Local Foods Week | Brining Two Kinds of Pork

I haven’t made a whole lot of pork lately.  I’ve been swooning over spice-rubbed chicken, braising all manner of cuts beef, and grilling plenty of fish.  I think pork needs its due.  I am a big fan, particularly of bacon and pork belly.  It must be the fat.  But what about the old standby favorites?  I think I’ve been shying away from cuts like pork chops and fresh hams simply because, at first blush, seem kind of mundane.

Enter brining.  A great primer, including a simple ratio, from Cooks Illustrated can be found here.  But in a nutshell, this technique of soaking in a salt, sugar and spice “stock,” really livens up the flavor of the more lean cuts of pork and bumps up the much needed moisture.  It doesn’t require any silly flavor injectors and it’s foolproof.   Adjust the flavors and seasonings as you wish and you’ll have a dinner either as familiar or exotic as you want it to be.  Add in some locally and thoughtfully raised pork, mine was from Curly Tail Organic Farm, and the noble pig doesn’t get much better than this.

Basic Brine, make 1 quart per pound of meat

1 qt water

1/2 c kosher salt

1/2 c sugar

Combine all, stirring until salt and sugar is completely dissolved.  Brine meat for one to two hours per pound in the refrigerator.

Spices to add for a Fresh Ham

To each quart of brine add:

1 t fennel seeds, whole

1 t coriander seeds, whole

1 t cloves, whole

2 juniper berries, whole

1/2 star anise

Prior to mixing the salt and sugar with the water to dissolve, add spices, salt and sugar to a food processor and process until the mixture is finely ground.  Stir into the water and mix until the salt and sugar are dissolved.

After the ham’s salty water bath, rinse it and simmer it for a couple of hours on the stove with a bay leaf or two and a couple of peppercorns.  Finish it in a 4oo degree oven for 25 minutes or so after you rubbed it with some brown sugar and perhaps a few more of the same kinds of spices you brined it in.

Spices to add for Grilled Pork Chops

To each quart of brine add:

1 t coriander seeds

1 small sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves stripped

2 fresh sage leaves

1/4 small hot pepper, deseeded if desired

Follow first paragraph of directions for spices for a fresh ham.  Grill simply after brining.

Playlist included South of Cincinnati, by Dwight Yoakam.


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