Above: Brined and roasted pork loin with fennel.
Brining is one of my most favoritest foodie techniques. It is super-easy, impresses people, and makes cheap supermarket meat taste like grass-fed-free-range-Niman-Ranch-whatever. It only takes a few minutes to put the brine together, cool it, and throw the brining meat into the fridge, but you can let the flavors develop anywhere from overnight to a week.
The fundamental of brine is not even a recipe, just a ratio: You want 8 cups of water to each half cup of salt. (For a Thanksgiving turkey, you'd want about 32 cups of water.) To this, add something sweet (honey, molasses, or maple syrup), probably about as much as the salt. Heat the water in a pot on the stove until the salt and sweetener dissolve. Then add a bunch of stuff. Here are some suggestions regarding said stuff; I tend to use some or all of the following, depending on what I have in the house:
- Garlic cloves
- Dried chili peppers (add while the water is hot so they will reconstitute, or un-dehydrate)
- Chili pepper flakes
- Thyme sprigs
- Bay leaves
- Cumin seeds
- Mustard seeds
- Cilantro sprigs