Monday, January 2, 2012

Erica's Pork Loin with Caramel Sauce

I'm a recipe hoarder.

I see so many "Oh yeah, I have GOT to try that!" recipes online at my favorite blogs and sites.  I save them to my BigOven files "to try soon".   But then I almost never get around to making them because I am busy playing around with my own recipes.   I might actually make one of them for every 100 that I save.  

This is recipe is one of the few to escape the purgatory of my "to try soon" list.  Last March Erica of My Columbian Recipes blogged about Cerdo al Caramelo, a dish her mother made in her home town of Antioquia.  It's roasted pork bathed in a luxurious caramel sauce.

Photo Credit:  My Columbian Recipes
Of course I took Erica's kitchen based version of Cerdo al Caramelo and converted it for the grill.   Her version is less complicated, faster, and done in the kitchen so click on that link if you don't want to fire roast it.

I chose to slow roast my loin at 250f for as long as possible before raising the heat to make the caramel sauce.  That is because the two enzymes (calpains and cathepsins) that break connective tissue in meat are more active at internal temps under 105-122f (McGee 3954*).  So the time the meat lingers under 120f acts as a sort of "accelerated aging" process, resulting in a tender, juicy roast (McGee 4494). 

bone in pork roast with caramel sauce, pork loin with caramel sauce

Pork Loin with Caramel Sauce
Adapted from My Columbian Cooking
Serves: 6

4 lb crown pork roast, tied

For the brine
  • 1.5 quarts water
  • 2 cups apple juice
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds (optional but preferred)

For the paste
  • 1/2 onion, peeled and coarse chopped
  • 1 green onion, coarse chopped
  • 1 dried red cayenne chili 
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp ground black pepper

For the sauce
  • 2 cups piloncillo grated or brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup pork broth 
  • 1/4 lb butter, unsalted, melted
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • pinch of clove (optional)
  1. Brine the roast for 4-6 hours, refrigerated.
  2. Pulse the paste ingredients in a blender or food processor until they form guessed it, paste.
  3. Remove roast from the brine.  Rinse and dry thoroughly.  Leave at room temperature for 1 hour.
  4. Set up your grill for indirect heat and preheat to 250f.  (see notes)
  5. Slather the paste all over your roast and place it bone side down over indirect heat on the grill.  Slow roast until it hits an internal temperature of 105-110f.  (See time/temp chart)
  6. Stir sauce ingredients in a grill proof roasting pan that will hold the pork roast.  Place the pork roast in the pan and return to the grill, still on indirect heat.  Adjust your vents (or gas) to bring the grill temp up to 350f.  Roast until the roast reaches an internal temp of 135f.
  7. Remove roast and allow to rest, bone side down, for at least 15 minutes.  
  8. Stir the sauce to make sure the sugar thoroughly combined into the sauce.  If not, put it back on the grill while the roast rests, stirring occasionally.  
  9. Slice and serve with sauce.
  • Substitute 2 tsp of red pepper flake if you don't have dried red chili.
  • Do NOT substitute turbinado sugar for the piloncillo or brown sugar.  I used a cup of piloncillo and a cup of turbinado.  Seemed reasonable.  It took the turbinado forever to melt. 
  • Big Green Egg set up was:  lump coal to top of fire ring, 2 chunks cherry wood, plate setter legs up, drip pan, cast iron grate.  
  • The slow roast took about 2 hours and 15 minutes.  A similar bone in pork loin last year done at 350f the whole time only took 1 hour and 30 minutes.  I'd say the difference in texture was worth the extra 45 minutes.
  • The "carryover cooking" during the rise maxed out at 151f  about 20 minutes after coming off the grill.
The pork roast was very juicy, extra tender, and flavorful.  The sauce was rich and sweet, but not too sweet.  Very worthy of a holiday meal.

Target Grill Temp
Actual Grill Temp
Meat Internal Temp
0 hr 0 m

0 hr 30 m

1 hr 0 m
Very windy, temps got away from me. Nudged vent shut by 1/4”
1 hr 30 m
Put roast in the roast pan. Opened bottom vent back by 1/4”
2 hr 0 m

2 hr 30 m
Pulled the roast at 137f at 2 hr 15 min
3 hr 0 m

bone in pork roast with caramel sauce, pork loin with caramel sauce
Pork roast getting its "beauty treatment".

Piloncillo must be Spanish for "Grates as easy as hardened cement" but it's a mild tasting sugar.

bone in pork roast with caramel sauce, pork loin with caramel sauce
I cooked it right on the grate during the low temp roasting portion so all sides were exposed.

bone in pork roast with caramel sauce, pork loin with caramel sauce
I used stoneware for my roasting pan.  Was just about to add the liquids here.

bone in pork roast with caramel sauce, pork loin with caramel sauce
Resting on a raised rack helps retain the juices inside the roast.

bone in pork roast with caramel sauce, pork loin with caramel sauce
Plan for 1 rib or 3/4 lbs per person.

*Citations list the Kindle page number