The cherries at the market this time of year never cease to remind me of the summer I spent in London while I was in college. It was the summer between my sophomore and junior years, and I was there as part of a Shakespeare-driven study abroad program. In between sunburnt study sessions in Regent’s Park and evenings spent with my elbows pressed upon the stage of the Globe Theatre, I learned a thing or two about the best places to get the best food in my Bloomsbury neighborhood. There was that Greek place over by the British Museum where we, one night, slurped down small glasses of ice-cold ouzo. There was also that take-away shop just beside our school building, where we ordered hot tea and buttery scones in between classes. And I’ll never forget the veggie burgers at the College Arms — or how great they tasted beside a big pile of hot, crispy, vinegar-drenched chips and washed down with a pint of English cider.
There were also cherries.
Just beside the Russell Square Tube station entrance, there was always a vendor sending fruit. A few British pounds would get you a few generous handfuls of dark, garnet-red cherries, packed into a brown paper bag. I would hop on the Tube with my purchase, deftly popping cherries into my mouth, one by one, and then unassumingly returning the chewed-up pits back into the bag. In many ways, my behavior was no less strange than the behavior of those other riders consuming their own substances that they had concealed behind brown paper. But sketchy or not, it was somewhat of a Tube-riding ritual for me — and I have a certain nostalgia for it. And a certain nostalgia for the cherries.
My London days were part of my near decade-long wayfare through vegetarianism, so this pork wouldn’t have been an option for me then. But today it seems only fitting to pair these cherries with something that would have been starkly out of context during that tea-stained, iambic pentametered summer. After all, I’ve grown.
This pork tenderloin is delicious. I know. I’m supposed to be humble and say not much more than that it’s pretty good and that you should consider giving it a try for dinner some time. But my humility would do you no favors because this pork is more than pretty good and you really ought to get to cooking it soon — at the very least, sometime before the market’s cherry well runs dry for the summer. Not only is this pork sweet in all the right ways, but the shallots and the garlic and the thyme also really manage to pull through in the savory department — and in sort of a big way.
Pork Tenderloin With Stone Fruit and Thyme.
For four to six.
Cherry-Thyme Pork Brine:
- 1/4 cup sea salt
- 8-10 peppercorns
- 8-10 mustard seeds
- 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2-3 dried bay leaves
- fresh thyme (about one-third of a 1 ounce package)
- 1-1/2 cup 100% cherry juice
- 4 cups water
Thyme-Crusted Pork Tenderloin:
- Pork tenderloin (1 to 1-1/2 pounds)
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Stone Fruit Relish:
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small shallot, minced (about 1/3 cup)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Sea salt + cracked black pepper
- 1 pound cherries, pitted and chopped
- 2 plums, pitted and chopped
- 1/3 cup 100% cherry juice
- 2 tablespoons sulfite-free balsamic vinegar
- 6 or 7 sprigs of thyme
First make the Cherry-Thyme Brine. Add all of the ingredients to a large pot and heat until the salt dissolves. Allow the brine to cool completely before submerging the tenderloin, covering, and refrigerating for 8-24 hours.
Next, cook the pork. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small bowl, mix together the garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper. Remove the pork from the brine and pat it dry with a paper towel. Rub the tenderloin with the garlic and thyme mixture.
Heat the 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a cast-iron skillet. Add the tenderloin and sear on each side, for a couple of minutes each. Put the pan into the preheated oven and roast for about 30 minutes (flipping the tenderloin over half-way through), or until the pork reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Allow the pork to rest for at least five minutes, and then slice it on the bias.
While the pork is cooking, make the Stone Fruit Relish. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the shallots, garlic, and a pinch each of salt and pepper, and cook for a minute or two, until the translucent. Add the fruit and cook for a few minutes more, and then add the cherry juice and the balsamic. Bury the thyme sprigs in the liquid and simmer for 5-8 minutes, until it thickens slightly. Remove the thyme and spoon over the sliced pork.
Notes: You don’t need to brine the pork, but you should. It makes a huge difference, and you probably have all of the ingredients around the house anyways. Also, if you don’t have a cast iron skillet, you can sear the pork in another skillet and then transfer to a roasting pan for the oven.
Good news! This recipe is Whole30 compliant!