The Canada Day long weekend is upon us and for most, it means we will find ourselves knee deep in hosting a BBQ, dinner with friends, camping meal or picnic.

For some, putting on a meal for guests can be a bit stressful. It is important to remember that long weekends are supposed to be a time to relax and unwind.

To help you put on a sweat-free, enjoyable meal, here are my tips for cooking on the long weekend:

  • Keep it simple. You don’t need an elaborate, 5-course meal, nor do you need to try a recipe that’s overly complicated.  Keep your prep simple, cooking easy and clean up a breeze. Make or buy a simple appetizer, grill up some burgers or pork chops (see the recipe below) and pan fry some little potatoes to go with. And then top off your meal with ice cream with fruit, hot fudge or caramel sauce. Easy peasy.
  • Keep it local. Whether it’s Canada Day, or any day, use your meal as an opportunity to showcase at least one local product. Head to a farmers’ market and pick up some meat from a local rancher or producer, buy some fresh produce, or pick up a pie, cookies or another amazing dessert. Not only will you and your guests taste the difference of buying local, you are supporting small, independent farmers and entrepreneurs.
  • Keep it outside. If the weather is nice (or even if it isn’t), cook as much of your meal outside on the BBQ or grill. My family recently grilled steak on our firepit and it was outstanding (and easy to do).
  • Keep it relaxed. Enough said.

Here’s my easy recipe for Beer-brined Pork Chops, from my book, The Canadian Barbecue Cookbook.  Enjoy and Happy Birthday Canada!

Beer-brined Pork Chops

This method is probably one of the best for cooking any type of “lean white meat” or poultry. The brine seals the moisture in the meat and adds flavour to it. It is imperative that you use kosher or sea salt, but feel free to use different seasonings. At Christmas time, I use rosemary and cinnamon in place of the other spices.

3-4 lbs (1.5 to 2 kg)   pork loin or chops or other cut of pork

8 cups water
1 x 350mL bottle of dark beer (try Alley Kat Pale Ale)
3/4 cup   kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup   maple syrup
1 tsp   cloves
1/2 tsp   nutmeg
1/2 tsp   allspice
1 bay leaf

Place all brine ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Turn down heat and simmer for 10-20 minutes to develop all of the flavours. Cool mixture to room temperature, then refrigerate until cold. Pour the brine over the meat, and marinate it in a non-reactive bowl or pail for 1 to 2 hours per pound (30 minutes to 1 hour per kg) of meat. Remove meat from brine and rinse well under cold water. Pat dry.

Preheat the barbecue to medium-high. Lightly coat the meat with 2 tbsp of oil and grill until desired doneness. Check the internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer; to be done, the meat should be around 150 degrees F.

Tip: Don’t forget to rinse the pork well after marinating.

Tip: Any cooking method can be used for the brined pork, from grilling to roasting. I like to serve pork medium-rare, but others might want to stick to the 150 degree mark.