Inspirational places can be found all over the world. For me, inspiration is found in places that connect to my background and the things I love – Opera theatres around the world, the Australian countryside & my uncle’s kitchen gardens in Quintodecimo, Italy to name a few.
I recently found another inspirational place to add to my list – The incredible Red Feather Inn in Launceston, Tasmania. The inspiration of this place is driven by the incredible location and scenery, but more importantly by the people there. A couple of months ago I visited Red Feather Inn to shoot for Tourism Tasmania and had the pleasure of staying at the Inn and attending a cooking class in their school. There I met the truly wonderful Chef Lewis Cheetham and his wife Felicity, and two nicer people possibly couldn’t be found.
Lewis and Felicity run the cooking classes and also cook for the intimate restaurant at the Inn, and do so using produce that has largely been grown either in the kitchen garden, or sourced from local producers.
Visiting at the end of Autumn and waking at first light, the misty grounds of Red Feather rewarded me with scenes of fresh quinces dripping from the trees, dew covered spiderwebs glistening in the frosty morning sun and all manner of wonderful produce, herbs and edible flowers growing happily in the garden beds.
I’m a firm believer that you never stop learning, and so while I get better and better at cooking as the months and years progress, I know that there are an infinite number of things to learn in regards to food. The cooking class is great for both newbies and seasoned cooks alike as Lewis and Felicity divide up the tasks so that everyone can learn a new skill, all while preparing lunch as a group.
Lewis’ pasta skills are next level (follow him on instagram to see what he creates), so I’ve already shared his method for making Casoncelli in my How to Make Filled Pasta post. But ever since I left Red Feather Inn, I have been wanting to make his incredible recipe for brined and breaded pork chops. Deliciously moist and flavourful, I can’t believe I hadn’t ever brined meat before (I have done it with my buttermilk chicken drumsticks , but not with other types of meat)! Luckily, my friends at Murray Valley Pork delivered some delicious pork recently so I was able to recreate Lewis’ dish!
It’s time to talk about wet brining, so lets get a little science-y (I know it’s not a real word, but I’m using it anyway).
Firstly, what is wet brining? Quite simply, vegetables, fruit, fish and meat are “brined” when they are preserved or seasoned in a bath of water and salt. By immersing items in salted water over time the salt solution will permeate the cells of the meat to evenly distribute moisture and salt throughout the item being brined. Meaning, when you cook the protein/vegetable after brining, it still loses moisture through the cooking process, but started out with far more to begin with. And while salt is a flavour enhancer, it also works through the brining time to relax and break down proteins (salt = more tender + flavourful).
But it gets better. While water and salt is the basis of a good wet brine, that is purely the start. By including a combination of smashed spices, sugars, herbs, citrus fruits, garlic etc in the wet brine (aromatics), those flavours will also permeate the protein (and the sugar will caramelise through the protein). If you add aromatics though, they will need to be simmered in the salt water first as the salt is dissolving to extract their flavour, then cooled completely and used as the brine.
Ratios. The ratio of water to salt for brining is the most important part, but the good news is that you can make as much or as little as you need. In terms of the amount you will need, the brining liquid just needs to completely cover the protein. You should not base your measurements on cups as this can change dramatically based on the type of salt you use so brining is always done by weight not volume! To ensure your protein does not get too salty after sitting in the brine, you want to make sure your brine is between 5-10% salt. So, for this recipe, I use 125g salt to 2 litres of water (6.25% salt). Also, make sure you use a pure salt like sea salt, or kosher salt as normal table salt has an anti clumping agent and iodine added.
Sage and Juniper Brined Pork Chops
- 2 litres water
- 125g sea salt or kosher salt
- 135g dark brown sugar
- 1 bunch sage leaves
- 1 tablespoon juniper berries, crushed
- 1 tablespoon pink peppercorns, crushed
- 8 pork chops, 3.5cm thick and about 350g each
Egg & Crumb Mixture
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 200g bread crumbs
- 75g grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
- 1/2 bunch sage leaves, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Olive oil, for frying
combine all the brine ingredients in a large pot and place over a medium low heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring to ensure the salt is dissolved. When dissolved, remove from the heat to cool, then refrigerate until cold.
Place the brine in a container large enough to both fit the pork chops, and fit in your fridge and add the pork chops ensuring they are completely covered with the brine. Set aside in the fridge for 2.5 hours.
Remove the pork, rinse under cold water and pat each pork chop dry with paper towel.
To crumb the pork, place the egg and milk in a large flat pasta bowl and whisk until completely combined. In another bowl, combine the bread crumbs, cheese, sage, garlic, salt and pepper and mix until combined.
Take a pork chop and coat with the egg mixture, and then the bread crumb mixture and set aside. Repeat with remaining pork chops.
Preheat oven to 170° Celsius (330° Fahrenheit).
Heat a large heavy bottom fry pan over medium heat and add enough olive oil to cover the base of the fry pan. Working in batches of 3-4 pork chops (depending on the size of your frypan), fry until each side is golden (about 5 minutes per side) and then place the pork on a tray in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 63° Celsius (145° Fahrenheit).
Chew Town was not paid to develop this recipe, but was gifted the Pork from Murray Valley Pork with thanks. Visit here for a list of Murray Valley Pork butchers. To read Chew Town’s disclosure policy please visit the About page.