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Pork in Ireland and Jerk Pork Chops

john barry

Is it just me or was it a little weird having the 4th of July land on a Tuesday this year? Because I didn’t have Monday off, it wasn’t a long weekend and the 4th itself was both a Holiday and a school/work night. I think the combination of these factors threw me off a bit, not that I’m complaining.  It’s always nice to have a day off.  Especially a beautiful summer day. We took the kids to a parade and then our plan was to go out to lunch but since everything was closed we just came home and fired up the grill.  I had a pork chop marinating that I needed to cook anyway.

We put our patio umbrella over the kiddie pool so we ate lunch in the shade of the garage. Happy to report that Emmett eschewed his ham sandwich for the jerk pork. Fly the W! Home Cooking 1: Toddler Diet 0.  

We put our patio umbrella over the kiddie pool so we ate lunch in the shade of the garage. Happy to report that Emmett eschewed his ham sandwich for the jerk pork. Fly the W! Home Cooking 1: Toddler Diet 0.  

While millions, probably over a billion people in the world do not eat pork for religious and other reasons, our family eats a lot of it.  We eat pork for the same reasons a lot of Americans eat it: because it’s relatively inexpensive, widely available and a good source of lean protein - plus, it’s delicious. Of course, we also eat more Irish bacon, sausages, and black and white pudding than the average American household does, for obvious reasons.  

Pork has been part of the Irish diet for thousands of years.  Researchers have discovered evidence of wild boar consumption dating as early as 9000 BP, and excavations at Newgrange in County Meath show that pigs and cattle were the primary sources of animal food as far back at 4000 BP. In the 19th century, Ireland was a major importer of pork to other countries. During this time period, Ireland embraced advancements in processing and breeding.  Pig farming developed alongside dairy farming and butter production, also mainstays of the Irish diet and agricultural industry, as by-products of dairy farming, such as whey and buttermilk, could be used to feed pigs.

Today, the pork industry is the third most significant source of Gross Agricultural Output or GAO in Ireland, after dairy and cattle production. And, as you might guess, in terms of consumption in Ireland, pork still tops the list followed by poultry, beef and lamb, respectively.  I recently learned that the Food Safety Authority of Ireland recommends that pork be cooked to a minimum temperature of 75C or 167F.  This is fine for sausages but for pork chops? NO WAY!  Not unless you want tough, chewy meat that is completely lacking in juices. Fortunately, in 2011, the USDA revised its recommended cooking temperature downwards from 160F to 145F after research finding that, in terms of food safety, 145F is equivalent to 160F.  So, if you care about this sort of thing, I think you can feel fine about 145F.  Personally, intrepid pork-eater than I am, I take mine off the grill when it hits about 135F.

Here’s a pork chop recipe that Paul has requested be placed in heavy dinner-rotation.  The kids love it too.

Jerk Pork Chops

For the Marinade:

  • 2-4 thick cut pork chops, I like to use bone-in
  • 3 tbs jerk spice mix*
  • 3 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tbs fish sauce
  • cup mirin** (or water) 
  • 1-2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup dark or light brown sugar

*I get mine from the Spice House, or sometimes I use a paste that a friend brings me from Jamaica.

**Japanese sweet rice wine.  I use this because I always  have it but water would work just fine.

  1. Place all ingredients in a zip top bag and shake the bag or knead it with your hands until all ingredients are evenly distributed.
  2. Place pork chops in the bag and make sure each one is coated on all sides.
  3. Place in the refrigerator to marinate for 6-24 hours.  

For the glaze:

  • 1 tbs jerk spice mix
  • ¼ cup mirin or water
  • 2 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tbs brown sugar
  • 2 tbs honey
  • 1 tbs lime juice

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer until sauce is reduced and thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.  It will thicken further as it cools. Allow to cool to room temperature and refrigerate until you are ready to cook the pork.

To Cook:

Heat your grill.  If using charcoal, push charcoal to one side, so that one side is cool and one side is hot. If using gas, light only the burners on one side.  On my gas grill I light the left two burners and leave the right one unlit.

  1. Place your marinated pork chops on the cool side of the grill.
  2. Cook for about 7 minutes and then flip the chops, leaving them on the cool side.  
  3. Cook for about 7 minutes more or until the internal temperature hits about 110F.
  4. Move chops to the hot side of the grill.  
  5. Cook for a couple of minutes, then brush with glaze.  
  6. Flip chops and cook for another 2-4 minutes, brushing with more glaze.
  7. Remove once the chops reach your desired internal temperature.
  8. Allow chops to rest for 5-10 minutes.
  9. Serve with remaining glaze and lime wedges. 

We usually end up eating this with rice and whatever vegetables we have around but it would be great with grilled plantains; rice and beans; jicama, avocado and orange salad with cilantro-garlic dressing; and grilled pineapple over vanilla ice cream for dessert.

Remind me to do that. Summer dinner party!