Described as "slightly sweet and peppery" the annatto seed from the tropical achiote trees is a fun, different Caribbean spice that marries well with the tender, sweetness brought in through the brine. Seen at the right, the annatto is a very colorful seed that has a rich flavor and an ever richer color. In fact, for centuries its been used for its pigment to color cheeses (e.g., Cheddar, Gloucester cheese, Red Leicester, Gouda and Brie) among other things among other things like butter and even lipstick in some cultures.
The unique flavor of this dish derives from combining the a wet rub made from the annatto seed and from brining the pork chops. Now, there are two basic ways to brine, wet brine and dry brine. In this recipe we'll use a wet brine to impart moisture and thoroughly infuse the pork chops with a great flavor.
Brine for Pork Chops
- 5 cups of water
- 1 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1 cup rice vinegar
- 1.5 oz McCormick pickling spice
- 3 tbsp kosher or sea salt
- 4-10 extra thick cut pork chops
Two to four hours before you're ready to grill mix the above ingredients in a large bowl and stir thoroughly to dissolve the salt and sugar. Place the pork chops in the bowl and if necessary place a plat on top of the meat to keep them submerged. Refrigerate in the brine solution for 2 to 4 hours.
- 2 tablespoons ground annatto seeds
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup olive oil
Prepare your smoker for 225°F with a mix of oak and either apple or cherry.
Remove the brined chops that we did above. Brush off any of the brining ingredients and pat dry. Mix the ingredients for the achiote wet rub - for grinding the annatto seeds I use a small coffee grinder to get the right texture. Another option would be to purchase already prepared achiote paste from a Mexican grocer or from online stores like Amazon. Take your pork chops and press it into the rub to work in the spices.
No other special treatment is required. Brining here has a few great benefits. Not only only do you end up with extremely moist pork chops, but it is also allows for a little fudge-factor when cooking because it will take an extra 5° worth of cooking without drying out. Your pork chops will be done at 145°F and will be ready to cut in minutes. This takes approximately 1½-2 hours on my grill.