sharing recipes from one generation to the next
“to brine or not to brine that is the question…”
Blogging about food has opened my eyes to a wide divergence of tastes and ideas about food. Cultural influences are overt, personal tastes less so. Being part of an embracing Blogger community has opened the way to a more detailed scrutiny of food culture than travel would ever allow and it’s offered me a much more varied view than my regular social circle.
I’ve long been intrigued by recipes of American origin that advocated the brining of poultry before roasting although I confess I’ve never tried it myself. I remain convinced that a free range ethically raised bird cooked with care will always be moist and tender, but pork, that’s a different matter.
I’d all but given up cooking and eating pork chops. Because of the lack of fat marbling in the muscle structure of the loin, it errs toward dryness and that diminishes my enjoyment. After eating an amazingly succulent pork cutlet in a pub in Brisbane’s burbs a while ago I trialled a pre cook brine bath for pork chops and it made an incredible difference.
It’s hard to describe exactly how a pan fried or grilled, thick cut, lean portion of pork usually sweet and tasty but a little dry can become incredibly juicy simply by immersing it in a bowl of salted water for a few hours, but in a nutshell, it’s about osmosis.
The brine needs to be a little saltier than the meat’s natural state so that it’s absorbed, forcing moisture around the muscle fibres. The salts will then change the structure of the proteins resulting in beautiful moist and tender meat. A low concentration of salt will make a positive change, but if you use too much it will make your meat tough.
When I began experimenting with brining pork chops I used a simple salt solution with no added aromatics, then I began to I play around with adding cloves, bayleaf, allspice, juniper, peppercorns and fresh herbs, I even tried a brine solution of coffee.
There is nothing sophisticated in this process, but it elevates the humble pork chop to a sweet and juicy finger licking meal.
My Basic Everyday Brining Solution
250mls boiling water
4 tablespoons sea salt flakes
750mls iced water
2 boneless, thick cut mid loin pork cutlets
Dissolve the salt in the boiling water then make the volume up to 1 litre with iced water or even ice cubes.
Once the brine is cold, add the chops and allow to soak for a period of 1/2 hr or up to 4 hours in the refrigerator.
Drain the meat, pat the meat dry with paper towels and proceed with your recipe.