Jen's Kitchen Blog

Learning to cook the food I like to eat…

Charcutepalooza – The Salt Solution

Posted by jenskitchen on March 15, 2011

If you haven’t heard about Charcutepalooza yet, head over to Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s site for all the info, including a list of meat-loving bloggers, the Ruhls, the challenges, and much more.

The third Charcutepalooza challenge is all about brining. According to Ruhlman, in Charcuterie, “…if you like to cook, you will certainly want to have the brining technique (and a basic brine ratio) in your repertoire.” Well, I like to cook, so I guess this is my month to add the brining technique to my list of things I can do… For the salt solution challenge, which will be posted on March 15th, I am doing this post as a running journal of my brining experience.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Stopped by The Meat Shop to buy pork chops and brisket for Charcutepalooza. The shop was crazy busy – more customers than I had seen there at one time before. Yet, every one was still as friendly as usual. I ordered my pork chops – cut 1 1/2″ thick and a five-pound beef brisket and then sat back and chatted with the other customers. Through the large window, we could see into the butchering area – meat was being cut to order… What an amazing site! Customers came and went while Beth and a gentleman I had not met yet were behind the counter greeting people, taking orders, and checking people out. I sat talking to one of the vendors of the nearby farmer’s market while inhaling that amazing butcher shop smell. (Truly I love that smell!) 

When I got my order, I was surprised how big 1 1/2″ thich pork chops were. I’d never seen anything like that in a grocery store. They were beautiful. Suddenly, I couldn’t wait to brine these babies!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Today, I got up early to make my brines (should have started them last night so they’d have time to cool… But, I didn’t.) I read descriptions on twitter and in Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s post about setting the pots in the snow to cool quickly. Um, there’s no snow here. Okay, I’ll just let them cool slowly. Took a while, but the brines are now in the fridge. My plan is to make the Garlic-Sage Brined Pork Chops, Corned Beef, and Home-Cured Sauerkraut from Charcuterie. I’m thinking the Pork Chops will be ready for tonight’s dinner. One week (give-or-take) until I have Corned Beef and two weeks until the sauerkraut is ready. Really glad I was on top of things this month and started the Charcuterie challenge early! Now, to think of side-dishes to make some awesome meals. I was going to make homemade applesauce… but my son’s had other plans for the apples, so… while I wait for my brines to finish chilling in the fridge, I’m wondering what will go well with the pork. I’ll let you know how it turns out…

Okay… There should be a picture here. Right now I’m having technical difficulties getting my various accounts and media do-hicky’s to play nice together. So… To see a pic of these beautiful pork chops, fresh out of the brine, check out this entry

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Last night’s dinner was amazing. The brined pork chops from the recipe in Charcuterie were very good. Both boys ate with gusto. On the side, I made a simple salad of just lettuce and a homemade mustard dressing and a baked bean dish that rocked. I think the older sous chef had six servings of that.

Baked Beans

  • Cooked white beans
  • Tomato Puree – I used Pomi
  • White Vinegar
  • Blackstrap Molasses
  • Mustard
  • Onion – Yellow
  • Bacon – My home-cured bacon from last Charcutepalooza Challenge : )

I cooked up a large bag of Great Northern White Beans. About 1/2 of the cooked beans went into the dish. The other half are reserved for another purpose…

I sliced the onion and put it in the bottom of my baking dish and then covered the onions with the cooked beans. In a bowl, I combined molasses, tomato puree, mustard, vinegar, and salt to taste. I’m not entirely sure of my measurements… Just til it looked right and tasted good!

I cut a good-size slab of bacon into chunks and fried it. After adding the bacon to the beans and onions, I poured over the tomato-molasses-mustard mixture and gave it a good mix. This went into a 350 degree oven for about 2 hours. I always know something will be good when the older son is brought out of his bedroom to ask what smells good 🙂

Mustard Dressing

For my dressing, I started with a basic oil and vinegar mixture. To this, I added mustard, honey, and garlic. Not really sure of the proportions or measurements here… Again, I go by what looks right. Then, I add the mayo. If I want a vinaigrette consistency, I usually use just a Tablespoon of mayo. This time, I wanted a slightly thicker dressing, so I added mayo… you guessed it… until it looked right. Then, I added salt to taste. The older sous chef ate several helpings of salad, and even told me, without prompting, mind you, how good the dressing was.

The younger sous chef wouldn’t try the beans or the salad (I think he’s on a meat only diet right now… well, meat and ice cream…) But, he ate quite a bit of the pork chop. (Though, he kept calling it steak : )

All in all, the meal was very satisfying, tasty, and plentiful. There’s still some pork chop and baked beans left. Thinking about having some for breakfast!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

So, on day 6, I was supposed to pull my corned beef out of the brine and finish preparations… Sometimes life happens and 6 days of brining becomes 7 days of brining 🙂

I pulled the corned beef out of the brine solution, rinsed it, and prepared to cook… A bit more pickling spice plus some garlic went in the pot with my beautifully corned beef.

Now, how to serve this? Since I’m going to a corned beef dinner soon (complete with cabbage, potatoes, and carrots), I opted to make sandwiches. A stop by Gluten Free Creations for some of their mock rye bread was all I needed. A smear of mustard and layers of refrigerated corned beef on bread that tasted surprisingly how I remember rye bread tasting back when I ate gluten, made one incredible sandwich. Okay. I had two.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My little one and I ate big chunks of corned beef for dinner tonight while cuddling together. At four years old, he surprises me with how much he can eat when he likes something. I can safely say that this corned beef has his stamp of approval… He ate all of his and then started picking at my plate.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sadly, the home-brined sauerkraut did not make it… Little spots of mold around the top made me decide it was safer to pitch that experience. The weather has probably been much too nice and I doubt that the temperature stayed cool enough… Perhaps next winter. I mean, it’s technically still winter, but in Phoenix, winter just doesn’t mean the same thing as it does in other parts of the country.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I had an awesome time this month with the Salt Solution Challenge for Charcutepalooza. Adding brining to my cooking skills has been a lot of fun. Wanna play along… Mrs. Wheelbarrow has all the details on the April Challenge… Looks like a smokin’ good time! Something tells me there may just be a home-smoked Easter ham in my future… I’ll let you know about my adventures with the Hot Smoking Challenge on April 15.

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