Most of you already know about my obsession with Woodchuck Fall Cider. It is, quite simply, fall in a bottle. I’ve described it, on various occasions, as follows: “it’s a cozy sweatshirt on a crisp fall day.” Or “It tastes like the leaves are changing from green to red and yellow and orange all at once.” Or “It’s got nutmeg, cinnamon, apples and magical unicorn fairy dust in it.” And “Imagine Auburn, on a home game Saturday in the fall. It’s 10 am and the game isn’t until 6. You’ve got your tailgate set up with the rest of the Auburn family and you’re hanging out in the most perfect weather with your best friends. Drinking fall cider is sort of like drinking that feeling.” It’s only available for 2 months out of the year, and I stockpile it like a squirrel does nuts.
(I should tell you that if you don’t like cider, or you don’t like overly sweet things, you won’t enjoy this beverage. And I should also warn you that you probably will not want to drink more than 1 at a time. Not because they’re high gravity, but because they are intense. Like that unicorn I mentioned. One is enough. Oh, and if you can find it on draft… lucky you. Draft fall cider is the holy grail of adult beverages: fruit category.)
I know it’s February, and fall cider season is long gone. But I still had one fall cider left in the fridge, saving it for a special occasion. Since yesterday was Valentine’s Day, I figured it was a special enough occasion to us the last little bit of fall cider we’ll have until September. I emptied the bottle into “marinade” and “sauce” containers, and smiled just smelling it. Mmmmm.
As one who pretty much refuses to go out for Valentine’s Day (overrated, Hallmark holiday, can’t we just go out next Friday instead and avoid all these people?), I knew I wanted to make us a tasty at-home meal. I had this super on-sale pork loin hanging out in the fridge that needed to get cooked, and even though it’s no longer fall, I figured an apple-flavored grilled pork loin is always in season.
I’m sharing the recipe so I won’t forget what I did. Because it turned out pretty good.
Fall Cider Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Apple-Onion Compote
In a small bowl, prepare the marinade for the pork. I used: 1/2 of a Woodchuck Fall Cider, a couple tablespoons olive oil, a few big pinches of salt, freshly ground black pepper, dried thyme and about a half tablespoon each of grainy mustard and dijon. Whisk together and pour in a ziploc bag with a 1.5 pound pork tenderloin. Make sure the marinade covers the pork, seal the bag, and let it hang out in the fridge all day. (Pro tip: pork chops would work just fine in place of a pork tenderloin – just adjust the cooking time.)
When you’re ready to cook it, grill the pork on high heat for 6 minutes per side. Then transfer to an oven heated at 375 for roughly 12-15 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches whatever level of “I think we’re safe from a foodborne illness” you’re comfortable with (for me, that magic number is 160.)
Let the roast rest for about 5 minutes, slice and serve.
If you feel like being extra special fancy, while your pork is cooking, heat a skillet over medium-high heat with some olive oil. When the oil is hot, add about half a sliced onion and sliced apple, with salt, pepper & dried thyme. When the onions start to caramelize and the apples start to soften, add in about a tablespoon of grainy mustard, the remainder of your fall cider, crank the heat up to high, and let the moisture reduce completely, whisking to combine the mustard with the liquid. Then finish it off with a splash of heavy cream. Serve the pork with this on top.
Suggested sides: I made mashed potatoes and broccoli, but any mild starch and your favorite green vegetable would work.