Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Around Thanksgiving, the subject of brining becomes popular because of all those large intimidating turkeys that are to be cooked, and it can help to retain moisture and add flavor to the meat. Brining isn't just for turkeys though! This brine below became the secret between some pretty good grilled pork chops to amazing pork chops! I found an article from Fine Cooking that goes into more detail (if your interested) about what's actually happening when you brine meat, and it also gives some good guidelines for brining all sorts of proteins. Just remember to not be intimidated by this, it is only a form of marinating. It creates a foolproof cooking experience, because there is so much salt in the brine it seasons the meat inside out and helps to prevent it from drying out from cooking (or over cooking). I used this brine for some pork chops that I then grilled. One bite after these came off the grill and I was speechless! They were soooo good!. Keep in mind that the seasonings (anything beyond the salt and usually liquid) are interchangeable, and you can use a variety of spices and sweeteners to customize the flavors to match the meal.
Maple Pork Brine (adapted from Tom Douglas' Seattle Kitchen)
3 cups water
2 cups apple cider
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 TBS molasses
2 bay leaves
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
I heated the water gently (before a boil) to help to dissolve the salt, and then added all the rest of the ingredients. It's important that you don't use the brine (place the meat in it)until it's cooled down to room temperature. Keep in mind that the size of the meat will depend on how long you keep it in the brine. Even if you are doing this a day in advance, just pay attention to how long it has been in, pull it out and store it in a dry container until ready to cook. Too long in the brine will make it too salty. I had some nice thick bone in pork chops that I left in for 4-6 hours. Below I have included a recipe for a sauce/ sauteed apples that I served on top.
2 pieces of bacon chopped in small pieces
1 medium shallot chopped or thinly sliced
2 medium apples sliced fairly thinly
3/4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup apple cider
Slowly render the bacon in a saute pan. Once crispy and most of the fat rendered off, take out bacon and reserve. Drain off all but about 1 tsp of the bacon fat. Add shallots to the pan and begin to saute, after a minute or so add the apples. Season with a little (pinch) of salt and pepper, and a little sugar if needed. Cook apples until barely tender. Add liquid and continue to cook until sauce is reduced by about 1/2 (or thick enough to coat the spoon). Add the bacon back into the pan and check for seasoning. Serve warm with pork chops.