Visit your local farmers’ market or butcher store and ask for pork chops from heritage breed pigs raised on pasture. Look for thick-cut bone-in chops that are dark pink or red in color and well marbled with fat. (A pale pink chop cut thin with little fat and no bone eats dry, bland and tough by comparison.)

This recipe calls for juniper berries, which are used commonly in central Europe to season flavorful meats. You can find them at specialty food stores or seasonally on Eastern Red Cedar trees (Juniperus virginiana) growing near you here in southeastern New England. You get your choice of citrus zest to complement the other flavors on your plate.

  • 2 splendid thick bone-in chops (see headnote)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon bruised juniper berries
  • 1 tablespoon finely shred citrus zest
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • kosher or sea salt
  • freshly-ground black pepper

Mix olive oil with juniper, citrus, and rosemary in a dish or container large enough to hold the meat in a single layer. Add chops, turning to coat. Cover and chill up to 8 hours. Flip the meat around halfway through the marination period for better flavor distribution.

At least an hour before you want to cook, get a hardwood fire going, and retrieve the container of chops from the fridge to take the chill off. Sprinkle chops with abundant coarse salt and freshly-ground black pepper.

When you have a nice heap of very hot coals ready for cooking, push them over to one side of the grill to clean and preheat the grill grate. Sear the chops on all sides (including edges) over the hotter coals, then move them to the cooler part of the grill to finish, rotating them as necessary to even out their exposure to the heat. Total time on the grill might be 12-14 minutes; the second their internal temperature touches 140 degrees, transfer them to a very warm platter, and lightly tent with foil. Allow to rest in a warm place for 7-8 minutes, then carve and serve.

Serves 2 – 4, depending.

Recipe by Carter Wilkie. Read his article Why my Pork Chop looks like a Ribeye here.