This unusual main dish requires a few days’ advance planning, but is versatile enough to eat all week long.
I got a request through Facebook from a high school student in Saudi Arabia a few weeks ago for pickled meat. I’d never even heard of the stuff. So, I looked it up online and right away found a recipe that sounded good. I mentioned that to my Saudi student friend, who said he was actually thinking of something very different—a dish that’s curry based.
Well, first things first. What you’ll see here is an American based recipe. Of course, I’ve gotta’ believe you’re thinking, “Yeah, Bruce, great. Now what do I do with the stuff once I make it?”
Excellent question! I looked up possible uses online and found … almost nothing.
NO PROBLEM! That’s actually where the fun comes in. I’ve already had my batch a few different ways—all incredibly flavorfully and easy to make. Examples include pickled pork tortillas; pickled pork salad with ginger, coconut, yogurt and avocado; and sweet and savory pickled pork harvest grains Alfredo that my kids and I hammered down happily just the other night. More about those variations later. First, a few tips, then the base recipe.
- Though you’ll have to plan at least 3 days in advance to let the meat pickle in the refrigerator after cooking, this recipe is both incredibly flavorful and very easy to make.
- This recipe calls for the use of a nonreactive pot. Most nonreactive pots and pans have cooking surfaces made of stainless steel and do not react with acid-based foods like tomato sauce or foods cooked with vinegar as shown here. Reactive pots and pans have cooking surfaces made of aluminum, cast iron or unlined copper that are great for uniform heat but can alter the color and flavor of acid-based foods.
- The original recipe I adapted this recipe from called for using a zip top plastic bag to let the meat pickle (absorb the flavors from the brining liquid). To avoid a possible leak from a bag, I recommend using a large glass jar closed with a top as shown in this recipe.
- The original recipe also called for 1 1/2 pound of fresh boneless pork butt. I couldn’t find that easily in the store when I wanted to make this pickled pork. So, instead I bought “pork loin roast sirloin portion”, which is a cut of pork that is still attached to the bone. This recipe will show how to remove the meat from the bone as easily as possible.
Preparation Time: about 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 15-20 minutes
Refrigerated Curing Time: at least 3 days
(per 1 1/2 pounds of boneless pork meat)
1 1/2 Pounds Fresh Boneless Pork Butt (which, as this recipe shows, can be substituted with pork loin roast sirloin portion or any other cut of pork)
2 Cups Water
1 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4 Cup Kosher Salt (can be substituted with table salt)
6 Garlic Cloves
2 Tablespoons Sugar
2 Tablespoons Yellow Mustard Seed
2 Tablespoons Hot Sauce
2 Tablespoons Celery Seed
1 Bay Leaf
1/2 Teaspoon Whole Black Peppercorns
Large Nonreactive Cooking Pot with a Top
Large Glass Container with Lid
Ladle or Big Spoon
Large Sharp (Chef’s) Knife
1. Though this recipe calls for 1 1/2 pounds of pork, most cuts of pork you’ll find in the store will not weigh exactly 1 1/2 pounds. Check the weight on the packing label as shown in the picture below and then estimate the quantities of ingredients you’ll need as you make this recipe. As noted in the picture below, the piece of pork I used weighed 2.85 pounds. You’ll see in parentheses in the directions that follow how I made adjustments—all very easily.
2. Prepare 6 cloves of garlic as shown here. (As my piece of pork weighed almost 3 pounds, I used a whole garlic bulb). Start by twisting off the top of a garlic bulb. Then remove as many individual garlic cloves as needed, and lay them flat on a cutting board.
Place each garlic clove under the flat side of a large (chef’s) knife. Use the heel of your hand to press on the top flat side of the knife with enough pressure to crush the garlic clove.
Peel the garlic skin, chop the garlic cloves coarsely and add them to the pot.
3. If you’re using a boneless piece of pork, skip to step 4. Otherwise, carefully cut around the bone to cut it free from the meat. Then shave off as much meat as possible until what you have left looks about as shown in the bottom right picture.
4. Cut the pork across the meat grain into slices about 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) wide. Cut the slices lengthwise into strips also about 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) wide. Then finish by cutting the strips into pieces again about 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) wide.
5. Add the cut pork pieces to the pot and add the following (the amounts shown in parentheses are what I used for my piece of pork that weighed about 2 1/2 pounds after I removed the bone):
2 tablespoons sugar (I used 3 tablespoons sugar)
1/4 cup kosher (or table) salt (I used 1/3 cup)
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seed (I used 3 tablespoons, which meant using the entire small container shown here)
2 tablespoons celery seed (I used 3 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns (I used 1 teaspoon)
1 bay leaf (I used 2 bay leaves)
2 tablespoons hot sauce (I used 3 tablespoons)
1 cup (8 ounces) apple cider vinegar (I used 12 ounces as shown with my finger)
2 cups (16 ounces) water (I used 3 cups (24 ounces) water)
6. Cook using HIGH heat until the liquid in the pot comes to a full boil. Then…
…turn the stove heat down to low (or simmer), give the pot a quick stir,…
…cover with the pot top, and set a timer for 3 minutes.
7. While the meat cooks, clean the cutting board and knife (including knife handle) thoroughly with hot water and dish soap.
8. When the timer sounds, turn off the stove heat and move the hot pot to a cool burner. Let the pot sit for about an hour until the pot is cool enough to touch safely.
9. When the pot and liquid inside are cool enough to touch safely, carefully transfer the cooked meat and pickling liquid to a glass container (or container or your choice).
Then cover the container and put it in the refrigerator for at least 3 days for the meat to absorb the pickling flavors. NOTE: If the pickled meat will not be used within 2 weeks after it has pickled for at least 3 days in the refrigerator, remove the meat from the brining liquid and freeze it in a tightly sealed bag until needed.
Images courtesy of the author