Pork Chops with Prunes, Onion, and (Homemade) Balsamic Vinegar

Hundreds of years ago, cooks often prepared meat all cooked together with fruit. Somehow, with perhaps the exception of mincemeat and pork and apples in the German tradition, we forgot to do that in the 1800s and even early 1900s, except perhaps for some ethnic dishes. Meat with fruit certainly never showed up in my mid-twentieth century childhood but I find recipes now all over the place with combinations of dried and fresh fruits. Good thing, too.

So with some pork chops thawing, and a hope that we could think of something a little different to do with them, I went poking online and deep in my favorite food website (Food52) there was a cluster of pork chop recipes. I cobbled together ideas from two or three and came up with pork chops braised with prunes, red onion, and balsamic vinegar.

Most grocery store balsamic vinegar is way too thin and acidic to approximate the real thing which is a little sweet and actually quite syrupy. I learned a while back at the Stonewall Kitchen cooking school that a bottle of grocery balsamic vinegar can be slowly evaporated over low heat until it thickens somewhat, approximating the much more expensive aged balsamic. Producing homemade balsamic makes it possible for me to use it generously.

We ended up thinking that the prune, onion, vinegar and red wine mixture was almost better than the pork chops themselves. We ate it with wilted agrugula and beet greens, and asparagus, all from the garden. It tasted so good.

Here is how to make what I call Faux Balsamic Vinegar: Take a standard bottle of commercial balsamic vinegar and empty it into a non-corrosive sauce pan. Set it over a low heat and leave it until it has reduced by at least half. Taste it; it should be a little sweet, tart, and it ought to coat a spoon. Continue heating and reducing until it does.

Pork Chops with Prunes, Onion, and Balsamic Vinegar
Serves: 3-4
  • Olive oil
  • 4 pork chops
  • 1 large red onion coarsely chopped
  • 18 prunes, snipped in half
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • A splash of red wine
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Dribble a little olive oil in a heavy fry pan and heat over medium high temperature.
  2. Add the pork chops and brown on both sides for about three minutes per side; remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. Put the onions in the pan and cook until they soften.
  4. Add the prunes and vinegar and cook together until all the stuck-on bits in the pan have cooked off.
  5. Simmer together for a few moments and add a couple of splashes of red wine, and cook all together until the sauce is slightly thickened.
  6. Taste and add salt and pepper top taste.
  7. Return the chops to the pan, top with the thyme, reduce the temperature to low and heat all together for about ten minutes.


Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.