What Is Brine?
Brine is salt water. So the sea, which is the main source of salt water, is sometimes known as “the briny”. Salt water has various special properties and the fish that live in the sea and in salt lakes are usually not the same kinds that live in fresh water rivers.
Salt water cannot be drunk for refreshment, as it makes the drinker thirstier, or even sick. But it is possible by using expensive desalinization plants to remove the salt and make the water drinkable. The sea contains many valuable minerals and salts. In some parts of the world, such as coastal Brittany, in France, the sea is allowed to flood the marshes to a shallow depth when the tide comes in. The sun evaporates the water and leaves the salts to be collected.
In different contexts, brine may refer to salt solutions ranging from about 3.5% (a typical concentration of seawater, on the lower end of solutions used for brining foods) up to about 26% (a typical saturated solution, depending on temperature). Lower levels of concentration are called by different names: fresh water, brackish water, and saline water.
Brine naturally occurs on the Earth’s surface (salt lakes), crust, and within brine pools on ocean bottom. High-concentration brine lakes typically emerge due to evaporation of ground saline water on high ambient temperatures. Brine is used for food processing and cooking (pickling and brining), for de-icing of roads and other structures, and in a number of technological processes. It is also a by-product of many industrial processes, such as desalination, and may pose an environmental risk due to its corrosive and toxic effects, so it requires wastewater treatment for proper disposal.
In food processing, brining is treating food with brine or coarse salt which preserves and seasons the food while enhancing tenderness and flavor with additions such as herbs, spices, sugar, caramel and/or vinegar. Meat and fish are typically brined for less than twenty-four hours while vegetables, cheeses and fruit are brined in a much longer process known as pickling. Brining is similar to marination, except that a marinade usually includes a significant amount of acid, such as vinegar or citrus juice. Brining is also similar to curing, which usually involves significantly drying the food, and is done over a much longer time period.