Clay Cooker Pork Loin
This week, a nice lady named Pam commented on a post in here somewhere, where I talk about making brisket and we talked about using the Romertopf clay cooker. I said I was a huge fan of mine, and had it now for about 20 years I think – but Pam said, she never cooked meats in hers. I was amazed–I think that is the thing these cookers do best, so I was inspired to make something in it.
I had a pork loin thawed, so rather than grill it as I was going to do, I aimed it for the clay cooker.
The Pork Loin was about 2 1/2 pounds, and they called it “extra lean” and it was in fact, very well trimmed so I didn’t have to do more to it.
While I got the meat ready, I soaked the clay cooker in the sink in cool water. You have to do this with a cooker, or they may crack on you in the oven. When you’re prepping stuff, a good 10-20 minute soak will do you well.
For seasoning them, you could do whatever you like to do with pork. I love playing around with spice blends and rubs– and had some of my own mix, a pork rub I made for a butt roast a few weeks ago. I keep empty spice jars, so when I have excess doing a rub, I can use it again.
This one had dry cumin, some cinnamon, allspice and brown sugar, salt and pepper, fresh ground sage & tarragon, chili powder and god knows what else. I can get a little nutty, trying to build really complex seasoning…but I did not coat it real heavy, just very consistently.
Layering it Up
One thing I like in clay cooking meats, is to layer up veggies under the meat. What it does is soak up, and add to flavors and texture of the cooking meat – it is a wonderfully self-contained meal when you’re done, too.
I suppose I could have been more deliberate in which veggies I picked, but I was simply going with whatever I had here. I had some zucchini, so that was chopped up. I like the basic soup stock veggies, but did not have any celery–no worries, I used carrots and red onion anyway.
A new one for me on this one, was kale- I had a bag of frozen kale, shredded, so thought it would be perfect: pork loin and southern greens. The way the cooker works greens like kale are really nice, because cooking them longer only makes them more tender.
I also like having veggies between the meat and the cooker, because I have had meats bake into the side of the cooker, then fall apart on me as I try to get it free. Not always a bad thing, but the veggies don’t stick like that for me, so it helps.
Plus, like I said, I was going for something here–so I put red onion and portobello mushrooms as my root layer. Then, the chopped veggies. Then, a bunch of kale. I figured the lower veggies would quickly cook down into a stock-ish blend, adding a ton of body to the pork and greens.
Once I had all the layers in place, I laid the two pork loins on top of it. Those little renegade zuke chunks, were because I had to roll it into place. But this was a nice, full cooker- ready to go in the oven.
Baking in the Clay Cooker
Instead, the heat comes up in it gradually- and it steams, and bakes at the same time.
In this case, I set a low temp, because I was aiming it for when my wife got home from work…so with the 2.5 pound size, I gave it about 2 1/2 hours, at 325 degrees. an hour per pound, low temp- erring on the side of a little longer, likely is better (or a little more heat). It is a thing to learn, how to time and heat these things, so the meats come out as you want.
The beauty of clay cookers, is once it goes in the oven, you really are about done until you eat…it works better, if you never open it or have to mess with it. If your heat is too high, or you go too long, you basically turn everything in it into soup–it may taste wonderful, but it tend to lose a lot of color and body.
So remember in that last paragraph, when I was talking about going a bit too long? Well, my wife was a hour late from work this night, so rather than stop it, I simply let it go another extra hour…same temp. Oops.
Not that I minded one little bit…the pictures do not do this justice, as it was really beautiful. You can see, compared to when the kale was uncooked, how it went down a few inches in there…and the aroma, was pure heaven–for hours, the house smelled simply fantastic, it was a very comforting thing. Actually (I made this 2 nights ago) this morning, there were still traces of the scent in my stairwell to the basement–yesterday, it was still very strong. Very cool side effect.
So looking at it, done, it seemed a silly amount of food for just the two of us…even with leftovers, this was a lot of dinner. No worries: I just lifted out one of the pork loins, shredded it, and immediately put it into the freezer for this weekend. I am gonna take it out, frozen, and cube it – then heat it up in a homemade BBQ so we get to love on it again.
For dinner that night, I made some Basmati rice (1 cup rice, 1 3/4 cup water and a splash of olive oil. bring to boil, cover, lower heat- simmering for 15 minutes or so. Turn off heat, and leave covered to absorb water- perfect, every time), knowing it would be perfect with the greens and pork.
I did have thoughts about slicing it into roulades- but as soon as I touched the one to move it, I knew I was not going to cut anything. If I would have removed it when I planned to, I could have- but the extra hour really made this guy soft.
OK- I fork-split it up (eating all kinds of taste samples): both the one I froze, and the one for dinner. Took me one minute to mash the meat into the greens, so it was like a pork loin stew.
When I plated it, like the redneck I am, I added salsa and sour cream to it- but it needed nothing. I think I just wanted some red color, and I am a redneck, so salsa and sour cream make everything better.
The pork loin was wonderous though–super moist (clay cooking RULES!!!), the rub came thru with some great flavors and scents, and the greens were perfect. The non-freezer leftovers did not even make it past lunchtime yesterday…I may be getting into that freezer bag a little sooner than expected.
But that is a very simple, easy to replicate recipe for some really, really delicious pork loin in a clay cooker. Pam said her family was still in the throes of a well-cooked brisket: but I am betting, her clay cooker starts seeing a lot more meats. I thank her for the inspiration to do this anyway–any excuse, is a good one to bust out the clay cooker.
Later Add: To satisfy my own curiosity and make sure I was not messing up, I did one this week in the clay cooker using only a dry rub on it for a bit, about 2 pounds and cooked it at 410 for 1 hour. I pre-soaked the cooker, and did NOT add any extra liquid to it. It cooked beautifully- I took it out, and let it rest in the cooker to finish/cool a bit and temp leveled at a fine 168 for me. Held its shape a lot more, so if you want roulade-type cuts when completed, hotter, less time worked well for me. For shredding/cuban styled pork cook it long and slow- either way, you win.