Buttermilk and Lemon Pork Chops

Tonight’s dinner failed the color test (so no photos tonight), but passed the taste test with flying colors.  This may be the best pork chop I’ve ever eaten.  And I’m a girl who knows her pork.  I’ve brined pork chops in buttermilk before, but they weren’t this good.  Two things were different this time:  the buttermilk and the lemon and thyme rub.  I think I might be getting the hang of this cooking thing.

I bought buttermilk over the weekend to make the Red Devil Cake so I needed to find a way to use the rest.  Now, this is full fat buttermilk from Homestead Creamery.  It’s like pouring yogurt out of the bottle.  A huge improvement over my previous encounters with fat-free buttermilk.  Don’t worry too much about the fat.  You’re going to throw the buttermilk away after the pork chops brine overnight.  The brine adds a lot of moisture and the rub adds a lot of flavor.  The best of all possible combinations when it comes to pork chops.  The problem with most pork chops is that people are so afraid of trichinosis that they cook their pork to dust.  It’s just not necessary.  A little pink in the middle won’t hurt you.  I’m not advocating pork tartare, just leaving enough juice in the meat that you might actually enjoy it.

The rub is just salt, sugar, thyme and lemon zest with enough olive oil to make a paste.  If you haven’t tried cooking with citrus zest yet, here’s your opportunity.  The flavor is much more intense than juice and, obviously, doesn’t add liquid where you don’t want it.  You can use the tiny side of your box grater if need be, but it’s worth spending a few dollars on a microplane (sometimes called a zester).  They key is to shave off just the colored part of the peel.  As you undoubtedly know if you’ve ever eaten a poorly peeled orange, the white part (the pith) is very bitter.  Not a welcome addition to any recipe.  You’ll need to rotate the lemon very frequently to get enough zest without digging into the pith.

I served these with corn on the cob and sauteed squash and onions, thus the epic color failure.  You’d do better to serve them with steamed broccoli and/or sauteed spinach.  Not only would it look nicer on the plate, but the flavor balance would be better.  Dark green vegetables have a tiny bit of bitterness that would be good against the tangy buttermilk and citrus.  Beets or carrots would be good too if you’re looking for a second veggie to round out the plate.  Either one would add a little sugar.  Yum.

The only other thing I might do differently next time is cook the chops on the grill.  A little char would be nice on these.  The advantage though to using the cast iron skillet is that I was able to make a little pan sauce.  Anytime you sear meat in cast iron you end up with those lovely bits on the bottom of the pan.  It’s just about criminal to leave them there.  I deglazed the pan with about 1/2 C of chicken stock, stirring to loosen the bits on the bottom of the pan.  Then I reduced the liquid by about 1/3 and removed the pan from the heat.  Add a little butter to the pan and stir until it’s blended in to add a silky texture and a nice shine to your sauce.

Good? Definitely
Easy? Yep, just remember to brine the night before.
Good for company? Not fancy, but good.
Special shopping? Buttermilk. Get the good stuff.

Buttermilk and Lemon Pork Chops


3-4 bone-in pork chops
2 C buttermilk
1 T salt
1 T sugar
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp black pepper
1 T fresh lemon zest
1 tsp olive oil


Put pork chops and buttermilk in a zip top bag and brine in the refrigerator overnight.
Remove pork chops and discard buttermilk.
Remove as much buttermilk as possible from the pork chops and pat them dry.
Mix salt, sugar, thyme, pepper, lemon zest and olive oil in a small bowl to make a paste.
Rub a small amount of paste on both sides of each pork chop.
Heat a small amount of olive oil or cooking spray in a cast iron skillet until it begins to smoke.
Cook chops at med-high heat 4 minutes on each side.
Remove the chops from the pan and keep them warm.
If you wish, deglaze the pan with a little stock and reduce by 1/2 to 1/3. Remove the pan from heat and stir in a little butter.   Pour over the chops.


One Response to “Buttermilk and Lemon Pork Chops”

  1. The Funny Farm Foodies Says:

    Sounds very similar to the recipe we tried tonight, and I would agree – tho pan glazes are divine, a nice grilled pork chop can’t be beat – plus, we ended up smoking out the kitchen! LOL

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