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The slightly sweet, slightly tart apple brings out the best in pork, and a child, we often had applesauce with our pork chops. Sometimes we had stuffing with our pork chops (raise your hand if your Mom jumped on the Stove Top Stuffing when it was introduced in 1972.) It’s safe to say, though, we never had a gorgeous dinner like Apple Glazed Stuffed Pork Chops.

Apple Glazed Stuffed Pork Chops

Apple Glazed Stuffed Pork Chops

These beauties (the photo does not do them justice) combine the best of both worlds: stuffing and apples. Originally inspired by Tyler Florence, who uses a similar brine on his Pork Chops and an Apple Stuffing in his Roast Pork, I’ve combined the two in a simplified, more do-able recipe, Apple Glazed Stuffed Pork Chops.

Stuffed Pork Chops are almost always done with chops cut from the loin, the leanest part of the pig. Without a lot of fat, loin chops can run the risk of being a bit dry. Not so with these succulent stuffed chops. The short brine adds both flavor and moisture and the stuffing inside ensures they are moist through out. The glaze lends beautiful color to the outside of the chop with out running the risk of over cooking.

I’ll take you through the simple process of stuffing your own, and you’ll have a dinner for four for less than the cost of just one stuffed chop from the store, and I’d stake my reputation that these are better. Not too complicated for an everyday meal, this also shines on a special occasion.

Apple Braised Green Cabbage is a perfect foil for these chops, milder than the many of the Red Cabbage Braises so popular today. Not only a bargain side, it’s a fairly healthy one, as well. The use of old, dry bread in the stuffing is another money saver.

This recipe is nothing, really, but simple, inexpensive ingredients transformed. My cost for the Apple Glazed Stuffed Pork Chops? Around $2.10. The full meal? About $3.65. Scroll below to see how I put my strategies to work.

Apple Glazed Stuffed Pork Chops

Apple Glazed Stuffed Pork Chops

Apple Glazed Stuffed Pork Chops, serves 4

Brine:

  • 2 cups cold water (or 1/2 water and 1/2 apple juice)
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 6 peppercorns

In a non aluminum mixing bowl, combine brine ingredients and stir until salt and sugar is dissolved. (Kosher salt is best, but table salt will work because this is a short brine; on longer brines, avoid salt with iodine. Use 2/3rd the amount of the kosher salt if you’re using plain old table salt.)

Chops:

  • 4 1″ thick pork chops (or larger) about one and 3/4 pounds, total
  • 1 1/2 cups coarse, dry bread pieces, about 2 slices
  • 1 apple, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chicken broth, vegetable broth or white wine or combination (to moisten stuffing)
  • 1/4 cup frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed (apple juice boiled down to a thick consistency will work even better and apple jelly works also)
  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil for sauteeing chops

Cut a pocket in the pork chops with a very sharp knife for the stuffing, carefully bringing the pocket as close to the edges of the chop as possible without going through: Place the chop on a flat surface and gently press with the palm of your hand on the top. Cut about a 2 to 2 1/2 inch opening along the side of the chop that isn’t lined with fat – if the whole side of the chop is opened up, the stuffing may fall out, so try to keep the opening small. Take small slicing, sawing motions, continuing to go deeper into the chop, keeping the knife horizontal.

Open the chop and feel inside to make sure you’re getting it open as much as possible. Make the pocket as large as possible, getting into the sides.

Add chops to the brine and open the chops a bit once inside the brine. Brine for one to two hours in the refrigerator – while the longer time is better (but don’t go over two hours or the pork may have a mushy texture), even 15 or 20 minutes does make a difference, and the brine can be made as the chops are prepared, while the stuffing can be made as the chops brine.

Saute apple, celery and onion in butter until they are tender and have given off most their liquid. Mix stuffing ingredients: bread, apple, celery, and onion. Add broth or wine until the stuffing is barely moist, gently folding with fingers or spoon.

Remove chops from the brine and quickly rinse, then pat dry inside and out. Discard brine. Stuff each chop firmly with a quarter of the stuffing mixture.

To Bake:

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In an oven proof skillet, lightly brown one side of the chops in a little olive oil or butter, turn over and glaze with the apple concentrate. Place in oven and bake, uncovered, until chops are cooked through and center of stuffing is hot. Stuffing should register 160 degrees. Baste chops with apple concentrate every 10 minutes.

Total baking will be 20 to 30 minutes for boneless, 35 – 40 minutes for bone in. Depending on how thick the chops are and how much they were browned, and how hot the oven is, they can be done several minutes earlier – the oven thermometer is your best bet in getting the chops at just the right temperature.

Drizzle the pan drippings left in the pan over the chops before serving.

To Grill:

Prepare grill for indirect heat. Place stuffed chops on grate away from heat. Cover grill and cook until chops are cooked through and center of stuffing is hot. (It should read 160 degrees on thermometer.) Baste with apple concentrate every 10 minutes. Cooking time will be 25 to 35 minutes for boneless, 40 to 50 minutes for bone in.

Notes:

Apple Juice & Concentrate: The easiest way to make this recipe is to buy a can of frozen apple concentrate, thaw overnight in the fridge and reserve 1/4 of it for the glaze. Mix the rest with water and use a cup of it for the marinade, and stash the rest in the fridge for drinking or another use.

I seldom have Frozen Apple Juice in the house, or any juice for that matter, so I often improvise and use just a bit of jelly on the tops of these chops, heated a moment in the microwave with a teaspoon or so of water. This seems to work well with any flavor of jelly.

My preferred method, though, is to take some apple juice and boil it down to a thick concentrate, about 1 1/2 cups, boiled for about 12 minutes or so, until it is nearly like caramel. This will give a gorgeous color and taste on the top of the chop. Since I own a juice/blender, I’ve even used that instead of buying juice.

Apple Juice boiled down to a thick, caramel like consistency gives a beautiful taste and color

Apple Juice boiled down to a thick, caramel like consistency gives a beautiful taste and color

Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:

  • Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area is Pocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
  • Follow my Strategies – You’ll see them all explained on the upper left tab of every page and how I apply them, below.
  • Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
  • Read below for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.

Strategies Applied

  • Pork Loin Chops: Pork Chops are often expensive in the store, even in the family packs – dirty little secret? Many of the “better” chops, especially the thick ones, are sliced Pork Loin. This is great news – Pork Loin is sold in large packages for 89 to 99 cents a pound at a low, and $1.99 is still a decent price. Precut chops in my store run $4.99 or more regular price, $2.99 at a great sales price.
  • Put out 12 to 20 bucks and buy a Pork Loin and slice your own chops “to order.” Make an assortment of thicker ones for special meals and thinner ones for quick dinners, package them and stack them in your freezer. (Sharpen your knife first!) A pound and 3/4′s is about $1.25.
  • Bread Crumbs:  I try to never let bread go to waste at my house, and make my own crumbs in the food processor with the stale pieces and heels. Cost – this is an item any sane person would normally pitch, so I don’t count it…if you must count, it’s somewhat of a variable. Two slices of plain old Sandwich bread? 10 cents? Something fancier? A bit more.
  • Apple:  Look for apples in the fall at the best price, and watch for them in January and February to lower in cost. In January, the apples in the cold storage need to be sold off quickly, and there is a glut of apples coming out of gassed storage. Bought at 88 cents a pound, an apple is about 5 1/2 ounces. Cost: 30 cents.
  • Celery: Generally inexpensive, but does go on sale from time to time, so I buy extra when it does. Celery keeps so well, there’s no reason to not buy when it’s not on sale. Remember to use your leaves, they’re full of flavor, and if you don’t use them in your cooking, save them, along with the bottom parts for soup or stock.  Always wash your celery extremely well. To keep longer, slip a plastic bag loosely over the exposed top of the celery. A good price in my area is 98 cents a sleeve, with about 15 or so stalks in a sleeve. Cost for a stalk is about 10 cents.
  • Onions: They keep well, so try to buy on sale. Aldi’s is a good place to find reasonably priced onions. Always less expensive in the fall/winter months, the pricing in my area runs from 33 to 66 cents a pound. Store them in a dark, cool place but not near potatoes. If you’ve bought too many onions, don’t let them go bad.Slice or dice them, saute and portion into Ziplocs labeled “onions” and freeze. You’ve just saved yourself a step for next time you make a dish. If you have enough, consider making French Onion Soup. If you use half an onion, consider if you can sauté the rest and put it in a Ziploc in the freezer. If not store in the door where you’ll see it when you’re cooking next. An onion (at 56 cents a pound) about 14 cents.
  • Butter:  A bit of a splurge, cost and calorie wise – but for taste and health, I’d rather use real butter than trans fat laden margarine or oils. Yes – they do have trans fat, even if the label says they don’t. Harvard, for instance, says unequivocally: The key to a healthy diet is to substitute good fats for bad fats and to avoid trans fat.” While butter isn’t a healthy fat, many feel that trans fat is worse than saturated.
  • Buy on deep specials, often around the holidays with store coupons. I shoot for $2.50 a pound and freeze, where it stays fine for months. Cost for this recipe: 2 tablespoons, 16 cents.
  • Chicken Stock:  If you read me regularly, I make my own with scraps of vegetables and bones – here’s the basic recipe I use for Best Turkey or Chicken Stock - it’s not particular and though it simmers for a long time, the burner is barely on – I just count it as free.
  • Wine:  I really shop the sales and speak to the employees – I find I can find great wines for a pittance. If you have a wine shop you like, I find you can get mailings or emails for their best sales – often in the fall and spring. My last bottle of a basic white was $2.99 – I know, I know, they say always buy a wine you’d drink to cook with, but you’d be surprised at the bargains you can get and how long you can use a bottle for quick little recipes like this and my bargain wine really is quaffable.
  • If I were making a recipe with a long, slow reduction like a stew, especially with a red wine, I’d be a lot more careful, because any tannins or off flavors might be even more exaggerated, but all I want here is a well-rounded flavor and a bit of acidity. I’ll even throw the wine in some dishes if it’s starting to turn to vinegar, and if I didn’t have any wine, I’d add a bit more stock and a few teaspoons of white wine or champagne vinegar, or even a red wine vinegar, or a squeeze of lemon juice, depending on the recipe. Cost for 1/4 cup is pennies, about 40 cents. I generally use the chicken stock in this recipe; the stuffing is so flavorful.
  • Apple Concentrate:  Buy this on sale with a coupon – price ranges from free to a 50 cents or so a can if one is using coupons and watching the sales. If you use this, make sure not to waste the remainder: Just estimate the amount you’ve removed and mix up the rest for juice. Because I had apple jelly in the fridge, I simply used that. Cost 10 cents.
  • Olive Oil: I have a little strategy for buying olive oil – using coupons and sales to lower the price, so click on the link. I think it’s important to use olive oil as opposed to many others – the health benefits outweigh a bit more extra cost, and it can be had at a very reasonable price. I also like the fact that Olive oil contains no hidden trans fats like Canola or Vegetable oil. Cost for this recipe: 8 cents.
  • Time Saving Strategies: The stuffing can be doubled and half frozen in Ziplocs for another batch at a later date.
Cutting the pocket is easy if your knife is sharp - put your hand over the chop and feel the knife move through

Cutting the pocket is easy if your knife is sharp – put your hand over the chop and feel the knife move through

Put Your own Spin on It:

  • Add a little sage or poultry seasoning to the stuffing
  • Add some herbs to the brine
  • A quick pan sauce or gravy could be made in the pan and served over rice pilaf or potatoes

My Pay Off:

Stuffed Pork Chops with Apple Glaze is the kind of dish my family really gets excited about – it’s a little more meat than I normally like to serve, but still comes in under budget and looks “fancy.” It costs a whole lot less than the grocery store prestuffed chops, and the taste is amazing – the rich pork is a perfect foil for the slightly sweet apple stuffing.

Stuffed Pork Chops with Apple Glaze made February 2012 for $2.00. Repriced March 2014 for $2.18

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