Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Potluck Recipe #23: A Brine for the Dog Days of Summer

Summer is always about the barbecue, but in these days of 115-degree heat indexes, grilling is more than fun, it's just good common sense. Why tax your AC -- or lack thereof -- with a hot kitchen if you don't have to? I'm not suggesting eating outside. No, this is not the time to loiter about the barbecue with a beer in hand exchanging sauce recipes and rehashing old fishing stories. This is more of a grill and dash scenario ... toss, dash, turn, dash, done, dash, eat!

If you are inclined to prepare food ahead for simple weeknight meals, this brine is a winner. We use it on pork loin, but it would also work for pork chops, chicken breasts or a whole chicken, should you find yourself at a potluck (for larger quantities of meat, simply double the amount of brine). The pork loin is nice in that it requires a minimum of hovering.

Brine for Pork & Chicken

1/4 cup sugar
1/8 cup salt
5 coriander seeds
10 to 12 black peppercorns
5 juniper berries
2 to 4 bay leaves
2 to 3 sprigs each fresh thyme, marjoram, basil or other herb
1 gallons of cold water
1-2 pounds of pork loin

1. Add the sugar and salt to about two cups of boiling water, stir and let stand until completely dissolved.
2. Smash the herbs and spices in a mortar, and then add them and the gallon of water to a non-reactive pot and stir in the brine.
3. When the mixture is cool, add the loin to it. The meat must be completely submerged; I sometimes put a plate or bowl on top of it. Refrigerate the loin for 24 hours.
4. Fifteen minutes before grilling, remove the loin from the brine and pat dry, allowing it to come up to room temperature.
5. Grill the loin over medium heat for about 30 minutes or until its internal temperature reaches 137 degrees.
6. Let the pork loin rest, tented in tinfoil, for 15 minutes before serving.

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