Roast Pork Loin
This will be best if cooked and served day off, still warm from the oven.
In order to save time and space this can be cooked with the Brat Rüben. Place it on the middle rack of the oven (or slightly higher) and place the Brat Rüben on the bottom rack. The Brat Rüben will not need to cook as long as Schweinebraten, wait about 20 minutes before adding it to the oven.
- A helper
- Meat thermometer
- Large chef’s knife (8+ inches)
- 2x Large cutting board (one is serviceable but not ideal)
- “Kitchen twine” ie oven-safe disposable cord about as thick as a headphone cable (also called “butcher’s twine”)
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
- Small bowls x3 (for measuring)
- 9×13 inch baking sheet that has 4 sides
- Aluminum foil
- 2.5 pounds pork loin (not tenderloin!)
- 1 pound sauerkraut
- 1/2 cup currants or dark raisins
- 1 teaspoon caraway seed (whole)
- 1 teaspoon black pepper (ground)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- twine pieces x2 at 2.5 feet long
Pre-heat oven to 375F and move the oven rack you intend to use to either the middle or a little low from middle.
Unroll aluminum foil across the baking sheet until you have enough to cover both the bottom and the sides. The objective is to make a liner that will leave the pan easier to clean, as the juice from the meat can bake into hard spots that are difficult to clean later.
Cut your twine pieces and lay them on the baking sheet.
Measure sauerkraut into the first small bowl. If it’s a wet kraut (cabbage swimming in juice like cereal in milk), drain it in a colander first.
Measure currants into second small bowl.
Measure spices into the third small bowl.
Lay out two cutting boards end to end.
Butterfly the pork loin like a jelly roll. If you know how to do this, skip to the next section. Otherwise, here we go:
-“Butterflying” is a technique where a piece of meat is cut sideways on the short axis (like a bagel), but without going all the way through the meat, to make a piece that can be unfolded to be almost twice as wide but half as thick (like the unfolding wings of a butterfly!). Typical hamburger buns, which still have a bit of bread left to connect the top and bottom halves, are a good example of this.
-In our use case here, a series of these single “almost through” cuts are combined to produce a long thin single piece of meat like a banner. To help visualize this, imagine using a jigsaw to cut a spiral in a piece of wood, starting from an edge and ending at the center. The butterflying process will typically produce an angular spiral, with corners, as it’s made of relatively straight cuts with direction changes at the end of each cut.
-Butterflying is a more dangerous process than most ways that we cut food, because the knife is going sideways and requires more control and attention to the height of both ends of the knife as it moves through the cut. Pay close attention to where your hands are and be prepared for spots in the meat that have less resistance, allowing sudden surprising progress. A sharp knife is strongly recommended for this process because the sharper the knife, the more uniform the resistance, and far less push power is needed to make progress.
-Please don’t cut yourself!
-Lay the pork loin on the cutting board with the fat pad facing up. Most pork loins will have a pair of sloped sides and a pair of fairly vertical cut sides.
-Set the knife to one of the sloped sides of the meat, with the blade aimed sideways into the meat and held parallel to the cutting board. If you want to simply make a single cut, start halfway up the side of the meat; otherwise, start higher. Be warned that a single cut may not hold all the listed amount of filling. If you’re confident and want fancy visuals, try to start your cut right where the fat pad ends, so that it will make a nice uniform top later.
-Cut across the meat, making smooth slow forward-backward motions with constant sideways pressure. Try to stay level as you go across, and leave roughly half an inch uncut at the other side. If you’re only making one cut, skip to the next section.
-Rotate the meat 180 degrees and unfold it like opening a book.
-Cut downward next to the spine of the “book” into the thicker portion of the meat, trying to keep a margin of half an inch to both the side and the bottom of the cut.
-Pull that cut open flat and position your knife sideways at the bottom of the cut.
-Cut across, trying to keep a half inch margin below the knife, until you’re about half an inch from the far side again.
-Unfurl the meat further and continue until you run out of cuts to make. You may need to pile up the cut portion at the side of the cutting board.
When you’ve finished cutting, lay the whole length of meat out across the cutting boards (fat pad side down). You may not need both boards, especially if you went with a single cut.
Spread your sauerkraut evenly across the entire surface of the meat, right out to the edges. Each edge piece will still be a serving.
Spread your currants evenly in the same manner.
Spread your spices evenly in the same manner. A helper with clean hands is ideal for this bit if you’ve got one.
Starting at the end furthest from the fat pad, slowly roll the whole thing up like a scroll. Make sure to keep pressure at the edges as you go, to keep the filling from escaping.
Finish by putting the fat pad upright.
Work the first piece of twine in underneath the meat from one side by holding it taut as you pull it along, to about an inch in from the side of the roll. Tie it off, tightly.
Do the same at the other side. The twine will keep the roll from being able to expand as it pleases in the oven; if left untied, the roll will arch open as the meat cooks and potentially unroll itself completely.
Load the meat over to the foiled pan, mindful of drips.
Place in the middle height of the oven at 375f and cook until a meat thermometer put to the center reaches 155f. (Approximately one hours.) Just in case, please remember that unless a meat thermometer specifically says it’s good to leave in (like a remote probe), you want to remove it and clean it after every test probe, and try not to re-use probe holes. If your fat pad looks like it’s heading past “deliciously crispy brown” and into “risky darkness” but the roast’s interior isn’t up to temperature yet, you can loosely cover the whole thing with aluminum foil to keep the top from browning further while it continues to cook.
This is a good time to wash well one of the cutting boards and your knife if you’ll need them to serve the roast. Raw meat juice is one of the prime enemies of safe dining.
When the roast has finished cooking, move the pan to trivets or hotpads, and let it rest for a few minutes until it’s cooled enough to grip tightly (so that you can cut it). If you have a fancy glove or are good with a carving fork, you may be able to cut it early, but, like any roast, it will still benefit from at least a short rest period.
Once you can comfortably handle it, move the roast to a clean cutting board and cut the twine with kitchen scissors (or your knife if you’re confident, but it’s a weird texture out of the oven and cuts strangely).
With a clean carving/chef knife, cut the roast for service. Cut across the roll so that each portion is a spiral; a nice slice might be anywhere from half an inch to an inch wide, depending on your guest list and the shape of the roast. Consider that a few extra slices may be more pleasing than rendering the perfect number all extra-thick.
Transfer by hand or tool to a serving platter. Be careful, as the spirals will wish each to come apart at this stage. If they break apart, do not despair, as perfect visuals are the least important grade to score.
Pork is done (safe to eat) at 145F but we prefer the texture at 155F. It takes 20 minutes per pound for pork to reach 145F at an oven temperature of 375F. If your pork loin is noticeably larger/smaller than the one we used, use this equation to get a starting idea of how long before you check your pork temperature.
You can use any brand of sauerkraut you like, but we particularly prefer the Cleveland brand kraut, particularly the one with caraway.
We also did an alternate filling without the sauerkraut, using the same amount of currants with dried apple slices to cover the inside of the pork. This took a slightly different spicing:
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp ginger
- ¾ tsp ground black pepper
- 2 tsp ceylon cinnamon
- 1 tsp nutmeg