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What’s in Season: Five Spice Pork Chops with Ginger Plum BBQ Sauce

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Spice Up Your Grill with Five Spice Pork Chops with Ginger Plum BBQ Sauce

Plum BBQ Sauce on

What’s in Season?

Plums, peaches, and apricots are starting to appear at farmer’s markets and grocery stores. Peaches are undoubtedly one of my favorite stone fruits. Given that I grew up in the heart of Peach country in South Georgia, my affinity for them may as well be part of my DNA. While they did not grow peaches, my grandparents had a plum tree on their property. I remember standing with my sister and eating plum after plum straight off the tree, sticky juices running down our chins. Those sweet treats were the best plums I had ever tasted — and tasted since, but I am certain nostalgia and food memories are coming into play. Once we’d had our fill of fresh plums Meme would make jelly. She would stew the fruit until it was completely falling apart. She’d then strain the pulp overnight in a linen sack, and the juices would slowly drip into a wide, shallow enamelware bowl. Once the juice was collected, she would cook the mixture with sugar to make jelly. The results were crystal clear, garnet red, and glistening, perfect for a buttery buttermilk biscuit.
Plum BBQ Sauce on

Plum BBQ Sauce

Making jams and jellies are a great way to utilize fresh, seasonal fruits. And, of course, desserts such as cobblers and crisps are delicious, too.  However, don’t forget about savory uses for fresh stone fruits! One of my favorite ways to incorporate fruit into the meal is by making BBQ sauce. Fruity BBQ sauces are excellent, especially with pork.

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Grill Out

This time of year, I grill out nearly every night. It’s nice to be outside and it keeps the heat out of the kitchen. One of my favorite dishes is Bourbon Grilled Pork Chops with Peach BBQ Sauce, but I think this Plum BBQ Sauce is going to give it some competition! The warm spices, the kick of subtle heat, and the punch of the vinegar are incredible.

Thanks for reading. If you give the recipe a try please let me know what you think. And, check out these other summer recipes for corn and tomatoes. ‘Tis the season!

Bon Appétit, Y’all!

Virginia Willis

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Five Spice Pork Chops with Ginger Plum BBQ Sauce

Makes 2 cups


For the sauce:

  • 4 cloves
  • 2 whole star anise pods
  • 1 whole (3-4 inch) cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 pounds plums , pitted and chopped
  • 1 small onion , preferably Vidalia, chopped
  • 2 inch chunk of fresh ginger , chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic , peeled and chopped
  • 2-4 Thai chili peppers , chopped
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup Turbinado brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

For the pork chops:

  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 3 cups ice cubes
  • 4 center cut , bone-in pork chops, about 1-inch thick, well trimmed (2¾ to 3 pounds)
  • 2 teaspoons Five Spice Powder


  • For the sauce:
    Tie the cloves, star anise, cinnamon stick, and black peppercorns in cheesecloth. Set aside. Combine the plums, onion, ginger, garlic, chili peppers, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, and soy sauce in a heavy-bottomed, non-reactive pot. Add the reserved spice sachet. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the plums are falling apart and the mixture is quite soft, about 25 minutes. Remove the bundle of spices and remove from the heat. Purée the sauce with an immersion blender until completely smooth. Return the mixture to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until the sauce coats a spoon. Taste and adjust for seasoning with soy sauce and sugar.
  • For the chops:
    Meanwhile, place the salt in a medium heatproof bowl. Pour over the 2 cups boiling water and stir to dissolve. Add the ice cubes and stir to cool. Add the pork chops, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate to marinate, about 30 minutes. (Do not marinate any longer or the pork will be too salty. If you can’t cook it right at the 30-minute mark, remove the pork from the marinade and refrigerate until ready to continue.) Remove from the brine, rinse well, and thoroughly dry pat with paper towels. Set aside.
  • Season the pork chops with pepper and the Five Spice Powder. Prepare a charcoal fire using about 6 pounds of charcoal and burn until the coals are completely covered with a thin coating of light gray ash, 20 to 30 minutes. Spread the coals evenly over the grill bottom, position the grill rack above the coals, and heat until medium-hot (when you can hold your hand 5 inches above the grill surface for no longer than 3 or 4 seconds). Or, for a gas grill, turn all burners to high, close the lid, and heat until very hot, 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Place the pork chops on the grill and grill for 3 to 5 minutes per side or until the internal temperature reaches 145°F, brushing with Plum BBQ Sauce in the last few minutes. Remove to a plate and cover with aluminum foil to rest and let the juices redistribute, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve immediately with reserved warm sauce on the side.

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Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis’ biography includes making chocolate chip cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraging for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvesting capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and hunting for truffles in France. She is talent and chef-instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen. Her segments feature authentic and innovative Southern cooking. She was the celebrity chef at the Mansion at Churchill Downs for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Virginia has spoken at SXSW, cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and beguiled celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, and Jane Fonda with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Recently, her work has been inspired by her weight loss success story, Virginia has lost 65# and kept it off for over 2 1/2 years! “If a French-trained, Southern chef can do it, you can, too.” She is the author of Fresh Start; Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all won a James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence in the Focus on Health Category. Lighten Up, Y’all as well as her first cookbook, Bon Appétit, Y’all, were finalists in the Best American Cookbook for the International Association of Cookbook Awards and were also named by the Georgia Center of the Book as “Books Georgians Should Read.” She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, GRLSQUASH, Culture, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.” Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude, approachable spirit, and traveling exploits. Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in content creation, recipe development, culinary editorial and production services, cookbook writing, media training, spokesperson and brand representation, and public speaking. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board, as well as the Community Farmers Market Advisory Board. She is a food and hunger advocate for No Kid Hungry and a premier member of the No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society. She a member of The James Beard Foundation, Chef’s Collaborative, Georgia Organics, and Southern Foodways Alliance.

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