Tuesday, March 15, 2011

CharcutePalooza: The Brining

Corned Beef
Corned Beef

   Brining. Such a simple concept that produces such wonderfully tasty results, yet so few of us utilize it. The CharcutePalooza challenge for the month of March was based on brining. The Apprentice Challenge being brined pork chops or a whole chicken, and the Charcuterie Challenge being corned beef. I skipped the Apprentice Challenge this month, as I brine every piece of pork and poultry that I cook. If you have not tried this technique before, please do so at once. You will be amazed at the difference in juiciness and flavor. This is my very basic brine recipe that I use for just about everything.


Brine for Chicken, Turkey, Seafood, and Pork


2 quarts water, divided (can substitute half with sweet tea)
1/4 c salt
1/4 c sugar
any seasonings you like

Place 1 quart water in freezer.
Meanwhile, heat 1 quart water in small saucepan with remaining ingredients until dissolved, let cool.
Combine liquids in a nonreactive container.
Add meat and place in refrigerator, let chill for 30 minutes for pieces, up to 2 hours for a whole chicken.
Remove meat and pat dry. Discard liquid.
Cook any way you like.

   Brining really couldn't be simpler. Thanks to that fun process called osmosis, salt, flavoring, and moisture penetrate to the core of the meat, something a simple surface seasoning can't do. So I'm not sure why it came as such a surprise that corned beef could be so easy or tasty. It was nothing more than the same basic brining idea and a cheap cut of beef brisket with a little pink salt and pickling spice thrown in, and then a rest in the refrigerator for 5 days. After which it is simmered for several hours. All I can say is I have never had corned beef like it before. It was so incredibly tender, subtly spiced, and deliciously fatty.
   So, obviously Reuben sandwiches had to be made. They just had to. So going along in the challenge of the month, I also tried my hand at sauerkraut. Oh yes, did I mention veggies can be brined too? Even easier. Water, salt, and cabbage, left to mingle with one another in a coat closet for 2 weeks. Produces magical results. I am truly convinced that all of the most wonderful food things in life are all fermented.



17 cups water
3/4 cup + 2 T kosher salt
1 green cabbage, shredded
1/2 tsp caraway seeds (optional)

Combine salt and water in a medium saucepan and heat until dissolved, chill.
Combine cabbage, caraway, and brine in a nonreactive container.
Fill a large plastic resealable bag with water and place over cabbage to keep completely submerged.
Keep in a cool dark place for at least 2 weeks, longer for a stronger flavor (mine was a little mild, I would try 3 weeks).
Strain the brining liquid into a pot and boil. Let cool and combine with cabbage.
Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Brined & Fermented Cabbage a.k.a. Sauerkraut

   Here is where I was supposed to show you a picture of those stunning Reubens, the beautiful lovechild of brined things and home baked bread (another post). But alas, they were all consumed too fast for the camera to capture. I guess I will just have to brine more meat.

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