This is the recipe that started it all—or at least my competitive streak when it came to food, which I still have thirty years later! Daddy pushed then sixteen-year-old me to enter my first food competition and to open my mind up to combinations that you wouldn’t think would work. So there I was at the Wakulla County Youth Swine Show with this pork recipe, which won first place in the pork category. From that moment on I was hooked. It takes a few more steps than just getting in the kitchen, but it’s so worth it. I still make this today for special occasions, sometimes with cherries, blackberries, and apple in the stuffing. The good thing about pork is it’s a sweet meat on its own and it pairs well with fruits, so try it and let your imagination run wild.
1 cup apple juice
1 cup dried apricots
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 celery stalks, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
2 pinches of kosher salt
2 pinches of black pepper
4 cups herbed stuffing mix
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 pounds boneless pork loin
1 (8-ounce) jar apricot preserves
⅓ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
2. In a small saucepan, combine the apple juice and dried apricots. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and then remove from the heat. Set aside to allow the apricots to rehydrate and puff up.
3. In a small cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, heat the butter and olive oil. Add the celery, onion, garlic, parsley, and basil. Cook until the onion is translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the salt and pepper. In a large bowl, combine the onion mixture with the stuffing mix and Worcestershire sauce. Mix well and set aside to cool.
4. Prepare the loin for stuffing by cutting it nearly in half lengthwise (do not cut all the way through to the other side) and splaying it out flat like a book. Put a sheet of plastic wrap over the top and carefully pound the meat until it’s ½ inch thick. Working from the center out, pound with an outward motion to get the meat thin enough but not so thin that it will tear apart. You need to be able to pick it up and handle it.
5. Drain and chop the apricots and add them to the stuffing mix. Now spread the stuffing mixture evenly onto the meat, leaving a border on the outside edges. Roll the meat up lengthwise. It will look like a pinwheel on the ends. Use kitchen twine to tie it at ½-inch intervals so that the filling does not fall out.
6. Put the loin on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Cover the pan with foil—this will steam the loin and keep it moist. Bake for 50 minutes.
7. Uncover and bake until a meat thermometer inserted into the center reads 160°F, about 25 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes.
8. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the apricot preserves, balsamic, and brown sugar and heat over medium-low heat, stirring until smooth.
9. Remove the string from the loin and brush the meat with the apricot glaze. Cut the loin into pinwheel slices and serve drizzled with the remaining glaze.

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