This is hands down my favourite preparation of pork loin: brine-cured, smoked, and sliced into thick ham chops.
While the eye of loin is a very lean, mild-tasting muscle, it is surrounded by large slabs of fat: fatback on top, and the streaky side meat that becomes bacon. Grilling or pan-frying a large pork chop with all this fat usually results in either overcooked meat or under-rendered fat. By slowly bringing this roast up to temperature over several hours in a smoker, we render all that fat without overcooking the meat. The final dish is somewhere between bacon and ham.
In Germany this preparation goes by the name Kassler Rippchen, which literally means “little ribs from Kassel”.
Details. Use a large roast from either the rib or centre-loin section. Remove the chine and feather bones, as well as the the membrane from the underside of the ribs. (This post on butchering a pork loin explains how to do all that.) Trim the fatback down to 1/4″.
I use a fairly sweet brine. The exact recipe is below. This size and shape of roast needs only four days in a brine. I inject a small amount of brine, maybe 1-2% of the weight of the roast, into the centre of the eye of loin for good measure.
After the fourth day remove from the brine, rinse, and pat dry, then let stand on a wire rack in the fridge, uncovered, overnight. The next day smoke the rosy loin very slowly to maximize its exposure to the smoke until it reaches the proper internal temperature, which by the way is about 150°F.
This is a fantastic preparation when hosting large groups for dinner:
- It can be cooked several hours or even days in advance, then gently reheated in a slow oven.
- The smoking gives it an irresistible colour and aroma.
- It is dead-simple to carve table side: just follow the ribs to make fat chops.
- It is almost guaranteed to be the most moist piece of loin your guests have ever eaten.
Actually this has become my preferred “ham” to serve at Easter dinner. Yet another reason I am increasingly resigning pig leg to schnitzel and sausage.
Smoked Pork Loin
- 4 L cold water
- 350 g kosher salt
- 350 g dark brown sugar
- 42 g curing salt (6.25% sodium nitrite)
- bay, black peppercorn, garlic
- 5-7 lb pork loin roast from the rib or centre section, rib bones still attached, chine bone removed, fatback trimmed to 1/4″