For the Love of the Brine

Briny chops, originally uploaded by lclea.

Do you brine? I do. Chances are if you are still reading, you have at least heard of brining, if not, then buckle in for a salty festival of flavor.

First, what is brining? Brining does two things, it gives meat an insulated layer of moisture that helps keep it from getting dry and it imparts flavor. You can brine with just water and salt, or add other things like sugar and even spices. Now, I wouldn’t just brine anything, I’ve found it works best with pork and poultry. I’ve never brined beef, and if you feel adventurous (or crazy), try it and let me know. The reason the “white” meat and the “other white meat” does so well in the briny soak is due to the skinny nature our birds and piggies have these days. I try to get pasture raised chickens, turkeys and pork (this is tough to find, but there is a great purveyor in Madison, the pigs live healthy, happy, natural lives) just because I like the way that tastes better and I can sleep at night knowing the animals used in my food live happy lives.

I learned of this technique from a cooking class at L’Etoile restaurant in Madison. Chef Tory Miller is a brining maniac and while this recipe is good, and if you have great pork, it’s even better, do if you you’re in town try the pork (or anything) at L’Etoile. The food is amazing locally grown produce and meats, and the wonderful wait staff makes each meal a memory. I’ll be there for my next birthday, hope to see you there.

Okay, back to the brine. My first time out, I followed Tory suggestion that we brine the turkey for two days… I did and it was delicious, moist, crispy, and just the right amount of salt. You really don’t need two days, but do brine your Thanksgiving turkey. It’s like a failsafe and helps you not overcook the darn thing. However, the amount of brine you need will increase, you need to completely submerge the bird in the liquid. The equation of water to salt stays true, so just adjust (I don’t use the sugar with poultry, it’s just my preference). Also have room in your fridge for the bird and the brine.

So I hope I’ve piqued your interest and if you haven’t tried it yet, give it a shot, and if you haven’t tried really good pork, and are close at all to Madison try Willow Creek Farm (but don’t brine the bacon!).
Brine
2/3 c Sugar
3/4 c Kosher Salt
1 Gallon Water

Bring all the ingredients to a boil to dissolve the salt and sugar. Cool. Tasty add ins: coriander, peppercorns, allspice, cloves, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, cinnamon, cayenne, or garlic cloves. Don’t add everything, mix and match or try your own! Even the plain brine is a great.  Soak the meat either chicken or pork for 1-2 hours in the refrigerator (I use large plastic bags to marinate and brine, but you may want to set it in a bowl to prevent leaks). When you remove the meat from the brine, dry it off, or you won’t get a crispy crust/skin, then roast, grill to your heart’s content. Mmmm, briny pork…

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