Brineometer

 

Brining is the addition of food to salty liquid. At a lower concentration of salt the fluid penetrates most food, but especially meat. This lower level brining results in added moisture. It is particularly popular for poultry before it goes into roast. The difference in texture is very noticeable and it doesn’t necessarily introduce any extra saltiness to the meat.Adding something less than sea water strength brine to chicken works well. Sea water is about 3.5% dry salt to water, or 7 level teaspoons to 1 litre of water, about the level needed for brining. This measure is used with fine tablesalt. Brining should be for about 1 hour per lb, not exceeding 12 hours.

The more concentrated the brine solution the closer it becomes to matching or exceeding the balance of the cells osmotic weight. Osmotic balance indicates which way fluid will flow through the cell wall. If the inside is lower weight the fluid will flow outwards. This is the level at which brining can then be used for preservation purposes. The amount of salt would be about twice that of the above brine and the meat would be stored in the solution for days rather than hours.

Salt can vary a lot in weight to measured volume. This be double between fine and coarse sea salt. The only accurate way to do this is by aiming for a target salinity. A floating measure called a brinometer is used for this, which looks like the specific gravity measure for beer.

 

If I was to say that we are going to inflict death by imploding cell walls, exposure to acid, gassing, rubbing in salt or poisoning, you would possibly be fair in thinking of medieval executions. The truth is that every day, food curers and charcutiers do just these things to preserve food. All of the processes are natural and most of them have been around for centuries. When ships set sail across the oceans a staple dish was salted cod. All the moisture had been drawn out of the cod and it could be reconstituted and cooked up months into the journey. It is also rumoured to be one of the origins of “Salty Dog” as a reference to an experienced sailor. What would have happended if the same piece of cod had not been preserved?  How long would it have lasted in the ship’s galley? Also, how heavy would the food supplies on board have been?

Over the next few blogs, we are going to look at how some of these techniques work, the science and maybe some history to go along with it. If you have ever tried fresh pastrami and enjoyed it’s rich flavours, then you will have experienced the benefit of at least three of these tactics of chemical warfare.

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