Charcutepalooza: Brining

This month’s Charcutepalooza challenge was brining and for a couple of weeks there, it seemed there wasn’t a minute in the ELTW household that we were not either brining meat or cooking brined meat. Not too challenging in itself, our major challenge was finding the space in our fridge for meat brining containers!

We started out with the Apprentice challenge: Brine a whole chicken.

Last Thanksgiving we brined a turkey for the first time and vowed never to go back to un-brined birds ever again. It was so moist and tender, unlike any turkey we’ve ever had.  Wasn’t so sure about the chicken needing to be brined – Neil does a mean roast chicken (mostly because it involves extraordinary amounts of butter shoved under the poor bird’s skin) and we wondered whether this would convert us…

Because we’re in Charcutepalooza this year to learn new techniques and perfect old ones, we followed Michael Ruhlman’s recipe for brined chicken from Ratio to a T, despite Neil’s insatiable urge to tinker with quantities and ingredients. Our chicken fit in our Le Creuset 8 quart stock pot perfectly! Where he sat overnight.  And the result?

Yeah, Charlie got a little burned on top (Neil had questioned the oven temperature – and I have to say, he does know how our oven operates with a chicken inside!) but overall he was crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside.  Was it better than Neil’s standard roast chicken? No. Was it better than many roast chickens I have eaten? Yes. The brine infused a little bit of flavour and moisture into the meat but to my mind, for a small bird, it’s not something I would do again, given the fact that it takes up so much space in our fridge (like, a whole shelf – we don’t have a ginormous North American sized fridge…). For a turkey? Definitely. And I would use Mr Ruhlman’s brine recipe too 😉

The other option for the Apprentice challenge was to brine a pork chop.  Then during the Twitter chat about the challenge, I saw someone mention Peameal bacon. That’s pork, too, right?  As soon as I mentioned this to Neil, he was in!  We followed this recipe from Ruhlman to a T also…

So, so easy. Ridiculously easy actually. For around the same price as you would pay in a good butcher store, we had our very own peameal bacon.  The pork loin brines for 72 hours in the fridge, then you take it out, rinse it and pat it dry and place it back in the fridge uncovered overnight again. The next day, you roll it in cornmeal. Our cornmeal did not stick as much as I would have liked it to – not sure why but that’s more an aesthetic thing than anything else.

Meanwhile, back in the fridge, our Charcuterie challenge item was a-brining: Beef brisket to make corned beef.  Again, a ridiculously simple process involving making a brine, leaving the meat in the cooled brine in the fridge for 5 days then rinsing it and boiling it using some of the reserved brining spices. What could be simpler?

Oh my – look at that pink! So pretty!!!! I was smitten with this – I just couldn’t get over how it turned out so well. Gorgeous to look at and melt in your mouth delicious. So so good.

At this point in the Charcutepalooza proceedings, I fell very very ill – in fact shortly after taking that last photo, I was in the hospital. My crazy vertigo and nausea took my appetite away for a good two weeks so I didn’t get to enjoy much of the corned beef or the peameal bacon 🙁

A brunch we had planned with our neighbour and blogger friend Ethan who was visiting from London, Ontario, had to be cancelled, though both were given a little taste of the brisket.  Ethan devoured his on the way home in his car and said “I had to sneak a quick piece and it tastes great and exactly as it should, with a little kick! And I’ve eaten a lot of brisket over the years with 2 Jewish grandmothers!” Our neighbour, Steve, wrote me this: “ Yum- loved the spiciness and taste of cloves.  My mouth was pleasantly tingling.  I desperately wish I had some fresh rye bread, mustard and crisp new dills to go with it.  Liked the ratio of lean to fat-  I’m glad you didn’t go too lean.  Let’s face it- the flavour comes from the fat (but, then so does the guilt).  Also glad you weren’t subtle with the spices- very flavourful.  Definitely worth the calories!  Addictive.  More!” So I guess you could say it was a success!

Meanwhile, on one of my first forays downstairs (people, I didn’t even SEE my kitchen for a good week, let alone cook in it), I discovered Neil taking one for the blog…

Yes, he was frying up the peameal bacon, having declared it “about to be inedible” – he was right – it had been in the fridge for a few days at that point… I commandeered a slice or two for some “lardons” that I later had him put to good use in Dorie Greenspan’s savory cheese and chive loaf, because let’s face it, everything’s better with bacon!

Later as I sipped chicken soup on the couch, I looked over to see this…

Ahem. Quality control, right?

And what you may ask were they eating?

To his credit, Neil did not actually eat ALL that meat. He simply thought it would make for a better photo. Yeah, right!

The following weekend, we invited our good friend Jane over to help us eat the rest of the corned beef (err and then I made her make the aforementioned cheese bread…).  We made a “farmer’s breakfast” hash – potatoes, onions, corned beef and scrambled eggs. On rye toast.

It was the first non-chicken soup meal I had eaten in  a while (a few tiny bites of). It was good.

And of course, because there was STILL corned beef left last weekend, Neil enjoyed a classic:

With Keen’s hot mustard and a few pickles, this was his idea of heaven.

Even though I didn’t manage to eat much of the “spoils” this month, I am totally enamoured with both the peameal bacon and the corned beef.  Who knew that it was so easy????

The “official signup” for Charcutepalooza is over (see who signed up here) but you can still join in the fun – purchase Charcuterie either on Amazon or and cook along with us!

75 thoughts on “Charcutepalooza: Brining”

  1. Yum! I love brining, and now I’m intrigued with the bacon idea. And also, all that MEAT is just hilarious. My husband calls it a meat coma when he eats like that. Enjoy!

  2. Looks great! Too bad you were too sick for the corned beef. I love that Mr. Neil stepped up with the meat consumption 🙂

  3. Impressed you still got this written up into such a great post despite being so ill- it is 9:30 am on 3/15 and while my photos are done, I have yet to even being writing my post. Ahem I had better get crackin…
    ps SO SAD I won’t be meeting you this week but please make new plans to come to NYC when you are all better and I will make sure to get in to see you.

    • Thanks Winnie – me too sad to not be there but I need to be in tip top shape to enjoy NYC. I had all but 4 of these pictures already edited and uploaded and a lot of the writing done before I got sick, otherwise there is no way I would have had this done. Bonus of being super organised this month!!! Looking forward to reading your post!

  4. You really went all out…and everything looks amazing. I know that some of my corned beef is destined for hash…with eggs…that plate is calling my name. I’m sorry to hear that you were down in the dumps and unable to partake in most of it…that just makes it all that much more amazing….what can you do when you’re running on full!? 😉 Great job.

  5. Oh my, this looks incredible! Good deli corned beef on homemade rye with spicy mustard is one of my favorite things. I’ve been very impressed by everyone’s Charcutepalooza cooking — it all makes me hungry!

  6. Mardi, wow you really took the challenge full on! Chicken, pork, and brisket! What a great idea to make peameal bacon. Incredible work, and beautiful results. Hope that now you are feeling better.

  7. Hot damn, girl! Way to go all out with the meat! No better way to start eating again than with a gorgeous hash like that. Glad you’re on the mend.

  8. Love this post and now I’m all about wanting to make my own peameal bacon and corned beef – both sound amazing! Gotta say I am a fan of brining chicken, especially when it is Anthony Sedlak’s recipe which is virtually perfect.

  9. Hey Mardi & Mr. Neil…everything looks terrific! Love the splayed chicken shot and the sandwich shot and the hash shot…heck…I just love all the shots!!! Looks like you had a month like me…something was always brining in the fridge or cooking or staring at me begging to be eaten. Loved it! Glad you’re back up among the living…tough month to not be able to eat.

  10. What a month you’ve had! I hope your recovery goes well. Everything here looks great – but that breakfast is inspiring. I am putting peameal bacon on my list.
    Your kitty looks so much like mine – and mine is a food thief too!

  11. Terrific post! I’m so glad you’re on the mend. And you’re right – it’s so easy to make the corned beef, may as well get another brisket brining right away! All the best, Cathy

  12. The follow-up to my email to Mr. Neil is I finished all the brisket in the car and stopped for a chocolate milkshake to wash it all down in Cambridge!
    As usual, you went above and beyond the call of duty (with the help of Mr. Neil of course) with the challenges and they all came out looking great. Hope to meet you next time i’m in Toronto:)

  13. I am so impressed with these charcutapalooza posts! I had no idea how simple it was to make all of these items at home! I’m going to have to look into this cookbook! Great looking bacon, mmm…

  14. I’m sure Cathy and Kim…well, and Michael would be delighted with Vicki’s comment and I have the same thoughts…who knew making bacon was so easy and corned beef was from a brine? Not me…book on the way!

    I’ve never gotten on the bird brining train either…but maybe it’s because my recipe for turkey is much like Neil’s for chicken. Butter in good quantity shoved under the skin…oh and then some bacon on top. That white meat has no chance to dry out!

  15. I wish I was somewhere near that plate! Wow… I’m slurping my drool. That just looks so freakin’ good!

  16. I can only imagine watching all this happen around you when you are sick! The bacon and the brisket look amazing! I think that I am going to brine my corned beef, too, even though I have no conditions here for any more ambitious curing projects:) If you say it’s easy:)
    I hope you continue on getting better!
    Great post!

  17. I don’t know what I was thinking, I guess I wasn’t, when I made such a small corned beef. I totally didn’t think about hash! Oh well easy enough to make another.

    Thanks for the kind words on my post too.

  18. You went above and beyond bring such a wide variety of meats on top of being ill. I can’t wait to try some corned beef hash this weekend. Your pictures have me dreaming…

  19. Mardi –you’re amazing, and a good inspiration for me to be more organized. Plus you & Mr. Neil (and that adorable kitty) are makin’ me hungry! Then again, all these ‘palooza posts are making me hungry. I’m glad you’re feeling better & I’m looking forward to seeing what you do for the hot smoke challenge 🙂

  20. Delicious. Just found your blog – and it made me salivate. It’s a pleasure to read, as well as look at.

  21. Oh, yum! I really should do more brining… I just don’t make much meat these days. I will add it to my list of things to do this spring… I, too, love the flavor of brined turkey and chicken. Great job on the challenge!

  22. Mardi, I’m glad you’re our of the hospital! Miss you here in NYC, but I know we’ll see each other soon! Congrats on a very impressive Charcutepalooza post! I didn’t realize peameal bacon was so easy to make – something I’ll have Jeff try to do if we can smuggle some in from our next trip to Toronto.

  23. I’m so inspired to get my brine on after this! You are inspirational!

    I am also inspired to go overdose on multivitamins. Still full of sympathy for you with that horrid illness. There aren’t enough sad face emoticons for it.

  24. I love to brine. I have this great recipe from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home for fried chicken in which it’s brined for 12 hours in a herb-lemon brine. The chicken is dredged in seasoned flour, dipped in buttermilk, and then dredged again in the flour. It’s fantastic but the kitchen smelled like brine for a week!
    I had to laugh when reading your post because I use the exact same pot for my brine (I have the light blue one). The picture looked like it came out of my camera!

  25. I do my brining and the majority of my tricks with beef, pork and chicken in the warmer months. The hardwood smoker works better then! Good thing that time is coming…

    I have been so entertained by all the Charcutepalooza posts floating around. Lots of neat ideas and new-to-me techniques.


  26. I saw so many posts leading up to Christmas about people brining their turkeys. Now that you have done it with a little chicken I’m really curious to try it myself. You may be under the weather but your photography shots are top notch. Every photograph is stunning. You really should do a coffee table book of your food pictures…just saying.
    Glad that you and Neil are enjoying this newest venture together, even if you don’t have a huge fridge or the perfect heating oven…you always knock the challenges out of the park! Hope you are back to your healthy self by the end of March Break. So sorry that you missed your trip to NYC and meeting all the girls. There will be a next time for you though I’m sure.

  27. you guys are amazing. and you know steve is ready to move to toronto right. now. 😉 i’m so sorry you’ve been feeling so lousy! i hope you’re back in the kitchen soon, my friend.


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