Pork chops with plums, cider and Petoskey stones

Farmers' market plums

This week, Gourmandistan briefly relocated to Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay, just north of Northport, Michigan on the Leelanau Peninsula. It’s the first time we’ve been to a Great Lakes beach (downtown Chicago doesn’t count), and seeing the sand and sculpted landscapes left from ancient glacial action has indeed been impressive.

Steve has enjoyed wandering the cool, curiously critter-free water, finding colorful minerals, smooth pebbles and a few things he’s convinced himself are Petoskey stones, since he’s resisted buying the varnished versions available at local souvenir shops—even though many have wonderfully tacky inspirational slogans, playing cards or other tat attached to them.

In addition to Great Lakes dune sightseeing and searching for stones, we’ve also visited a number of impressive local farmers’ markets and roadside stands.

All this means that Michelle has spent much of her “vacation” in the kitchen, finding things to make with the massive amounts of cherries, plums and other fruit Steve has been unable to stop himself from buying.


In addition to jars and jars of jam (one of the benefits of a car vacation is being able to take stuff back with you), Michelle made a variation of this Nigel Slater pork chop recipe. It incorporates some of the multiple plums Steve bought, along with a bit of the cider he snapped up from a local cidery (again, it’s good we have a car with fold-down seats) to braise-finish browned pork chops with a tart and spicy sauce.

Pork chop with plums and cider

While not quite as delicious as the cherry and beef short ribs dish Michelle invented here in Michigan (something we hope to blog about at home soon), it was a lovely way to enjoy a cool, dry evening on an ancient lake.


(adapted from Nigel Slater in The Guardian)

  • 2 pork chops
  • Salt and pepper
  • Butter
  • 1 c. hard cider
  • 6 or so plums, pitted and halved

Season the pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper. Melt a tablespoon or so of butter in a frying pan. Brown the chops on both sides. Pour in the cider, bring to a boil, then lower the heat.  Add the plums and cover. Continue cooking for about five minutes. Remove the chops and plate them. Remove the plums with a slotted spoon and place atop the chops. Increase heat and reduce the cider by about half. Pour over meat and plums.



    • Thanks, Mimi! I often find myself using Nigel Slater recipes when on vacation. They are almost always reliable and simple and easily accessible from the Guardian’s website. And I was really surprised how much I loved the part of MI we visited. It felt much like France with such beautiful produce and everybody having their “honey” or “eggs” or “cherries” signs at the end of their driveways.

  1. I loved those roadside stalls – especially the ones selling hundreds of pumpkins. Great pictures of the lakes too. Those stones look amazing, as do the pork chops 😉

    • Thanks, M.D. It was really a beautiful area. No wonder chef Mario Batali summers there. The markets were incredible and there was a wonderful cidery not far away that reminded us so much of England. (The few restaurants we tried left a bit to be desired. But I think the Midwestern U.S. palate tends a bit more bland then mine.)

  2. “Beach”!?? Hmphhh (says the Malibu guy to lake beaches). But lovely photos. If you ever broadcast too early where you’re bound, don’t be surprised to find Skinny Girls & Mayo set up in the house next to you. (And yes, I WILL expect a dinner invitation.)

    • Thanks, Roger. I know it’s heresy, but I find — especially on vacation — that I do better just pointing my iPhone in a direction, clicking away and hoping for the best! (Instagram filters cover up a whole world of bad.)

  3. There is so much to love about your post – the cherry photo, the pork & plums, the cherry & short ribs introduction, the lakes…I just adore the combo of stone fruit with meat! Beautiful and delightful vacation, it seems!

    • Danke, Sabine! It was a beautiful place. And I was totally amazed by the wonderful fruit and other market finds. A week there was perhaps a weak substitute for our usual autumn month in Europe, but it was consolation. We enjoyed it very much.

  4. You gave me such a smile when I read you used Slater’s pork chop recipe. Stone fruit and pork, I believe, is one of the best combinations.
    I have heard that those Michigan cherries are delightful. I have it on good authority that they make a great cherry liqueur. 😉
    Michelle–Have you guys looked at any of Yvette van Boven’s cookbooks?

    • So glad to be of service, Janet. 🙂 The MI cherries (and plums and blueberries … and oh my god, the pea shoots and radishes and haricots verts … at the end of August no less!) were incredible! I do not have any of van Boven’s books, but I’ve read great things about them. It’s just the lack of bookshelf space thing. Are they worth finding a space for?

      • Maybe your public library will have one of van Boven’s books. If they do, check one of them out. See for yourself. I like them because of her approach. She approaches everything as an artist. 😀

  5. What stunning photos! Thanks for sharing. Isn’t it lovely to see all of the farm stands? The cider plum sauce seems like a great accompaniment to any meat dish. Yum!

    • Thanks, Amanda! We were so pleasantly surprised by our short trip. The area was quite beautiful (though there was a curious lack of wildlife and everything I read about the invasion of non-native species in the Great Lakes is depressing). But the produce! Oh, my god, the produce! I really felt like I was in Europe with numerous varieties of plums and cherries and crazy things like pea shoots and non-woody radishes and teeny tiny haricots verts … in late August! And every third or fourth driveway you pass has either a real farm stand or a sign saying “honey” or “eggs” or “cherries” or something like. No wonder Mario Batali has his summer home just up the road from where we were staying.

  6. I have a soft spot for pork chops brined or cooked with cider but I’ve never tried them with the addition of plums. Will have to try now that plums are in abundance. The only thing that makes late summer bearable (It’s so hard to believe it’s almost September!) is the perfect stone fruits in the markets. I can’t seem to eat enough peaches, plums or nectarines right now.

  7. Your posts, Michelle, have brought back some wonderful memories. We’d spend hours combing the beach for Petoskey stones. Somehow, most were “lost” and never made it the trip home — and Mom looked everywhere for them. 🙂 My cousin had a tumbler and he used it to polish the stones. It did give them quite a shine, too.
    Sounds like you’re really enjoying your stay there and your pork chops sound wonderful. Now this is the way to take advantage of the local produce.

    • Ha! Like the unfortunate pets that would go to “some nice farm where they could roam freely,” right? It was impressive how those stores had the stones all polished up. Can you really do that with those polishing things the kids would buy?

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