Thursday, October 06, 2011
A good brine can really add flavor and moisture to grilled and smoked foods, but they can be labor intensive, especially if doing the hot brine method to bring the seasoning flavors forward. Those have to be chilled after they've been cooked, so that means starting ahead a day or two. So, yes, I brine, but also, yes, I'm lazy sometimes.
I'd never seen a ready made brine, until Sarah sent an email about Sweetwater Spice Company's bath brine concentrates. As far as I know, there's not another company doing the bottled ready-to-use brines. If I've missed something, just let me know.
Sarah said she could send me a couple of bottles of the brine, so I could see if they're any good. I thought that would be a nice plan, since I know many of my readers like to try out new grilling ideas and may find making homemade brine tedious.
When the bottles of brine came in, I had Smoked Habanero BBQ Bath and Smoked Apple Spice Butt & Rib Bath. I was a little worried about the "smoked" part, since I am definately not a liquid smoke fan. But, the smoke was from smoked paprika, so whew . . . I didn't have to break out the mouthwash to smother fake smoke taste.
These brines are concentrates, so you are getting much more than at first glance. The directions are one part brine to three parts water. I had to explain to one of my guys that the four cup measure was super easy - just put 1 cup of brine in the cup and then fill to the four cup line. He was trying to do some math and make this hard. I'm not a math whiz, but one part to three parts is easy and no need to dirty up extra measuring cups.
Once the brine was mixed up, we poured it over the Boston Butt. The bottle says you can use a zip bag, but a butt is pretty big. And, I don't have the jumbo zip locks. My Thatsa Bowl from Tupperware was just perfect - plus has a lid that burps out the air and also fits close enough to a 6 pound Boston butt to keep it from floating.
The bottle lists times to brine. It's one hour per pound on a butt or shoulder. We just let it sit in the refrigerator overnight which worked out fine. You wouldn't want to brine that long for smaller cuts.
The brine smelled really nice when we first poured it up and then again when getting the butt on the smoker. The base is apple juice and then there are spices and peppers. And - salt. That's what makes a brine a brine and what adds the moisture to the meat. I'd also note that these brines are gluten free and low in sugar, so that will help on some of the special diets for those reading.
Our Boston butt turned out beautiful as you can see, and the flavor was great. The meat was very moist, and it picked up some smoke flavor. With the habanero brine, we got a little kick as well. It was really great.
I was sold, so we did a second Boston butt and used the Smoked Apple Spice bath. It's lower on the heat meter, and the flavor is a little more smokey. I think I liked the Apple Spice brine the best, but it would be a hard call. They were both excellent.
If you are thinking about brining and want to save the extra steps to make your own or you don't want to chance wrecking a big cut of meat or expensive meat with a homemade brine that may or may not be great, then pick up a bottle of Sweetwater Creek Spice brine concentrate. It's super easy to use. The flavors are fabulous. I'm sure you'll be impressed, and your family and friends will be too when you serve up your smoked butt (or chicken, turkey, shoulders).