Brine consists of water and salt. It is used to draw natural sugars and moisture from food and to form lactic acids which will protect them against bacteria growth and spoilage. A 10 percent brine, the strongest used in food processing, is made by mixing 1 1/2 cups salt to one gallon water, or six tablespoons salt to one quart water. A 10 percent brine will float an egg, a good way to test for the correct ratio.
Regardless of the type of brine you are making, it is recommended that you begin with soft water. If you have hard water, you can "soften" it by boiling for 15 minutes. Let it stand covered for 24 hours. If a scum has formed, remove it, then pour the water through cheesecloth to collect any sediment. Pickling brine, as opposed to simple brine, contains the flavors you want to impart to the vegetables you are pickling.
The most common use of brine is to make pickles. The brine should include dill weed, vinegar, cloves, pickling spice and turmeric. This will make a sour pickle. You can include other ingredients depending on the specific flavor you prefer. For instance, if you like hot and spicy, add some horseradish or red pepper flakes. Garlic is also a popular addition to a dill pickle.
Once you have decided on the ingredients you want to use, put them in a stockpot with the water and salt. Boil for four minutes. Place your cucumbers, or other vegetables you want to pickle, into sterile glass jars. Pour the hot brine over the vegetables, cap and allow to cool. You will hear a "pop" when the lid has sealed or you will notice the lid has a dip in the middle.
Other Uses for Pickling Brine
Use of pickling brine is not limited to vegetables. You can pickle meat. Alton Brown, host of Food Network's Good Eats, developed a recipe for pickled pork. The brine acts as a marinade, going into a zip lock bag with the pork and put into the refrigerator for three days. Pickled eggs are another easy and delicious way to use brine. Try a sweet and sour brine over apple rings. Let your imagination be your guide.
- "Joy of Cooking"; Irma S. Rombauer, et al.; 1975
- Food Network; Pickled Pork; 2008
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