Brining, the soaking of meat for many hours or days, was traditionally a method for preserving meats. It's a curing process that binds with, or completely removes, the water in the meat in order to prevent the growth of micro-organisms. Fortunately for us we have refrigeration so we don't have to rely on this lengthy, but delicious marinating method. In addition to its preservation qualities, brining meats (especially lean meats) improves the texture, flavor, and moisture content, leaving you with nothing but juicy goodness.
A basic brine solution consists of simply water and a moderate amount of salt. This got us thinking! "We live near water! Great, clean salty water!" So we went crazy and scooped up a bucket full of pristine Puget Sound water in our stockpot, added a quartered lemon, and soaked our free-range chicken for 24 hours. Now, you don't have to get this connected to Mother Earth and scoop up the sea. Just fill up your stockpot with cool water and add Kosher or sea salt. You want about 1/2 cup of salt per 1 quart of cool water for each pound of meat. Here are a few simple rules:
- The saltier your brine, the shorter your brining time. However, too little salt and it won't work.
- Do not reuse your brining solution.
- Refrigerate. (I know, I said it was a preservative, but your temperature still needs to be below 40 degrees).
For more on "flavor brining" check out The Complete Meat Cookbook by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly.