Adapted from Chez Panisse Café Cookbook, by Alice Waters.
Serves 6 to 8
The classic French way to cure pork is to brine it. Typically, brine for curing contains salt, sugar, herbs, and spices. It acts as a marinade and a cure at the same time, producing pork a bit like a mild ham. (The most delicious turkey I ever tasted was cured in brine in just the same way.) A pork loin or shoulder will need to sit in brine, completely submerged, for about 5 days; large chops will be ready in 2 or 3.
Put 2 1/2 gallons cold water in a large, nonreactive container that will hold the meat and brine. Stir in the salt and sugar. Slightly crush and add the bay leaves, peppercorns, clove, allspice, and chili peppers. Add the garlic and thyme. Add the pork and put a plate on top to keep the meat submerged. Refrigerate for 5 days or more.
Remove the pork from the brine and pat dry. Roast pork loin for about 1 hour, grill over a medium fire, or slice into very thin chops and brown them in a cast-iron pan. They will cook very quickly, about 1 minute per side. Finish with a good fistful of chopped parsley and garlic if you wish. A brined shoulder is good boiled or braised, and is delicious to add to cooked beans.
"There's something so special about the sound [Spam] makes when it comes out of the can," says Aubry Walch, co-owner of Minneapolis-based The Herbivorous Butcher. "I just can't duplicate that." Aubry and her brother, Kale, sell a line of meat- and cheese-like products that are vegan.