“Mom,” I texted, “would you please send me your recipe for sweet and sour pork chops?”
“Will try,” she replied. “Not sure what condition it’s in.”
Four hours later, three photos arrived, each a yellowed sheets of paper, splattered with more than 40 years of food, the hallmarks of a good recipe. The top of the first page reads, “McCall’s 1969.”
This is the recipe that defines sweet and sour pork for me. Far from small scraps of pork hidden in thick, doughy breading, choked in a gelatinous blend of corn syrup and Red Dye #40, Mom’s recipe is a simple but elegant balance of vinegar and brown sugar, tied together by sweet, acidic pineapple. Earthy soy and the underlying bitterness of green pepper ground the dish, whose flavors are mellowed and bound by rich pork.
A online scan of 15 sweet and sour pork chop recipes revealed few changes from McCall’s 1969 masterpiece. I dove in, eliminating bottled ketchup and canned stock. Mild, sweet, white balsamic vinegar and light Temari soy sauce let thick, porterhouse pork chops, fresh pineapple and vegetables shine through. Tapioca starch gently thickens the sauce.
It’s a good recipe. Really good. The kind you want to print out and start splattering with food. It should be nicely yellowed in 40 years or so.
Sweet And Sour Porterhouse Pork Chops
- 4 porterhouse or loin pork chops, about 1″ thick and bone-in
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup White Balsamic or Peach Vinegar*
- 1/4 cup cup Tamari soy sauce
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1 tbs peanut oil
- 1/2 large red onion cut in 1” chunks
- 1 red pepper cut in 1” chunks
- 1 green pepper cut in 1” chunks
- 1/2 pineapple cut in 1” chunks
- 1” ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 tbs tapioca or corn starch**
*Sapore’s Peach vinegar was delicious in this dish! White Balsamic would deliver similar mild acidity with light sweetness.
**What’s up with tapioca starch? If you can find, it is a very neutral tasting thickener, not dulling the flavors of the other ingredients. I use it exclusively for fruit and berry pies. Corn starch is a perfectly acceptable substitute.
- Pat pork chops dry with paper towels. Season both sides with salt and pepper.
- Whisk together brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce and chicken stock. Reserve.
- Heat peanut oil in a large sauté pan over med-high heat. Brown pork chops, about 3 minutes per side. Reserve pork chops.
- Return pan to medium heat and add onions. Cook 2 minutes until softened. Add red and green peppers and cook 2 minutes longer.
- Add pineapple and ginger. Cook an additional two minutes.
- Return pork chops to pan, along with any liquid that has accumulated on the plate, nestling them in the vegetables. Add the sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 50 minutes.
- Remove pork chops and vegetables with a slotted spoon. Whisk together tapioca starch with 2 tbs warm water. Add to pan and cook, on med-high, stirring, until sauce thickens. Serve over pork chops, pineapple and vegetables.