Not only do pickled foods taste good, but it seems everyone is talking about how good pickled foods are for you as well. Pickles, sauerkraut, kimchee and other fermented foods, which can last in your fridge a lot longer than non-pickled foods, introduce probiotics to your gut to help balance microflora. Another advantage of brining is how it also locks in moisture and adds deep, complex flavor to meats like beef pork or lamb. Brining is a simple technique that involves marinating your ingredients in a mixture of salt, water, and oftentimes other spices or flavoring agents. “Salt adds tremendous flavor,” said the scientist Greg Blonder, Ph.D. in an interview with Real Simple. “And brining, if you do it right, will get the salt deep into the meat, so every bite has a nice, salty taste.” And don’t worry that your meat will come out too salty. Brine recipes only tend to contain 5 to 8 percent salt.
For instance, if the chilly weather has got you in the mood for Peter Brady’s favorite dish of pork chops and applesauce, all you’ll need for the brine are 4 pork chops, 3 cups of water, ¼ cup of Kosher salt, ¼ cup of light brown sugar and 2 ice cubes. Start by mixing the water, salt, and sugar until dissolved and then stir in the ice and any other spices and cool the brine. Then, place the 4 pork chops in a zipper-lock bag, pour in the flavored brine and seal the bag. Finally, place the bag in a bowl (in case it leaks!) and refrigerate for 2 to 6 hours and then cook up the recipe as required. You can also do the same with a Thanksgiving turkey and if you don’t have a container large enough to brine your turkey, you can purchase a brining kit at Crate & Barrel, which includes a bag of spices and a large heavy-duty bag. Or you can buy a brining bag.
If you’re a vegetarian, veggies with a tougher skin like cucumbers and peppers are perfect pickled foods. Root vegetables like carrots and radishes also do well. A basic brine recipe that can be used for most vegetables, let’s use carrots here, and that’s easy to remember requires equal parts water and vinegar, and a quarter of the salt to sugar. Adding black peppercorns, mustard seeds or other preferred spices to the mix, really adds a kick. Then bring the vinegar, sugar, salt, peppercorns, mustard seeds, spices, and 2 cups water to a boil in a medium pot over high heat, stirring it occasionally. Reduce the heat and let it simmer 10 minutes. Next, place the carrots in a heatproof re-sealable container or jar and pour the hot brining liquid over the carrots. Finally, cover them and let them cool at room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving. Now you have healthy carrots that will last longer in your fridge and that are full of probiotics. And it’s so easy.