Wednesday, March 14, 2007

My first attempt at brining: Maple Bourbon Pork Chops

I've cooked a lot of meat in my relatively short lifetime, but until a couple of weeks ago I had never brined anything. Sure, I've marinated lots of stuff, but those in the know, know that it is not the same thing. I've never really felt the need to brine because I've cooked practically all cuts of beef, pork, and poultry at one time or another and been satisfied with the results. But, boy, am I glad I decided to give it a try!! If you want the basics of brining, check out this excellent write-up. This Maple-Bourbon brine came out of the cookbook, "Marinades, Rubs, Brines, Cures, and Glazes", by Jim Tarantino (Link in sidebar). These turned out great and I'll do another brine or two straight out of the book. Then I'll start tinkering with recipes once I get the fundamentals down.

The Ingredients

-3 quarts of water
-1/2 cup kosher salt (I used Sea salt cause the G-store didn't have kosher)
-3/4 cup maple syrup (the only "maple" syrup I could find was only 25% maple)
-1/2 cup bourbon (gobble, gobble)
-1 tablespoon ground mustard
-1 bay leaf
-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
-1 tablespoon chopped rosemary

Bring all the ingredients to a boil then simmer for 30 minutes or so. Let the brine cool to room temp and then refrigerate until 40ish degress before adding the meat to it. Never put something this large into your fridge hot or you'll raise the temperature of the fridge too much.

Completely cover the chops (and pork steak) with the brine. The fat in the pork steak made it float a little. I just turned the container over every couple of hours so the brine would penetrate evenly. Brine for a total of 5 to 6 hours.

Set your grill up for indirect grilling. I always add a couple chunks of hickory when I grill indirect (unsoaked--I never soak my wood). I used kingsford because I'm having a hard time finding Lump in South-Central Nebraska (we just moved here). These cooked about an hour indirect, then I cooked them over the coals for a minute or two on both sides.

The finished product! The bottom one was just grilled because Mrs. Hog wasn't sure she would like the bourbon brine...I can't believe she doubted me. They were delicious and Mrs. Hog love the brined ones. Especially the pork steak. The chops were good, but they were a little too thin (1/2 inch). I didn't need all the brine that I made, so I froze it. I'm going to buy a whole loin soon and try it on some thicker (1 inch +) boneless chops. I'll let you know how they turn out.

And just to show you that I eat vegetables, too (in moderation, of course), here is the final plate. Mrs. Hog made a new recipe for tater salad and some sautéed whole peas topped with cashews. It was a great meal.

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