Before attending the market, I only thought people brined turkeys for Thanksgiving. I never thought to take my everyday meals like chicken or pork and submerge them in heavily seasoned liquids to heighten flavor. Until I had my first stew hen and realized brining was a necessity to turn a tough old bird into a tender delicacy. And shortly after that, Christia of Pig Mountain Farms, informed me that she always brine her pork chops because it makes them so tender.
So I searched different recipes and discovered a bounty of brines. From using expired milk or buttermilk, to the buzz about Chik Fil-A using pickle juice to brine their famous chicken. But no matter how you stirred it, everyone’s brine utilizes two ingredients—salt and water.
According to The Only Brine You’ll Ever Need, “When you cook meat, you lose about 20% of moisture so a brine is a way to add it back in.” Although this video uses a slew of seasonings which seems a bit more intimating, it does speak volumes about how to mix flavors.
But if you’re like me and are just “dipping your toes in the deep and salty waters of brining” then this Brining Basics video was helpful in providing me with a pre-roast soak solution no matter the size or meat.
One of my favorite characters, Alton Brown explains how a brine works in this handy video (which I love the dated pager reference but the content, including osmosis, is still very relevant to a good salt brine recipe). His turkey brine recipe.
No matter how you soak it, the overall message is to soak it in a salt water solution. Use sage, thyme, celery salt, onion, apple cider vinegar, honey or maple syrup—all things found at the market. Soak it for 3 hours or 3 days. Experiment. And feel free to ask your farmer if they have a go to recipe or any tips on how to prepare the stuff they lovingly raised. The main ingredient is always going to be to have fun.