Friday, October 3, 2014

A Tin Pot, a Coffee Sack, and a Bag of Seeds

John Chapman was born in Massachusetts in 1774. He served in the Continental Army under George Washington during the Revolutionary War. After ending his military service, he apprenticed at a nursery in Pennsylvania, where he would pick apple seeds from the pomace produced by a local cider mill. While apples grown from seed are most likely too unpalatable to eat, they are perfect to make cider. John realized a great opportunity. He packed up his seeds and headed west in a hollowed out log, barefoot, donning his tin pot on his head, and wearing a coffee sack as a shirt! He would stop along uninhabited places along the river banks, plant some of the seeds, and hire a local boy to maintain and sell the trees to future new settlers, who no doubt would be eager for some hard cider! John, who became known as "Johnny Appleseed," would then travel further west, planting his apple nurseries along the way. 

In addition to his love of apples, John was a missionary for The New Church. He would offer to tell stories and read the church doctrine in exchange for a place to sleep, if the weather dictated. According to The Botany of Desire, by Michael Pollan (one of my favorite books ever!), John preferred the company of children and Native Americans. In fact, it is rumored that he'd once been engaged to marry a ten-year-old girl, but she broke his heart. (Creepy!) According to Robert Price, who wrote a biography about John in 1954, he "had the thick bark of queerness on him." And finally from Pollan, "By the 1830s, John was operating a chain of nurseries that reached all the way from western Pennsylvania through central Ohio and into Indiana. It was in Fort Wayne that Chapman died in 1845-wearing the infamous coffee sack, some say, yet leaving an estate that included some 1,200 acres of prime real estate. The barefoot crank died a wealthy man."

So in honor of John's apples, and the fact that apple cider is now available in stores, I want to share this wonderful recipe for "Cider and Sage Pork!" Not only is this recipe quite delicious, it's easy and quick! Basically, you slice a pork tenderloin into medallions, sear them, set them aside, and make a sauce of shallots, sage, sherry vinegar, mustard, apple cider, and a splash of cream, all in the same pan! Done! I like to serve it with green beans (but without the pecans and basil) and whipped sweet potatoes (substituting pure maple syrup for the chipotle). It makes a beautiful fall dish that is as interesting as Johnny Appleseed!


Cider and Sage Pork

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 1/4 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed and silver skin removed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup shallots, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh sage, chopped
4 teaspoons sherry vinegar
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup apple cider (not hard cider, usually in the produce area of the grocery)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
Fresh sage leaves for garnish (optional)

Directions:

Cut the pork tenderloin into 12 pieces. (Tip: Cut the tenderloin in half, then cut each half in half, then cut each of those into three pieces. Voila!) 


Sprinkle both sides of the pork medallions with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork; cook 3 minutes on each side or until done. Remove pork from pan; cover to keep warm.

Add remaining oil, shallots, and chopped sage; cook 2 minutes. Stir in the vinegar. Whisk broth, cider, mustard, and cornstarch together. Add the mixture to the pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in cream. Serve with the pork and garnish with sage leaves, if desired.

Recipe slightly adapted from CookingLight.

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