of the chop while it’s being eaten.