Updated: Nov 27, 2021
As a service to my readers, food & feast posts will always feature the recipe first, with history, folklore, and cooking tips toward the bottom of the page. For background on this recipe and helpful hints for navigating technique, scroll down! Otherwise, dive right in with the recipe below.
photo by Frances F. Denny
pork loin with pickled mustard seed & blood orange sorbet cocktail
from "The Feast of Scorpio", The Witch's Feast
Serves 4 guests
Prep time : 1 hour
Cook time : 1 hour
This recipe requires an ice cream maker
FOR THE FOR THE PORK LOIN
1 1.4kg (3lb) pork loin 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 sprig fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
FOR THE MUSTARD SEEDS
120ml (4fl oz/½ cup) apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
30g (1oz/¼ cup) mustard seeds, white and black
FOR THE SORBET
700ml (24fl oz/3 cups) freshly squeezed blood orange juice
150g (5½oz/⅔ cup) honey, agave syrup or light corn syrup
25ml (1fl oz) vodka
Fernet-Branca (or another amaro), for topping
Ahead of making the sorbet, freeze or otherwise prepare your ice cream machine per the manufacturer’s instructions. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm your fruit juice to a simmer. Stir in your honey or syrup and whisk until dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in your vodka. Place the syrup into your ice cream machine and run until the sorbet is prepared, about 1–2 hours depending on your ice cream maker. When ready, store in the freezer until serving time.
Next, wash and pat dry your pork loin and place it on a roasting tray. Preheat your oven to 190ºC/375ºF/Gas 5. In a small saucepan, heat your olive oil over medium–high heat. When warm, add your rosemary, paprika and garlic, and cook until the garlic is soft and fragrant. Stir in your honey, soy sauce and Dijon and remove from heat once fully combined. Season with salt and pepper.
Brush the pork loin liberally with the sauce and place in the oven. Roast for 60 minutes or until the loin is cooked through, pausing every 20 minutes during cooking to brush the loin with the remaining sauce. If using a larger or smaller pork loin, the general rule for cook times is 20 minutes per pound, plus an additional 20 minutes. Please keep this in mind.
While the loin roasts, prepare the mustard seeds. In a medium saucepan over high heat, combine your vinegar, sugar and salt with 120ml (4fl oz/½ cup) water. Bring to a boil, then stir in your mustard seeds. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the seeds are plump and tender. Remove from the heat and store in an airtight jar for up to 1 month in the refrigerator.
At serving time, carve your loin and serve with the pickled mustard seeds, alongside salad or side dishes. For dessert, place a scoop of your sorbet in each glass, top each with 2 tablespoons of Fernet and serve immediately.
Just before Halloween, as the illuminated half of the year begins to wane, we arrive in Scorpio season. In the zodiac, Scorpio is a fixed water sign, symbolized by the scorpion and ruled by the planet Mars. As such, Scorpio personalities can be quite reserved on the exterior, but privately, this sign can be exceedingly deep, poetic and sensual. A suggestion of these correspondences can be seen in the medical astrology of Scorpio, which corresponds this sign to the nose, blood and reproductive organs- all squarely Martial, and associated with pleasure. These associations link Scorpio directly to ingredients which increase blood flow, like rosemary, chillies and cinnamon. It is also no surprise, then, to find aphrodisiac ingredients given squarely under Scorpio, such as oysters, asparagus, avocados, cardamom, black beans and wine. The flavor profile of Scorpio leans bitter and aromatic, featuring ingredients like cumin seed, mustard, blood orange and coffee. A feast of Scorpio would necessarily be a sensual affair, incorporating riffs on traditional fare and a good variety of textures – rich sauces, crisp greens, crusty bread and perhaps a perfectly silken pannacotta for dessert.
In my imagining of the feast of Scorpio, our dishes are serious and refined – not overly rich, but deeply infused with bitter-leaning flavors that tread the line between savory and sweet. Scorpio has a reputation for being reserved on the outside but privately passionate, and these dishes are also much more complex than they appear at first glance. Roasted pork loin is infused with herbs and spices, sweetened with a touch of honey, and accompanied by pickled mustard seeds, which pop and explode in the mouth like caviar to lend a tangy, sweet acidity to the dish. If you’ve never pickled mustard seeds before, they’re about to become your new favorite condiment and are perfect for roast meats, sandwiches, salads and alongside charcuterie. For dessert, bitter winter citrus meets complex, syrupy Fernet – a fruit-forward departure from traditional desserts, which falls somewhere between a cocktail and a palate cleanser.
Taking inspiration from the foods of Scorpio season, this feast explores the darker side of the palate, working with flavors that can sometimes be challenging to control – bitter blood orange, botanical amaro and spicy whole mustard seeds. But just as Scorpio teaches us how to temper what is revealed or concealed, these dark and potent flavors are balanced with tart vinegar and sweet honey so that they can challenge the palate – not dominate it. Even in their bitterness, these dishes highlight Scorpio’s early-winter flavors and remain faithful to the Scorpio’s love of simplicity and sensuality.
For more information on the ingredients and flavors of Mars, consult the master list of planetary correspondences here.