Brining: from necessity to luxury
Salt is and will always remain one of the most important flavour enhancers in cooking. However, in the days before the invention of the fridge, it was also a necessary item to keep food good for longer. In addition to enhancing the flavour of food, the addition of salt also affects the structure and shelf life. In this blog we discuss the brining of the past and of the present.
Wet and dry brine
Brining is an old preserving technique that was used before the invention of the fridge to make meat, fish, and vegetables last longer. A dry brine increases the salt content and reduces the water content of a product. This inhibits or even stops the growth of fungi and bacteria. In meat and fish, salt activates a process in the muscle tissue: the normally strongly connected muscle fibres are separated from each other and become transparent because the moisture is drawn out of the proteins. This moisture withdrawal causes the meat to become more tightly packed.
A wet brine is a saline solution that dissolves parts of the protein structure in the muscle fibres. This results in fewer protein chains that can solidify, which in turn results in more tender meat. The salt also ensures that the proteins in the meat retain moisture: in this case, the moisture from the brine. It is therefore advisable to make a wet brine with aromatic herbs and spices.
When using dry brine, bear in mind that you use at least 50% brine in relation to the product. This means that with 1 kg of meat, you need 500 grams of brine. In case of a wet brine, make sure the entire product is submerged in the brine.
Old techniques in the modern kitchen
Nowadays we brine products for the taste it creates and less to enhance the shelf life, simply because we have a refrigerator. Dry brine is still used mainly for making dried hams or sausages and for preserving or fermenting fruit and vegetables, but also for simple tasks such as lightly salting cucumbers to extract moisture.
Many fish recipes often read: ‘salt the fish and brine for 20 minutes.’ This makes the meat more firm and causes it to release a little moisture on the exterior. Pat the fish dry well and you’ll see how evenly it colours when you fry it. Wet brine is also often used in cooking. Pieces of meat are placed in an aromatic saline solution, the structure is changed, and the chef's signature is incorporated into the meat.
We have all the basics
Basic recipes for making brine can be found on the website. We explain the finer details of a brine step by step and we offer inspiration using different recipes. Not a member but want to view the components? Sign up now and try out Gastronomixs for free for two weeks!