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Midwestern Pork Loin Burgers with Caramelized Apple-Onion Relish and Quick-n-Easy Sweet BBQ Sauce

What could be more 'Midwestern' than this combo? So, dig in!

Serves 
Makes 6 burgers
Ingredients 

Caramelized Apple-Onion Relish:

2 tart apples, peeled, cored, and diced (about 1 1/2 cups) 
1 large white onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pinch ground black pepper

Patties:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 
2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
2 teaspoons hickory-smoked seasoning with salt
1/2 cup diced apple-onion mixture (from above)
2 pounds boneless center pork loin, trimmed of silver skin and cut into 2-inch chunks

Vegetable oil, for brushing the grill rack

Quick 'N' Easy Sweet BBQ Sauce: 

2/3 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon grated onion
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon hot chili powder
1 teaspoon liquid smoke

6 anadama buns or Kaiser rolls, split
2 tablespoons butter, softened
12 slices Oscar Mayer Ready to Serve Bacon or other fully-cooked bacon
6 greenleaf lettuce leaves

Instructions 

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover, or preheat a gas grill to medium-high.

To make the relish, combine the apples and onions in a large bowl. Transfer
1/2 cup of the mixture to a food processor.

While the grill is heating up for the patties, place a medium fireproof skillet on the grill and melt the butter. Add the remaining apple-onion mixture from the bowl to the skillet, sprinkle with the sugar, and stir. Cover the skillet with a lid and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is cooked down and lightly caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the lemon juice, vinegar, salt, and pepper and continue to cook, uncovered, until the lemon juice and vinegar are evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir and set aside.

To make the patties, add the olive oil, garlic, and hickory-smoked seasoning to the apple-onion mixture in the food processor. Pulse until finely minced. Add the pork, pulsing just until the pork is coarsely chopped and blended with the other ingredients. Divide the meat mixture into 6 equal portions and form into flat patties to fit the buns. (There won't be much shrinkage.) Do not overly handle the meat mixture.

When the grill is ready, brush the rack with oil, arrange the patties on the rack, and cover the grill. To make nice grill marks, cook about 3 minutes on the first side, lift with a spatula but do not flip the patties and make a quarter turn. Cover and cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Flip patties over. Cover and cook 2 to 3 minutes, then lift and make a quarter turn. Cover and cook 2 to 3 minutes longer (an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the patties should register 160 degrees F). Remove to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm as juices settle inside.

To make the sauce, while the patties are cooking, combine the ingredients in a small, fireproof pan and set on the cooler side of the grill just to warm.

Spread the buns with the softened butter and place on the grill, cut sides down, to toast lightly.

During the last couple of minutes of cooking, place the bacon slices directly on the grill to crisp. Cook on one side for about 30 seconds, and then turn with tongs and cook 20 to 30 seconds longer.

To assemble the burgers, place a lettuce leaf on the bottom half of each toasted bun, place a spoonful of apple relish on the lettuce and crisscross with two slices of crisp bacon. Place the cooked patties over the bacon and drizzle with the barbeque sauce. Cover with the bun tops.

Comments 

You'd be hard pressed to attend any fair or summer festival in Iowa and not find folks eating pork. Over the past several years I've 'perfected' my own burger rendition using two of the most popular pork staples: lean pork loin and smoky bacon. I don't use fatty sausage or ground pork, preferring instead to add a little healthy olive oil to keep these lean pork burgers juicy.

Next, I grew up eating country-fried apples. They were a must-have with pork! I've kicked them up here with onion, a little lemon juice, cider vinegar, and spice.

And Midwesterners seem to like a slightly sweet, smoky barbeque sauce with pork, and I've been making this quick version for years and years.

Finally, I serve the whole thing up on a toasted cornmeal bun. What could be more 'Midwestern' than this combo? So, dig in!