Sweet Tea Is Your Secret Ingredient For A Ham Brine That Won't Disappoint

Without brining, ham won't take on the supple, juicy texture that it's meant to have. The process makes pork absolutely delectable, tenderizing it to the perfect degree. While salt is vital for a good brine, sugar is arguably as important. For perfectly brined ham, sweet tea is your new secret ingredient.

Wet brining involves submerging meat in heavily salted water; traditionally, the method was used to preserve meat, but now it's primarily used to infuse it with delicious flavor. An excellent tenderizer, the salt in the brine breaks down the meat's proteins, allowing moisture to enter. The sugar in brines then works to balance the flavor as well as give the ham skin a crackly texture. A brown sugar brine provides ham with an excellent flavor profile, and it's even better when earthy black tea is involved.

Black tea has a mild flavor that won't overwhelm the taste of ham. Plus, it's filled with tannins, bitter compounds that further break down the proteins in meat's muscle fibers, resulting in ham that's even more tender. To make the brine, add 1 tablespoon of salt for every cup of sweet tea. You'll need enough brine to fully submerge the ham; this comes out to around 1 gallon per every 4 pounds of ham.

These ingredients will spice up your ham's sweet tea brine

Standard brining liquid contains black peppercorns and a few herbs to bring an earthy flavor to the meat. Black tea already embodies this flavor, but you can always step it up with sprigs of thyme, rosemary, and sage. To brighten up the sweet tea brine a little, basil and mint leaves are a good idea.

Ham tends to lean a little sweeter, so it's not uncommon to use a few baking spices to enhance the flavor. For a spicier sweet tea brine, cinnamon sticks and cloves will bring a warm, earthy element to the delectable pork. Throw in some ground ginger for heat and brighten up the warmth with bay leaves, oregano, and parsley.

You can also lean more into the sweet tea theme with citrus. Slices of oranges and lemons bring a sweet, zesty flavor to the brine while the citric acid works to tenderize the ham further. For a little more tang, sprinkle in mustard powder and apple cider vinegar. To brine the ham, add it to a plastic bag and pour the sweet tea on top, leaving it to cure for 4 to 12 hours in the fridge. Once it's done, drain the liquid and pat the ham dry before cooking. This earthy, sweet ham can be served with mac and cheese, braised sweet potatoes, or a classic green bean casserole.