An Ode to Brining

October 31, 2010

I’ve had such a love/hate relationship with pork. I loved the sweet meat when I was little, loved the wonderful aroma that filled the house as it roasted. And then, suddenly, I couldn’t stand the papery dry meat that emerged from the oven every time, which had all the charm of cardboard. For a long time, I stopped cooking pork altogether.

Then I discovered that simply by plunking the meat into a salt water brine, I could revive the joy of pork. The added bonus is that if you throw in some herbs, you not only get fabulously juicy meat, you also get extra flavor.

Brine recipe:

2 quarts water

1/3 cup kosher salt

3 tablespoons of sugar,

a few cloves of garlic


black peppers

Bring this to a boil, pour it into a large bowl and chill in the refrigerator. When it’s cool, add a 6-rib pork loin roast (about 3 ½ pounds) and marinate in the refrigerator for two days.

Drain the roast and pat dry before browning and roasting. It will be fat, sassy, completely satisfying. Especially if you begin with a pig who led a happy life.

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  • I am definitely going to do this the next time we try an organic herbed pork roast:) Maybe then I will actually enjoy it! Thanks.

  • Brian says:

    I have been brining pork for a while and it really works. I need to credit the 1st Gourmet cookbook’s recipe for “fool proof grilled chicken” for getting the idea of brining pork.

  • Anda Divine says:

    Ruth, consider the possibility that the pork you are using is qualitatively different from what was available when you were young. So much of it comes from CAFOs now, and of course the meat taste and texture are much worse. I only buy pasture-raised heritage pork and poultry from local farmers here in west-central Virginia, and brining is simply never necessary, My favorite prep method for pork roast is “Porc En Daube,” where I mix olive oil, fresh lemon juice, honey, crushed bay leaves, and salt/pepper, and smear it all over the meat and then roast as usual. The aroma during cooking is to die for.

  • Alicat Sf says:

    I think it is superdry too, but I thought it had something to do with them not fattening up the pigs as much as they used to. But it is the brining?
    Can you brine pork chops too?

  • Ruth Reichl says:

    Anda – You’re right about the difference in modern meat, but I don’t buy CAFO pork. I still find that even the pork from local farmers benefits from being brined before cooking. (So, for that matter, does most meat.) It concentrates the flavors, as well as allowing it to retain the mositure.

  • Ruth Reichl says:

    Alicat, yes, definitely. Pork chops LOVE a brine. You won’t believe the difference!