Thursday, December 23, 2010

Turkey-Brined Pork

A whole lot of people cook turkey on Thanksgiving, and there are some who serve it on Christmas as well. But when the Christmas sales come around, you'll find bargains on all the trappings of turkey cooking. While you might not need a turkey stuffing bag until next year, there's something you can buy and use right away: a turkey brining kit.

Yes, that's what I said. You can use it right away, even if you've sworn of the big bird for another 11 months.

Here's the deal. Turkey brine works just as well for pork. The flavors are very compatible, and there's nothing in turkey brine that screams "Thanksgiving!" at you. While it's simple enough to make your own brine, when those kits go on sale, you can stock up on them, cheap, and have them on hand when you want to brine a pork roast, pork chops or ... chicken.

Since a pork roast is smaller than a turkey, you don't need as much brine liquid, which makes the kit even more economical, since you can use it for several roasts. On the other hand, a pork roast is a lot denser than a turkey, so it takes longer for the brine to penetrate that pork roast. You do need to make a few adjustments, but it's simple.

The brining kit I got included a brine mixture, a brining bag, and a rub. The brine was enough for a gallon of brine, but I knew that I didn't need that much. But it was a fairly big roast, so I used half the brine and half the amount of water. A smaller roast would be fine with a quarter of the brine and a quarter of the water. Your kit will be different, but you'll be fine if you keep the ratio of brine to water the same.

It's also a good idea to taste the brine. I'm not saying you should drink it, but it a spoon in and take a tiny taste. It should taste a little salty, but not painfully so. Just a pleasant amount of salt. If it seems very salty, add water until it reaches a pleasant level.

Prepare the brine as directed. Usually you need to heat it to a boil, then cool it. This infuses the spices into the water, which then flavors your roast. Make sure it's completely cool before you introduce it to the pork.

Put the pork roast in a brining bag, if a bag came with your kit - or any handy plastic bag that will hold the roast. Since a pork roast is a lot smaller than a turkey, you'll probably have a bag it will fit into. Seal the bag and try to get as much air out as possible so it's completely surrounded with the liquid. Put it in a bowl or whatever it will fit into, in case your bag leaks. Refrigerate it for 24 - 48 hours.

When you're ready to cook, rinse off the roast and pat dry. You can rub it with a bit of oil or coat it with spices or a dry rub. Or, if you kit came with a rub, use that, in an appropriate amount for the size of your roast. Cook as usual, to 155 degrees in the center. Let it rest at least 15 minutes before slicing.

Note: Brined pork stays moist, and the interior is a little pinker that a non-brined meat,  but don't let that color worry you. If you've cooked it to the correct temperature, it's done.