Additives to brines
I brine pork and chicken. I use salt and brown sugar. Sometimes I use soy sauce and brown sugar.
There are times when I wanted to add other flavors to a brine but it only works if the additives or at least the flavors in those additives dissolve in the water so they can be transported into the meat with the salt.
For example, garlic powder doesn't melt so it won't work. Liquid smoke works because it is smoke flavor dissolved in water. Dried pepper flakes won't dissolve but some of their flavor does.
Apple juice for pork would probably work. I suspect any fruit juice would work.
A lot of herbs aren't very water soluble. Most of them are oil soluble so they don't work very well if at all.
Anything you folks can think of that would work and please let us know if you have done it or not. Guessing is fine but even better if you have done it.
I like beer brine for chicken and pork, a couple of my favorite recipes:
My favorite pork brine comes from the Dean & DeLuca cookbook: Bring 8 cups of water, 1/4 cup coarse salt, and 3 tablespoons of sugar to a boil. Add 3 bay leaves, 2 cloves, 1 cinnamon stick, 2 teaspoons black peppercorns, 1 clove of smashed garlic and simmer for 5 minutes. Cool and strain.
Fully agree with ipsedixit that herbs and spices need not dissolve in water to impart to impart their flavors to a brine--especially if that brine is simmered for a bit.
agree - simmer to extract flavors.
I like JoanN's ingredients ('cept cinnamon). I also use lots of Jamaican allspice berries. Sometimes I brine chicken in straight hot sauce, like Crystal. The result isn't as hot as you'd think, but full of flavor.
Sometimes I brine striploin or ribsteak in canned, sliced jalapenos (with the can juice) again not very hot, but bursting with flavor.
When I brine a turkey or a whole chicken I use cinnamon stick, a clove, a quarter teaspoon of ground cardamom, and half a bay leaf for each gallon of water.
I don't think it is necessary for everything to be water soluble, as you say, because even things that do not fully dissolve in water still add flavor and fragrance.
I make a strong tea with the fresh herbs I want to use for a brine. I do it with my ice tea maker. I jam the basket full of bruised herbs and it'll make up to 3 quarts. I've also infused warm vinegar with herbs.
Plain old apple juice with pork is good but I love using cider with pork and ham.