Pork Chops with Apple, Onion, & Bacon
Pork and apples are a classic combination. And why not add a little more pork to your pork with bacon? These pork chops will be a new Fall favorite for you because they are super moist from brining them in apple cider and herbs and then there is this AMAZING punch of flavor on top of the pork chop from the onion, bacon, and apple mixture – all cooked down with some bourbon and brown sugar. Yes, bourbon. Even if it’s not your drink of choice it really is the perfect addition to this dish with it’s smoky notes and caramel flavor because it brings a balance to the sweet flavors of the apple, caramelized onion and the added brown sugar, along with a touch of apple cider vinegar. Without that background note of bourbon I think the topping would be too sweet. Instead it’s full of textures and sweet (from the onions apple and brown sugar) and salty (from the bacon).
One cook’s note. I decided to use bone-in pork chops because I really like the way they look plated and it’s the perfect amount for a dinner for two. Brining helps keep the pork moist during the cooking process. Because pork doesn’t have a lot of fat content it can easily dry out if over cooked -even slightly. The brining helps ensure against that. But even if I were going to do a pork loin or a boneless pork chop I would still use this same recipe and process. In fact, I would slice up the pork loin and put it on slider buns and top them with the same apple, onion, bacon mixture for a football game day get-together. Or use boneless pork chops instead and slice them very thinly and put them on crostini and top with the mixture for a fancy appetizer for your next wine & tapas night. The cook time on the pork will vary but the point is you can use the same recipe different ways by just changing the presentation and cut of pork you choose.
I started by brining my pork in apple cider – because we’d gone to Apple Hill and I had a pint of fresh cider in the fridge. And cider already has some delicious cinnamon and nutmeg and brown sugar flavors going on. Then I added to the brining mixture salt (of course) and peppercorns, fresh garlic and herbs. One thing to know about brining. There is a lot of salt in it but it won’t carry over to the flavor of the meat when you cook it so don’t worry when you add in that Tablespoon of salt that you are ruining a good piece of pork!
While the pork was doing it’s thing in the fridge, I got started on the topping. It all starts with a nice tart green apple, a yellow onion, and some good ol’ bacon. I got those diced up and ready for the pan.
Then I pre-measured my cooking liquids and sugar so I could easily add them to the pan when the bacon and onions were cooked down. Yum!
Then starts the cooking. In a medium skillet over medium heat add a little (2 teaspoons) of oil to a pan and add in the bacon and onion. You want to cook these until the onion starts to caramelize and the bacon is just about crisp.
Then add in the apples and let me cook until a little tender but not mushy. About 3-4 minutes.
Then toss in the brown sugar and the bourbon, cider and apple cider and fresh thyme leaves
The mixture will cook down and absorb the liquids. This is a good time to season with salt and pepper. Keep warm until ready to serve or store in the fridge if making ahead.
Now it’s time to take the pork back out the fridge, remove the pork from the brine and discard it. Pat the pork dry and season it with salt and pepper and fire up the grill or grill pan to medium high. Also, prepare a rimmed baking dish with parchment and preheat the oven to 350. I like to finish mine in the oven. If you want to only use the grill that’s okay too but turn the heat down on the grill and cooking the pork on indirect heat after the initial 3-4 minutes per side to get the grill marks. Brush a little bit of oil on the pork (canola oil is preferred).
Grill for 3-4 minutes per side and remove to a sheet pan. Finish in the oven or on the indirect heat on the grill. Internal temp should be 145 degrees and then pull the pork and tent with foil to let rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.
Pork chops grilled 3-4 minutes per side and now on a sheet pan to go in the preheated 350 oven.
Meanwhile….I melted a few tablespoons of butter in a small cast iron pan and added in fresh sage leaves. The thing about frying sage leaves is that you want them to get crisp but not burned. So if they turn a dark green then they have actually gone too long. Just fry for about 1 minute and flip and another 30-45 seconds and remove and then salt them. And it’s better to use a medium low heat rather than a high temp.
- 2 bone-in pork chops
- 1 1/2 cups apple cider
- 1/3 cup cider vinegar
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 Tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
- 3 cloves crushed garlic
- 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1/2 large yellow onion (or 1 small), diced
- 4 center cut pieces bacon, diced
- 1 green apple, peeled and diced
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup apple cider
- 1/4 cup apple cide vinegar
- 1/2 cup good-quality bourbon
- 2 Tablepspons fresh thyme
- 4 sage leaves (optional for garnish)
- Salt & Pepper
- Make the brining liquid by combing the apple cider, cider vinegar, mustard, salt, peppercorns, bay leaf and fresh thyme in a shallow dish or resealable plastic bag. Add the pork chops, making sure they are submerged in the liquid, and cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes but up to 4 hours.
- Heat a medium cast iron skillet over medium heat and add 2 teaspoons of oil to the pan. Add the bacon and onions and cook until the bacon is just crisp and the onions start to carmelize.
- Add the apples to the pan and cook for another 3-5 minutes to brown the apples. Add in the cooking liquids (bourbon, cider, vinegar) and sugar and thyme leaves. Mixture will buble up and cook down. Cook until liquids are mostly absorbed. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste.
- After at meat has had time to marinate (preferably for several hours) remove from the brining liquid (discard liquid) and pat the chops dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat up the grill or grill pan and preheat the oven to 350.
- Brush the pork with a little canol oil and grill the pork chops for 3-4 minutes per side. Remove to rimmed baking sheet and finish in the oven or on indirect heat on the grill until pork reaches 145 degrees internally. Set aside and tent with foil to let rest for 15 minutes.
- Heat a small cast iron skillet over medium low and add butter to the pan. Gently fry sage leaves for 1 minute per side and remove and salt light.
- Serve pork plated or on a platter with the warmed apple, onion, bacon topping and fried sage leaves on the side.