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Brining


tommy
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Had never brined before, but decided to experiment with brined pork belly from the St John cookbook. Had a complete disaster.

Prepared a brine (400g sugar, 600g salt, 4l water, juniper, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves), brought to boil, cooled, put belly into the pot and then left in the fridge for three days.

Took it out, rinsed under tap for a minute or so, patted dried, scored with knife and then roasted.

Looked great, smelt great, texture was great - but was utterly, inedibly, salty. Didn't matter so much for the crackling, but I couldn't have served the meat to my worst enemy.

What did I do wrong? Dodgy recipe? Did I miss a step? Insufficient rinsing? Or is it supposed to be this way?

Advice appreciated...

That doesn't seem unduly long to me. Pork belly up to 4 days, whole loin up to 5, and I've not had a problem.

However, your cure seems like a really, really heavy load to me...my normal cures for larger cuts and longer brining periods are (American, will convert) approximately 125 grams sugar, 85 grams salt per 4 L water; I don't think I've seen a cure more dense than 275-280 g total (salt and sugar) per 4L water, but this may just be my experience.

For small or thin pieces of meat, I opt for a denser cure and a shorter period; for bigger pieces (such as whole loin), I opt for a longer period and more dilute cure, in order to allow even diffusion throughout the meat.

Edited by paul o' vendange (log)

-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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I agree with Paul. Way too much sugar & salt.

Sure you're not dealing with a typo? Like there should have been a decimal place?

40.0 g sugar & 60.0 g of salt. that would make a nice light brine.

If not too late have you tried putting the brined meat in a pot with water bringing up to the boil, let rest then pour off the water? You may have to do this several times, but it should leach out the salt.

OOPS - now see that you've already roasted. try tip if this ever happens again.

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Hmmm. You've got the recipe right; Henderson really does use 400g sugar and 600g salt for 4 litres of water as his standard brine. And his brine time for this recipe is 3 days.

For someone who loves this recipe as is, check out the goingwholehog blog here, complete with photos:

http://goingwholehog.blogspot.com/2006_01_...og_archive.html

(scroll down to Jan 9 2006)

For someone who thinks that the same recipe is too salty, check here:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...ndpost&p=953432

So my guess is this may be a matter of taste. Other possibilities: Henderson may be serving small/thin cut potions, which can be very salty (think bacon or prosciutto) but acceptable, or else he may be starting with a thicker belly that can withstand a longer soak.

For the future, you could use a weaker brine per Paul's suggestion above; or alternatively keep the brine as per the recipe, but reduce the soak time to taste. After a day in the brine, cut a piece off, fry it and taste it. If it's salty enough for you, pull it out of the brine; if not, leave it in and taste again on Day 2. It doesn't sound like you'll need Day 3.

Hong Kong Dave

O que nao mata engorda.

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Thank you all - very helpful. Shall pluck up the courage to try again, but with a much weaker brine.

I agree that 600 gr salt is way too much, I normally use about 70gr salt per quart of water.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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  • 1 month later...

Hello, I have a brining question, that I hope does not turn into a diasaster. Yesterday, I bought two thick cut pork chops, that I put together with the Alice Waters brine (scaled down for volume) and planned on making these on Saturday night. A friend of mine used thinner chops in the same brine for 2 1/2 days and said it was fantastic. My problem? Well, my dad wants to do our after Christmas celebration on Saturday. That means that I can't cook the chops, since we are meeting half way between him/me. I can't cook them on Sunday, since we're going to a NYE party and food will be there. My dilemma? Do I keep in the brine until Saturday, take out of it, wrap up until Monday or do I just put the whole thing in the freezer? Any input would be greatly appreciated.

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I also had a brining disappointment, if not quite a disaster, with my heritage turkey at Thanksgiving. I brined it according to a recipe from Fine Cooking that I have used before with good results, although not with a heritage turkey. This time it came out more salty than ever before. It wasn't enough to ruin it, but it wasn't the best turkey I ever roasted, either, and I had expected it to be. One thing I did differently this time was start it at 450 degrees for the first hour and then lower the heat to 325 until it was done. This was highly recommended by a friend who is a supurb cook, and I have done it with unbrined poultry. Was the high heat not good with the brining? Why?

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Why is it so salty? This quote about Henderson tells the entire story (bold mine):

Still a heavy smoker, he also drinks and parties, because his doctors have advised him to do anything that makes him feel happy and relaxed. Of course, he’s happiest and most relaxed when he’s in his restaurant, especially in his kitchens.

Example A. Yet another taste-impaired chain-smoking celebrity chef perpetuating the myth of brining.

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Why is it so salty? This quote about Henderson tells the entire story (bold mine):
Still a heavy smoker, he also drinks and parties, because his doctors have advised him to do anything that makes him feel happy and relaxed. Of course, he’s happiest and most relaxed when he’s in his restaurant, especially in his kitchens.

Example A. Yet another taste-impaired chain-smoking celebrity chef perpetuating the myth of brining.

wow, that must be true. but what does that mean about all the good recipes i've cooked from that book? am i a latent smoker?

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Hello, I have a brining question, that I hope does not turn into a diasaster.  Yesterday, I bought two thick cut pork chops, that I put together with the Alice Waters brine (scaled down for volume) and planned on making these on Saturday night.  A friend of  mine used thinner chops in the same brine for 2 1/2 days and said it was fantastic.  My problem?  Well, my dad wants to do our after Christmas celebration on Saturday.  That means that I can't cook the chops, since we are meeting half way between him/me.  I can't cook them on Sunday, since we're going to a NYE party and food will be there.  My dilemma?  Do I keep in the brine until Saturday, take out of it, wrap up until Monday or do I just put the whole thing in the freezer?  Any input would be greatly appreciated.

brining longer does not make the meat saltier, but the meat does begin to break down in the water. if it was me, i'd pull them Sunday morning and refrigerate them tightly covered until monday.

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Why is it so salty? This quote about Henderson tells the entire story (bold mine):
Still a heavy smoker, he also drinks and parties, because his doctors have advised him to do anything that makes him feel happy and relaxed. Of course, he’s happiest and most relaxed when he’s in his restaurant, especially in his kitchens.

Example A. Yet another taste-impaired chain-smoking celebrity chef perpetuating the myth of brining.

wow, that must be true. but what does that mean about all the good recipes i've cooked from that book? am i a latent smoker?

Wow, then I must be wrong. If you like the recipes, and you don't smoke, then they must be good recipes. I stand corrected. There's no way that a chain smoking chef would ever oversalt their food.

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Hello, I have a brining question, that I hope does not turn into a diasaster.  Yesterday, I bought two thick cut pork chops, that I put together with the Alice Waters brine (scaled down for volume) and planned on making these on Saturday night.  A friend of  mine used thinner chops in the same brine for 2 1/2 days and said it was fantastic.  My problem?  Well, my dad wants to do our after Christmas celebration on Saturday.  That means that I can't cook the chops, since we are meeting half way between him/me.  I can't cook them on Sunday, since we're going to a NYE party and food will be there.  My dilemma?  Do I keep in the brine until Saturday, take out of it, wrap up until Monday or do I just put the whole thing in the freezer?  Any input would be greatly appreciated.

brining longer does not make the meat saltier, but the meat does begin to break down in the water. if it was me, i'd pull them Sunday morning and refrigerate them tightly covered until monday.

Thanks, I just wanted to be sure that the meat wouldn't go bad if I kept it out of the brine and in the fridge for a couple of days.

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brining longer does not make the meat saltier

How so? I've found that when brining shrimp (as an example of something with a short brining time) that if you brine too long, it's way too salty. Brining time, in my opinion, is a balancing act.

Or are you simply saying that at some point it's just not gonna get any saltier, despite the fact that it may be too salty at that point?

Don Moore

Nashville, TN

Peace on Earth

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Hello, I have a brining question, that I hope does not turn into a diasaster.  Yesterday, I bought two thick cut pork chops, that I put together with the Alice Waters brine (scaled down for volume) and planned on making these on Saturday night.  A friend of  mine used thinner chops in the same brine for 2 1/2 days and said it was fantastic.  My problem?  Well, my dad wants to do our after Christmas celebration on Saturday.  That means that I can't cook the chops, since we are meeting half way between him/me.  I can't cook them on Sunday, since we're going to a NYE party and food will be there.  My dilemma?  Do I keep in the brine until Saturday, take out of it, wrap up until Monday or do I just put the whole thing in the freezer?  Any input would be greatly appreciated.

If they've been brined, they will keep without issue the couple of days post-brine. If it were me, depending on the thickness of the chops, I'd go with Saturday or Sunday, pull and dry them, wrap them and go with Monday.

-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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Hello, I have a brining question, that I hope does not turn into a diasaster.  Yesterday, I bought two thick cut pork chops, that I put together with the Alice Waters brine (scaled down for volume) and planned on making these on Saturday night.  A friend of  mine used thinner chops in the same brine for 2 1/2 days and said it was fantastic.  My problem?  Well, my dad wants to do our after Christmas celebration on Saturday.  That means that I can't cook the chops, since we are meeting half way between him/me.  I can't cook them on Sunday, since we're going to a NYE party and food will be there.  My dilemma?  Do I keep in the brine until Saturday, take out of it, wrap up until Monday or do I just put the whole thing in the freezer?  Any input would be greatly appreciated.

If they've been brined, they will keep without issue the couple of days post-brine. If it were me, depending on the thickness of the chops, I'd go with Saturday or Sunday, pull and dry them, wrap them and go with Monday.

Thanks for the reply, I put them in the brine yesterday afternoon. I think I will try that. Thanks.

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600 grams for 4 Litres of water is a 15% salt solution. Foods should be approximately salted to 3% as a rule of thumb. As a general rule, 3% brines are agressive, 2% brines are reasonably mild. I can't imagine what a 15% brine would taste like, it's more of a wet cure than a brine at that point. Instead of futzing around with weights, I find it far more convenient to put your meat in a container and then keep on topping it up with a 2L kettle until the meat is submerged, recording how much water went in. Then just measure out 2% of the weater weight and dissolve it.

PS: I am a guy.

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brining longer does not make the meat saltier

How so? I've found that when brining shrimp (as an example of something with a short brining time) that if you brine too long, it's way too salty. Brining time, in my opinion, is a balancing act.

Or are you simply saying that at some point it's just not gonna get any saltier, despite the fact that it may be too salty at that point?

Imagine a dry sponge soaking up water. If you only put the sponge in water for a brief time, the the amount of water soaked up depends on the time it was immersed. But after some point, it's going to stop soaking up additional water and it doesnt matter how long you leave it in.

PS: I am a guy.

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brining longer does not make the meat saltier

How so? I've found that when brining shrimp (as an example of something with a short brining time) that if you brine too long, it's way too salty. Brining time, in my opinion, is a balancing act.

Or are you simply saying that at some point it's just not gonna get any saltier, despite the fact that it may be too salty at that point?

Imagine a dry sponge soaking up water. If you only put the sponge in water for a brief time, the the amount of water soaked up depends on the time it was immersed. But after some point, it's going to stop soaking up additional water and it doesnt matter how long you leave it in.

OK, I'll take a kitchen-science stab...we're talking steady-state equilibrium, under a closed system.

Salt and water will move across the cellular membranes of the meat via osmotic pressure. Those substances with a high enough molecular weight, from inside the meat, will not pass through cellular membranes, to the brining solution; nor will similarly weighted substances move from the brine into the cell. Once the pressure built via internal breakdown and cellular buildup ("plumping," I guess, for want of a better word - the buildup via osmotic transfer from the outside and protein degradation/breakdown products built up within cell membranes, internally) reaches an equilibrium with osmotic pressure exerted from outside, no further "brining" will take place. The brine is at a steady state equilibrium.

How'd I do?

-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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I will take a simpler stab..

If you brine with a 5% brine its not going to get saltier than 5% salt in the meat.

this does not take into account the weight/volume of the meat, so you would have less, depending on the volume/weight of the meat is.

When I do sausage I shoot for about 2.6% salt(by weight). and doing bacon I assume all the dry rub is absorbed (for a week or so in a plastic bag)and use the same 2.6% by weight.

The balancing thing is where you use a strong brine and soak for a short time, then the absorption has a lot of variables as to the rate of absorption. And the absorption is not even thru the meat in short soaks and takes time to equalize after you remove from the soak.

Short soaks are a roll of the dice.

Bud

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In Paul Bertolli's excellent Cooking by Hand, the author demonstrates a brine recipe that takes into account most, if not all of the issues and questions raised here. I'm not where I can get to it right now, but if someone else doesn't look it up, I'll do so later.

. . . .

There's no way that a chain smoking chef would ever oversalt their food.

I've never seen scientific evidence that supports this contention. I'd also point out that though most other tastes disappear when the olfactory system is impaired (something that applies to anyone who has the common cold, as well as many smokers), salt comes through loud and clear. You might be able to make an anecdotal case that links overseasoning to smoking, but not when it comes to salt, I think.

Regardless, let's not derail this topic. Discussion of cooks (and reviewers) who smoke can be found here.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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. . . .

There's no way that a chain smoking chef would ever oversalt their food.

I've never seen scientific evidence that supports this contention. I'd also point out that though most other tastes disappear when the olfactory system is impaired (something that applies to anyone who has the common cold, as well as many smokers), salt comes through loud and clear. You might be able to make an anecdotal case that links overseasoning to smoking, but not when it comes to salt, I think.

A cold impairs the olfactory system, whereas smoking impairs both the olfactory system and the nerve endings on the tongue. Salt is perceived through the tongue.

From Taste acuity of the human palate. III. Studies with taste solutions on subjects in different age groups. (bold mine):

The taste acuity at the midline of the hard and soft palate near their junction and, for comparison, on representative areas of the tongue was determined in 80 subjects aged 11-79 years by applying test solutions of the four basic tastes. [...] Smokers had higher thresholds than non-smokers only for salt on the soft palate and the base of the tongue.
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brining longer does not make the meat saltier

How so? I've found that when brining shrimp (as an example of something with a short brining time) that if you brine too long, it's way too salty. Brining time, in my opinion, is a balancing act.

Or are you simply saying that at some point it's just not gonna get any saltier, despite the fact that it may be too salty at that point?

Imagine a dry sponge soaking up water. If you only put the sponge in water for a brief time, the the amount of water soaked up depends on the time it was immersed. But after some point, it's going to stop soaking up additional water and it doesnt matter how long you leave it in.

OK, I'll take a kitchen-science stab...we're talking steady-state equilibrium, under a closed system.

Salt and water will move across the cellular membranes of the meat via osmotic pressure. Those substances with a high enough molecular weight, from inside the meat, will not pass through cellular membranes, to the brining solution; nor will similarly weighted substances move from the brine into the cell. Once the pressure built via internal breakdown and cellular buildup ("plumping," I guess, for want of a better word - the buildup via osmotic transfer from the outside and protein degradation/breakdown products built up within cell membranes, internally) reaches an equilibrium with osmotic pressure exerted from outside, no further "brining" will take place. The brine is at a steady state equilibrium.

How'd I do?

sorry, i was off-line. yeah, what he said.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I find that either way works, but you'll get the best results if you rinse in plain water, pat the skin dry and set the bird on a rack in the refrigerator for several hours (even over night) before roasting. This ensures that the skin is really dry. (You can also use a hair dryer set on low, in a pinch.)

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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