marinated pork chops

Balsamic Marinated Pastured Pork Chops

The farm that hosts our CSA, Snipes, is just about 2 miles from our house. It’s an old farm that has been in the Snipes family for 8 generations!! Our entire region used to be farmland, but theirs is the only one left, still standing after all these years right in the middle of urban sprawl. It’s really something of a miracle. So when they announced last spring that they were starting animal shares (for grass-fed/pastured meat, milk, and eggs) I jumped on board! It’s really pretty cool that, now, the meat we eat is raised just down the road from where we live.

We bought a pig share and a cow share, since they were the most affordable, and it’s been great to be able to see those animals grazing around. It’s a real comfort to know without a doubt the condition my meat is in. It’s not only important to me for humane reasons, but also for health reasons. 

Here are the piggies. They forage free in the brush, and are moved every couple months or so to get new land to dig up!

snipes pigs

Compare that to the way factory farmed pork and ham that’s sold in the supermarket is raised. How healthy do you think these animals really are, cooped up like that, eating only grain (which is probably GMO)? Pigs aren’t supposed to eat grain – they’re supposed to eat roots and bugs and plants. And the meat from animals that eat their natural diet is exponentially healthier for us!!

Pigs confined in metal and concrete pens

And here’s one of the cows, grazing away happily.

cow

We started getting our pig share in the early summer, and an interesting thing happened. As we were eating our first pork chops I was intimately aware of the animal that had died so that we could have that meal. It wasn’t just some anonymous “meat” from the store – it was an actual animal I had met. So in our blessing before dinner I mentioned it, and asked that God help us not take for granted the lives that give us our food.

I’ve also found myself being very conscious of not wasting any of it. I want every morsel to be eaten or used to make soup or something. I find myself wanting to honor the life of the animal by not wasting it.

So it’s all been an interesting – and I think beneficial – change in how we view the meat that we eat.

Okay. So down to the recipe. (After all, that’s really why you’re here, right?)

One thing about pastured meat is that you have to cook it a little differently than factory farmed meat. It tends to be leaner and so you have to be aware of the differences for it to turn out right. One of the big things you have to do with pastured meat is to have the meat at room temperature before cooking it. If it’s cold when you cook it, it usually ends up tough and dry. Also, you need to let it rest for about 5 minutes after cooking to let all the juices settle – otherwise they’ll just all come pouring out when you cut into it, and you don’t want that.

Another thing that I’ve found makes a huge difference is marinating.These pork chops are marinated in a balsamic vinegar based solution, and they’re oh-my-goodness so good! Really, really good! The first chops I made I just cooked up as-is, and there’s absolutely no comparison between those and this marinated version.

First, in a large ziplock bag combine balsamic vinegar, olive oil, a few cloves of garlic cut in two, and pepper. If you have any fresh herbs on hand, like oregano, rosemary, or basil, throw them in too. And if you’re not too sensitive to all sweeteners you can add in a couple tsp of honey, but that’s optional.

Squish it all around until it’s mixed evenly, and then put in your pork chops. My four large chops fit in a gallon sized bag.

marinating chops

(Alternately, you can do this in a large dish of some sort, as long as it’s covered.)

Stick the bag in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, but overnight is best. I left mine almost 24 hours and they were perfect. Halfway through give the bag a little massage and flip it over so that both sides are evenly marinated. Don’t forget to take the bag out of the refrigerator about an hour before you’re going to start cooking them so that they can come to room temperature!

Ideally, these are best grilled in some way – either on an outdoor grill or an indoor griddle. I have this great cast iron griddle that’s flat on one side and ridged (like a grill) on the other, so that’s what I used and it was perfect! If you’re using a griddle, grease it with lard or refined coconut oil and heat it up nice and hot. Put the chops on and let them cook on high for a minute or two to brown that side.

balsamic pork chops

If you don’t have a griddle or indoor grill, and don’t feel like grilling them outside, then it’s perfectly fine to cook these in a regular pan! Go ahead! They might just not brown as nicely since they’re sitting in their juices.

Turn the heat down to medium, and cover. If you have a pan with a lid, just pop the lid on. I covered mine with tin foil since I didn’t have a lid! You want to cover them to help them cook through better.

marinated pork chops

After about 7-10 minutes they’ll probably be ready to flip, depending on the thickness of the chops. You want them to be opaque and look completely cooked up the sides of the chops.

Oh my goodness! Aren’t they gorgeous!? All nice and caramelized and brown and beautiful.

marinated pork chops

Let them cook on the other side for 3-5 minutes, or until the other side is equally browned and they’re fully cooked. I can tell by feel if they’re cooked through, but if you can’t do that you can just cut into the middle of one and check that it’s done.

Let them rest, covered, for about 5 minutes to give the juices a chance to settle.

They’re done! Look at that color!

marinated pork chops

Serve up with fruit and veg of your choice! These do go REALLY WELL with my homemade balsamic vinaigrette, so I highly recommend a salad with it!

marinated pork chops

 

Balsamic Marinated Pastured Pork Chops
Author: 
Recipe type: dinner
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 4 large pork chops
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
  • plenty of fresh ground pepper
  • fresh herbs if you have them on hand (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp honey (optional)
Instructions
  1. Combine all marinade ingredients in a large ziplock bag or casserole dish with a lid. Mix them up to fully combine them together.
  2. Place the chops in the marinade and put them in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, but up to a day is best.
  3. Flip the chops over half way so that both sides get equal exposure.
  4. Take the chops out of the refrigerator about an hour before cooking to let them come to room temperature.
  5. Heat up an indoor grill or griddle and grease with coconut oil, olive oil, or lard. If you don't have one, you can simply use a regular pan. (Alternately, you can grill these on an outdoor grill.)
  6. Place the chops on the very hot griddle and cook for about 2 minutes before turning the heat down to medium.
  7. Cover with a lid or tin foil and continue to cook for 5-10 minutes, or until the chops are opaque and look completely cooked up the sides.
  8. Flip the chops and cook for about 5 more minutes, or until the chops are cooked through and browned on both sides.
  9. Let the meat sit, covered, for 5 minutes before serving.
  10. These pair GREAT with salad topped with homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing!