Brining, or soaking food in heavily salted water, is a very old method for preserving and curing foods. The meat is submerged, for hours or days, depending on its weight, in a salt solution, and during this time osmosis occurs, increasing the amount of liquid inside the meat’s cells. The result is a juicier, more flavorful piece of meat. While brine is simply a mixture of water and salt, most brines are balanced by the addition of sugar and enhanced with herbs and spices.
Use a nonreactive container for brining, such as glass or stainless steel bowl or even a plastic bucket. The container must be large enough to submerge the odd bit completely in the brining solution, but small enough to fit in your refrigerator. Try to find one that is just wide enough to hold the meat–it the meat fits snugly in the container, you don’t have to add as much brine.
To estimate how much brine to make, place the odd bit you want to brine in the container and pour over enough cold water to cover. Remove the odd bit, then pour the water into a measuring jug. You can brine several odd bits in the same brine.
Your brining solution must be cold before you pour it over the meat, and you may have to weigh down the meat with a plate and a weight so it’s totally submerged. (I’ve found plastic containers filled with water or stones work well as weights.)
Cover the container with plastic and refrigerate for:
º 1/2 to 1 day for pork or lamb tongues
º 2 days for pig’s ears and tails
º 2 to 3 days for calf’s or beef tongue
º 2 to 3 days for split pig’s head and feet
When you remove the meat from the brine, rinse the meat well under cold water and discard the brine.
The information and recipe, contained within, is excerpted from Odd Bits by Jennifer McLagan and can be purchased here.