Brining spices are a collection of herbs and spices that are combined for the purpose of flavoring and tenderizing a cut of meat or various vegetables before cooking. Brining also helps to preserve food as well. A wide range of seasonings can be used in the brining process, with salt generally included in any recommended list of spices.
One of the main benefits to using one or more brining spices is that it is possible to utilize a single spice or as many different spices as desired. Often, the selection of spices has to do with the type of food that will undergo the process, and the main purpose for the brining. For example, if the purpose is to tenderize a cut of red meat, the combination of brining spices could be some type of salt along with freshly ground pepper or peppercorns. The salt would help to break down the protein content in the meat, creating a softer texture. At the same time, the peppercorns would add a slight flavor that would enhance the taste of the meat.
There are many different herbs and spices that may be used as a brining spice. In addition to salt and pepper, ground garlic is an excellent option. Thyme, rosemary, sage, cayenne pepper, and allspice are also commonly used to prepare brines.
Combining the selection of brining spices with water and initiating the brining process is not difficult. After selecting the spices, add a half to three-quarters of a cup of each spice to a gallon of water. Many brine recipes also call for adding some amount of brown sugar to the mixture, although this is not always the case. The spices should be distributed more or less evenly in the water, then put on the stove and brought to a boil. Once the mixture has achieved a rolling boil, reduce the heat and allow the brine to simmer for several minutes, then cool to room temperature.
Small cuts of meat and cut vegetables can usually be placed in a bowl and covered with the brine mixture. Larger items, such as whole turkeys or hams, can be placed in a brining bag along with enough of the brine to completely cover the meat. After the spices in the brine have had enough time to permeate and flavor the meat or vegetables, the food is removed from the brine and is ready to cook.
The amount of time that food must remain in the mixture of brining spices will vary, depending on the size and type of the food. Fish filets may require no more than twenty or so minutes to effectively soak up the flavor of the spices. Pork chops may require no more than thirty minutes of brining time. However, large cuts of meat may require anywhere from a few hours to a full day in order to attain the proper level of seasoning.