Slow cooker meals are a godsend for folks who want to eat at home but don't actually get home until the witching hour, feeling crazy hungry. If you've done your prep work in advance and have the trusty slow cooker working for you, you can return home to a fantastic meal.
These seasoned pork chops fit the bill perfectly with their sweet and savory cranberry riff.
Sauté the onion and celery prior to freezing so that you can really just dump the bag's contents into the cooker and hit the road. (Yes, I’m a stickler for sautéing prior to cooking to ensure great texture.)
Serve these cranberry pork chops with your favorite rice pilaf or mashed potatoes.
Pork chops with cranberries and sautéed vegetables, cooled and ready to freeze.
This meal was incredibly easy and quick to put together — and to cook. It's a beautiful thing — a meal that takes almost no time to prep and is then totally hands off thanks to the slow cooker.
I don't usually gravitate towards recipes with meat and fruit together, but here the cranberries add just the right amount of subtle acidity and fruitiness to the savory pork chops. I even upped the tangy factor by serving them with a cherry chutney and really liked the way it all blended.
Note on searing: I prefer to brown the pork chops before freezing for improved flavor. But I'm sensitive to the fact that some cooks aren't comfortable — from a food safety perspective — with freezing meat that has been partially cooked. We did quite a bit of research on this and haven't found a conclusive answer one way or the other, so I leave it up to your discretion.
I sear the pork chops straight from the fridge for about two minutes on each side. The inside of the pork chop does not heat up at all. Then I immediately freeze or chill. I'm comfortable with this personally, but the step is definitely optional.
— Faith, February 2015
Slow Cooker Cranberry Pork Chops
Serves 4 to 6
4 boneless pork chops, about 1/2-inch thick (2 to 3 pounds total)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped onion, from 1 small onion
1/4 cup chopped celery, from 1 large celery rib
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth, or white wine — added to the slow cooker
* Optional Step: Heat a large skillet over high heat and sear the pork chops for 2 minutes on each side. Immediately place them in the fridge or freezer to cool completely. (See Recipe Note and Tester's Notes for thoughts on food safety and searing ahead.)
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and garlic, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are tender. Sprinkle with the salt as it cooks. Set the mixture aside to cool completely.
Place the cooled sautéed vegetables, cranberries, pork chops, pepper, thyme, and brown sugar in a 1-gallon freezer bag. ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼Seal the bag, squeezing out as much air as possible. Massage the bag to distribute the ingredients evenly.
Freeze the bag flat in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Thawing & Cooking Instructions
Thaw the pork chops on a tray or dish in the refrigerator. On the morning of the day you plan to serve this dish, empty the contents of the bag into a 4-quart slow cooker and add 1/4 cup broth or wine. Cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours, or until the pork chops are cooked through.
- The step of searing the pork chops is optional, as some cooks are not comfortable freezing browned meat. (See Tester's Notes for more.)
Reprinted with permission from Not Your Mother's Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook by Jessica Fisher, copyright © 2012. Published by Harvard Common Press.
(Image credits: Faith Durand; David Hopler of D Squared Photo & Video)