There probably isn't anything more southern than sweet tea. In high school, I worked at a restaurant that literally made large garbage can sized batches daily. The servers would swing into the kitchen and dunk a pitcher to keep the endless refills flowing! One of the culture shocks I experienced when moving away from the south was the lack of sweet tea elsewhere. Sure, you can order an iced tea and doctor it up with a packet of sweetener, but it just isn't quite the same. If you come to visit me, you can pretty much bet on being offered a glass of sweet tea (or honey lemonade).
I recently started playing around with using tea for brines, and pork tenderloin is the perfect recipient! I used a sous vide to cook this one, but you can also roast it in the oven. When using a sous vide, the meat is cooked at a low temperature for a longer period of time and then seared briefly. If you are roasting, you can sear the pork before popping in the oven.
Sweet Tea Brined Sous Vided Pork Tenderloin
- Pork tenderloin
- 8 cups sweet tea
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt (pickling salt)
- 1 shallot (sliced)
- 4 tablespoons butter
- A couple sprigs of fresh thyme (or a couple shakes of dry thyme)
- Salt & pepper (to season)
- 2 garlic cloves (sliced)
- Oil (for searing)
Combine sweet tea, lemon juice, and kosher salt. You can warm on the stove to dissolve, but make sure it is brought back to room temp before adding the meat. Pour into a boiler or ziplock bag and add your pork tenderloin. Stick in the fridge and let brine for 1-2 hours.
Take the pork out of the brine and dry off with a paper towel. Discard brine. Start heating up the sous vide according to your sous vide instructions (some have different water level requirements and Wi-Fi capabilities). I set mine at 140. Season pork with salt and pepper and place in your sous vide bag of choice. Place garlic, thyme sprigs, shallots, and butter in the bag around the pork, distributing evenly. Vacuum seal the bag shut if you have a vacuum sealer, or follow the instructions from your sous vide if not.
Place into the sous vide water bath and allow to cook at 140 for 2 hours. Remove from bag and discard bag and other contents. Pat dry. Heat a skillet to high and add oil for searing. You will want the pan to be piping hot, and then just briefly sear all sides for about 10 seconds each (sous vided meat will sear much more rapidly than normal).
Let the meat rest for at least 5 minutes.
Please note that the USDA recommended internal temp for pork tenderloin is 145. I have found that cooking at 140 and then searing does the trick, but you can check with a meat thermometer to be on the safe side.
Slice, serve, and enjoy!