One of the things I love most about pork tenderloin is that it’s so lean. It almost doesn’t taste like pork!
Growing up I had something of an aversion to fatty meats. I know I prefer leaner cuts of meat with any excess fat trimmed away. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for eating a balance of healthy fats, but eating the fat marbled in a roast beef or the fat on the side of a juicy steak turns me off.
I have a strong memory of my Opa eating every scrap of fat and gristle of his plate. My parents sent me to stay with my Oma and Opa in Germany for the summer when I was 15.
As a very lean and growing teenage boy, my grandparents thought they needed to fatten me up. Every meal was peppered with, “Eat! You so skinny!” I never had to ask for seconds, because I wasn’t given the choice. Any extra portions were put on my plate.
When we had beef or pork chops, I would cut away all the fat and push it to the rim of my plate. My Opa would look at me quizzically and ask, “Why you no eat?” I never liked the texture or the taste of chunks of meat fat in my mouth. I’d pass my plate to him and he would devour my discards.
I later found out that this was his post-WWII mentality. My Opa was captured by the Americans and held in a prison camp for most of the war. In a way he was lucky because he came out of the war alive and in one piece. He told me that some days they were only fed one tablespoon of soup or sugar (I can’t remember exactly, but I do remember it was only a tablespoon).
In the afternoons we ate “Kaffe und Kuchen” (coffee and cake). My Oma took great pride in the fact that I would devour half of the fruit flan, cake or cookies she had made. Nothing gave her more pleasure than spending all day cooking and baking for her grandson.
Years before my summer visit we went to Germany as a family. One night we went out to dinner in the rural town where my Grandparents lived (Unteröwisheim near Bruchsal). I probably had blood sausage and bratwurst. I remember the taste and the textures, the grease and fat in my mouth, and then rushing off to the bathroom to be ill.
This is why I enjoy pork tenderloin so much – it’s lean, there are no chunks of fat and it takes on the flavours and spices that it gets cooked in. I made a version of this recipe a few weeks ago and decided this had to be one of my new recipes for Eat, Move, Be.
For the first attempt of my pork tenderloin with cranberries I chopped up the apple and onions by hand. I decided to use a food chopper this time to get a nicer looking presentation and an even distribution of flavour. I added celery for a more aromatic taste, as well as a very hot cayenne pepper. If you have a mild cayenne pepper feel free to increase the amount in the recipe. Mine is so hot that if I add too much it will kill the dish.
After I chopped the apples, onion, celery and garlic I wondered if I should have added the cranberries to be part of the purée. You could, but when you serve the tenderloin it looks so nice with the rich red of the cranberries against the turmeric-yellow of the purée.
This is a yummy dish. The sweetness of the apples and cranberries balance out the sharpness of the onion and the hot cayenne pepper.
It’s a bit challenging to know when the tenderloin is perfectly done, because it’s covered in the purée. The easiest way to check is to remove the pan from the oven and carefully lift the top tenderloin to look at the underside. It should be grey and not too pink or it’s still uncooked. It’s also ok to remove some of the purée from the top to check for doneness with a meat fork.
When I removed the tenderloin from the oven I let it sit about 10 minutes to cool before cutting. This keeps the juices in the meat instead of draining out. The top tenderloin was still slightly pink – literally just cooked. If that makes you squeamish add 10 more minutes of oven time!
To store and/or serve, cut the tenderloin in half across the width. Remove with a large meat turner spatula onto a cutting board. Use a sharp knife (I used my filleting knife) and slowly cut across the width to make 1.5″ thick servings.
Eat well to be well.