Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Exploring Brining - Charcutepalooza Challenge 3

The third Charcutepalooza challenge was focused on brining.  I had never brined anything before, so this challenge was some new territory.  My perspective on brining was that it was something the meat industry did to mask inferior tasting meats and add weight to get a better price for Thanksgiving Turkeys. After getting excited about a couple recipes however, I was ready to dive in and explore the technique.

Chicken with Garlic Pepper Rub
The first dabble at it was barbecued baby back ribs and chicken.  The challenge I've had with homemade ribs is that they often end up tough, dry or charred when just grilling them.  The alternative has been to tent them in foil and slow cook them in the oven before putting them on the grill.  This steaming softens them up, but it's usually too much and the ribs don't hold together enough and can end up bland.  Brining them for an hour not only struck the perfect balance in texture, but introduced a depth of flavor that was stunning.

The brine was very basic:
  • 1 Gallon Water
  • 1/2 cup Kosher Salt
  • 2/3 cup Brown Sugar
The ribs and chicken cold soaked for an hour and were set out for another hour before grilling.  I made a rub out of several spices, which I have a feel for rather than a specific recipe.  Generally, I add
  • Healthy handful of Garlic Powder
  • Kosher Salt
  • White Pepper
  • Black Pepper
  • Dried Onion Flakes
  • Paprika
  • Chipotle Powder
  • Other stuff to suit the mood

  • Brined Chicken & Ribs
The barbecue sauce is homemade from the garden.  I discovered a neat trick with making barbecue sauce last year by drying some tomatoes before adding them to the sauce, which gives it a deep tomato taste and makes it nice and thick without overcooking.

Second Experiment 

The next brining exploration was an herb brined & roasted chicken.  

Store Bought "Chicken"
Honestly, the jury is still out on this one.  We raise our own chickens and they are delectable and moist right out of the oven.  The brining ended up imparting a pleasant herb flavor into the meat, but it was also very salty. I may play around with the concentration and time, but it's really hard to compete with our fresh chickens.  Here's the recipe for the herb brined chicken:

The Brine:
Brine mixture
  • 1 Quart Water
  • 1 Cup Kosher Salt
  • 1/3 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Tbs Tarragon
  • 2 Tbs Oregano
  • 3 Bay Leaves
  • 2 tsp Lemon Rind
  • 6 Juniper Berries
  • 1 Onion
  • 1 Head of Garlic, Cloves Split
  • 3 Quarts Water & Ice

Simmer the Brine ingredients in 1 Quart Water for 15 minutes.  There's no need to peel the garlic or onion.  Fill one quart measuring cup with ice, fill with water and repeat 2 more times to bring liquid to one gallon.  If cool to touch, place chicken in the brine and refrigerate overnight, otherwise chill the brine first.  Remove chicken 3-4 hours in advance of cooking, rinse, pat dry and refrigerate until cooking time.  Place in 375 degree oven until done.

The real test for me with a roasted bird is the quality of the gravy.  Again, the gravy was better than I've had in any restaurant, but a bit too salty.

Herb Brined Chicken with Candied Carrots
Final Brining Experiment

The final experiment is a taste off between Beef and Pork, cooked two different ways, for a four dish meal - foodies salivate.  Since the Charcutepalooza challenge is to make a corned beef, why not also try the technique on a hunk of pork along with a beef brisket?  I've also become a big fan of confit and happen to have a significant amount of goose fat waiting for a job, so why not try out a beef confit along the pork confit I've been planning and see how the techniques differ?

Pork shoulder for Salt Pork, Pork Prosciutto, and "Corned Pork"
Once the pork shoulder and the beef brisket were split up, both went into respective cures together.  The Brine and Pickling spice recipe for the Corned Beef (and Pork) came right out of Charcuterie, except I added juniper berries to the pickling spice.

Pork Shoulder and Beef Brisket curing for confit
The dry cure for the confit came straight out of the Pork Confit recipe in Charcuterie.  I need to schedule a tasting event for the final products, but can't wait to see how the techniques and character of the different meats play out.  Almost forgot, the extra hunk of pork shoulder is curing in the fridge to make a sweet salt pork.

1 comment:

  1. Ambitious post! I'm laughing because I raise beef cows and I went about bacon exactly the same way - side by side pork vs beef.

    Great minds think alike, lol.