logoby the Patriots Daily Kitchen Staff

This week the Patriots are facing the Bills for first place in the AFC East and the always important head-to-head tiebreaker. The Bills were the only AFC East opponent not to undergo any major changes this offseason. Well, that’s not entirely true; it turns out the Bills will be playing one of their home games in Toronto this year and every other season until 2012.

So lace up your skates, grab a hockey stick, and start practicing your “ehs” and “aboots” as the Buffet Table welcomes the Bills’ new Canadian overlords.

We’re not terribly sure if they still are The ‘Bills’. All Canadian Football teams are named the Roughriders. Or if they will only be playing to three downs, or getting called for too many men penalties every time they line up 12. What we do know is at the Buffet Table we’ll be taking our inspiration from the Bills new Canadian home.

Cider Brined Canadian ‘Bacon’ Pork Loin

Canadian Bacon, the leanest element of the Bacon-Canadian Bacon-Mexican Bacon Food Pyramid is called back bacon in the rest of the world. It is made from the pork loin and cured.

We’ll be using that same cut of meat, but we’ll be brining it in Cider and spices resulting in a juicy moist roast.

Apple Cider 2 quarts
Apple Cider Vinegar 1/4 cup
Salt 1/2 cup
Peppercorns (10) cracked
All spice berries (10) cracked
Cumin, teaspoon

Pork loin
Get a 2 to 3 pound pork loin
alternate – boneless or bone-in chops

There is no need to use hard apple cider in the brine, apple cider or apple juice will be cheaper and work just as well.

Mix all brine ingredients in a large container. Add pork loin, and put a dinner plate on top to hold the pork loin under the surface of the brine. Cover and place in refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours. Do not leave the meat in the brine for more than 24 hours. If the meat is brined too long it will be too salty. The purpose of a brine is not to make meat saltier; it is to force the brined meat to hold onto more moisture than it normally would.

Pressed for time? Then just cut the loin into 1/2″ chops or buy pre-cut loin chops instead of a full loin. They’ll marinade more quickly. It won’t be the same as the long process, but it will still be good.

For the full loin we will cook over indirect heat, medium hot-350 degrees. For chops, heat the grill to the same temperature but cook over direct heat.

Direct cooked chops will take 6-8 minutes per side. The loin will take 90 minutes to 2 hours. When done the meat will be white and the juices will run clear.

Time for a drink!

The Bills’ old home in Upstate New York used to be one of the largest cider making areas of the United States. Cider, or as we call it now Hard Cider, used to be the most popular alcoholic beverage in the United States. They weren’t growing apples back in the Colonial days just to eat them. Why bother eating something that you could turn into alcohol? Alcohol doesn’t go bad and can be stored for a long time.

Hard cider comes in different forms. It can range from still to highly carbonated, from low 4-5% alcohol by volume all the way up into wine range at 10%+ ABV. Low ABV versions tend to be sweeter, while the high alcohol versions can be very dry.

The balance in a cider is maintained by the same elements in wine. Unlike beer there is no bitterness, so the alcohol, residual sweetness, acidity, and tannins have to be in balance.

Common Cider is the simplest of the ciders. A low alcohol cider made with culinary apples, tannin and balance come from the use of crab apples. Culinary apples are those we would use for eating or baking:  Macintosh, Red Delicious, etc. New England style cider has a higher level of acidity due to the apples grown in New England, alcohol is increased by the use of sugars (white, brown, molasses) or honey. English cider has a higher amount of tannins than Common and New England owing to the English cider apples used. French Ciders are usually sweet, the fermentation is usually stopped early, or the cider is sweetened post-fermentation with unfermented apple juice. Finally Perry is a type of Cider made from pear juice instead of apple juice.

You can find ciders of these types at some New England vineyards. Nashoba Valley Winery sells examples of almost all types that they label as wines.

Commercial ciders that we’ll find in liquor stores will be closest to the Common Cider style.

Woodchuck Draft Cider from Vermont has a few styles available. In 6 packs and mixed 12 packs. Woodchuck Amber and Woodchuck Dark & Dry are similar. With Amber having white sugar added post fermentation, and Dark & Dry getting brown sugar. Woodchuck Granny Smith Cider, is unsweetened and is more tart due to the apples used. Woodchuck pear cider is in the Perry style listed above.

Cider Jack is the most commonly available cider. It is made by the same company that produces Woodchuck.

Harpoon Brewery brought a cider to market last year. Harpoon Cider is an unsweetened slightly tart cider.

Boston Beer Company, makers of Sam Adams, puts out a line of ciders under the name Hard Core Cider Company (no website). Their Hard Core Crisp Cider is similar to the Harpoon Cider, but is 5.5% alcohol by volume instead of 4%.

For imports, Kopparberg of Sweden produces a good Cider and Perry. Both are 4.5% alcohol by volume. Bulmer’s of Ireland imports their cider under the name Magner’s to the US.