How to brine a rabbit

INTRODUCTION

If you wonder why one would want to brine meat, then the art of brining is probably not something that you have tried before. Any meat can be brined, and usually, it is to add flavour and help retain the moisture of lean meats when dry cooking methods are used for grilling, barbecuing or braaing.

Brines are salty solutions that help lean meats like chicken, turkey and rabbit hold their moisture, so they stay juicy and tender during grilling. Sugar, spices, and herbs can be added to the liquid as well to enhance the flavour of the grilled meat.

Brining is uncomplicated, but a somewhat scientific process, that uses osmosis (via a combination of salt and water), to develop flavour and moisture.  In simple words, salt draws moisture out of food but at the same time draws moisture in again through this process.  Because salt draws water, it is used to move water through food.  The salt in the brine, given enough time, will carry moisture and flavour into whatever is being brined.  Unlike marinades, you need to brine for a longer time, at least eight hours.  Short periods will draw moisture out of food, without giving time for it to be pulled back in.

The general direction would be to prepare a mixture a day in advance and then brine the meat for 12 hours or overnight totally submerged in the brine mixture while being refrigerated.

Brining allows you to cook rabbit meat over direct heat successfully without the need to pre-cook.  See brining is a technique or an aid to assist in your quest for the ultimate grilling satisfaction.  You can brine the whole rabbit as well as portions.

BASIC INGREDIENTS OF A BRINE

The basic ingredients of brines are salt, water and sugar.  Most brines contain sugar, to balance out the salt, and bring about some additional flavour.  The amount of salt used will actually determine the brining speed of the process but on the other hand, increase the salt levels and or required more sugar and other flavouring ingredients that may be necessary when you have enough time for the solution to do its work.  To brine for 14 hours 35 g salt for each 4 cups water can be used as a guideline given that most brines will happen overnight.

HOW TO MAKE THE BRINE

Add 35 g of regular kosher salt and 35 g of sugar in a non-reactive bowl.  Add 500 ml of warm water (2 cups) to dissolve the salt and sugar then add 500 ml (2cups) cold water to the mixture to cool it down.  Add your other flavours, at least some peppercorns and let the brine sit to develop additional flavour in the refrigerator.

Other spices or herbs you’d like, or aromatic vegetables like onion, carrot and celery can also be added for these flavours to be carried through the meat as it brines.

HOW TO FLAVOUR YOUR BRINE

The basic brine is just a starting point and why just comply with the basics?  Different foods pair better together than others, and you can use those natural food combinations to make your brined foods even better.  Additional flavours to your brine can be any of the following:

HERBS AND SPICES

Fresh herbs and spices can add a lot of flavor to your brine, and are generally pretty easy to work with.  What to add?  You can think of what you normally use a flavors in the finished dish.  If you’re cooking with Mexican flavors, add some cumin or chili powder, French or Italian, maybe herb de provence, or basil.  Generally  add fresh or dried herbs directly to the brine.  You can do the same with spices, or give them a light toasting in a dry pan to extract a bit more flavor.

AROMATICS

Aromatics are generally vegetables like onions, garlic, carrots.  But you can also add any others.  Ginger, fennel, lemon grass, peppers all come to mind, and can bring a unique flavor to the mix.  You can either add these raw to the brine or sauté them to further develop their flavor.

LIQUIDS

This is a pretty broad category that could include your sweetener, by adding honey, maple syrup, etc. and other sauces like mustard, soy sauce and various fruit juices.

HOW TO USE THE BRINE

Once the brine has cooled down add the meat by submerging it completely in the brine.  Brine for 14 hours or overnight.  Take the meat out of the brine 15 – 20 minutes before you are ready to cook for it to come up to room temperature.  Season the meat as normal.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

Through the brining process, the meat has taken in more sugar than its natural state, and sugar burns quicker than protein.  Keep an eye on the grill so that the meat does not burn quicker than what would normally be expected.

White table sugar is fine to use, but brown sugar carries a different flavour, as does honey, molasses, and maple syrup.  By swapping to any of these, you can modify the flavour of the finished product.

Use a non-reactive bowl (a glass or plastic bowl) when adding acidic components to your brine.  Steel or stainless bowls may react with the components and affect the flavour of the meat.

Use Kosher salt for your brining solution. It is free of iodine, making it good for pickling things and iodine can affect certain molecules in some foods and itself has a somewhat bitter taste.  A half a cup of normal table salt and Kosher salt will also not weigh the same and result in a twice as stronger brine mixture leaving you with an unbalanced salt and sugar relations.

See some brining recipes or make your own.