I have often brined meats before cooking as it not only helps keep them moist and juicy (especially the ‘white’ cuts like turkey breast or loin of pork), but also is a great way of infusing flavor. Mostly however, I have generally used brines with barbecued foods but, today, I am doing a small pork roast in the oven with a view to having some nice leftovers for great sandwiches…
I like using the coarse, non-iodized, Kosher Salt for brining and the general rule of thumb is to use 1 cup for each gallon (four quarts/liters) of water. Sugar is not a requirement but it is frequently added to brines for flavor. Beyond that, you can experiment us much as you like with other seasonings and additives. My, fairly simple, recipe is as follows:
- 1 gallon water;
- 1 cup Kosher Salt;
- 1 Cup Sugar;
- 2 Tbsp. each Peppercorns, Fennel Seed and Coriander Seed;
- 1 Tbsp. Black Mustard Seed;
- 2 small pieces dried Root Ginger.
To make the brine, add the ingredients to a pot and bring to a boil over a moderate flame. When all the sugar and salt is dissolved, remove the pot from the heat and let cool completely.
This is the small roast I am using. It weighs just a shade under four pounds and has been trimmed of most of the excess fat. There is no absolute rule against using fatty cuts of pork when brining but those cuts tend to baste themselves and the process lends itself to white meats that tend to dry out in roasting.
When the brine is cool, immerse the meat, making sure it is covered. In the above picture, it may look like the meat is floating at the top but, in fact, it is on the bottom and there is a good two inches of liquid above it. Put the brine in the fridge or other cool place and let sit for a full 24 hours. With a bigger cut, approaching 10 pounds or more, a full two days would be fine, but that’s a bit much for my little roast. Smaller pieces, thick pork chops or the tenderloin, for example, should be brined for no more than half-a day (or less, even, depending upon thickness).
After brining, remove the roast and rinse it well under running water and then pat dry. Whether you add a glaze or not is up to you and, again, you can get as inventive as you wish. Here, I mixed 2 tablespoons each of prepared mustard and maple syrup with a pinch each of thyme and sage, then brushed it over the roast.
I cooked my roast at 325 degrees for 90 minutes and then turned the heat up to 425 for the last 30 minutes to brown. Once the roast is removed from the oven, you need to let it rest for at least 5 or ten minutes before carving.
I ate two thick slices of pork with potato and vegetables on the same day I cooked it, but a fair bit was later sliced for sandwiches. I am trying to limit my intake of processed meats these days and this roast has all of them beat hands down anyway. I also had just a little bit left over that I may use to make dumplings…