The best thing ever happened a couple of months ago. The USDA lowered the cooking temperature of pork. Now pork can sit at a pink tinged 145 degrees instead of a crusty, chewy, floss-inviting 160. The evolution of this change is directly related to laws passed in food safety.
Even though there is much disturbing news these days about food production including E. coli infested sprouts in Germany, overcrowded, overmedicated, overfed cows and chickens, and genetically modified plants and animals, it’s amazing how far we’ve come in many ways regarding food safety. The main concern about undercooking pork used to be trichinellosis, a disease provoked by tissue dwelling roundworms that caused fevers, muscle aches and a whole bunch of nasty. The trichinella rate has declined exponentially since the 1940s. In a survey by the CDC between 1997-2001, there were only 72 cases reported to the CDC, including 29 cases from bear meat and one from cougar meat (only 12 cases from commercial pork). 1
The rapid decline in trichinella is directly related to government policy. Disgustingly, pigs were previously fed garbage contaminated with raw animal waste. Only until garbage laws were passed in the 1950s did this rate begin to decrease. Other policies enacted by the USDA have also reduced the rate of trichinella.
Even though trichinella is killed by cooking at 140 degrees, there was concern by the USDA that due to uneven cooking, trichinella would survive. This concern has now decreased and pork can be safely cooked to 145, also killing other potential microbes looming on the surface.
Now that I’m officially allowed to undercook my pork, I like it a whole lot better. There’s nothing like a quickly brined pork chop nicely grilled with a tangy fruity sauce on top. This peach salsa is bright and only slightly sweet, complimented by mint, cilantro and jalapeno. I know it’s a lot of fruit recipes lately, but I can’t help myself. It’s summer!
4 center loin boneless pork chops
for the brine 4 cups water, 3 tbsp kosher salt, 1 tbsp brown sugar
For the peach salsa
5 ripe peaches
handful mint leaves--chiffonade
1 large shallot finely diced
1 tsp salt
1 jalapeno finely diced
juice of 1 lime
Place chops in brine and let soak two hours in fridge. Remove from brine and blot with paper towels to dry. To cook, grill (outside or on grill pan) on each side about 7-8 minutes until golden on the outside and 145 degrees on inside. Combine all ingredients for peach salsa. Serve with cold salsa.
Trichinellosis Surveillance --- United States, 1997—2001. MMWR July 25 2003. 52 (SS06); 1-8. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss5206a1.htm