Based on the info in the following (see below), I'm going to use a brine that has a 3% to 6% salinity today and will try smoking/canning with it to see how it works. I'm also using a recipe that incorporates about a cup of pineapple juice per gallon of water (contains protein enzymes). If this produces a softer product that is just as good, I'll post the recipe and process here...
"The Science Behind Brining
With Turkey Day quickly approaching, there has been a lot of talk on the web about whether or not you should brine your bird. Although there are good arguments from both camps, I think it is first important that the science of brining is understood before making any decisions.
A traditional brine is a water based liquid that contains between 3-6% salt by weight. Along with salt, a brine will contain aromatic herbs, spices and sometimes vegetables (usually mirepoix, garlic, etc).
So Why Would You Brine Meat?
Brining has two distinct effects on muscle tissue.
First, the high salinity of the brine “disrupts the structure of the muscle filaments” (On Food and Cooking, Pg 155). At about 3% salinity, the brine will partially dissolve “the protein structure” which supports the muscle filaments that contract when cooked. The more these muscles filaments are allowed to contract, the tougher your meat will be.
At about 5.5% salinity, the muscle filaments themselves are partially dissolved. Since their contracting ability is hindered by the salt, the muscle filaments contract less, effectively making your meat more tender.
Second, they way in which salt interacts with protein, allows the protein to retain more moisture, which is absorbed from the liquid of the brine itself. According to Harold McGee’s on Food and Cooking:
The meat’s weight increases by 10% or more. When cooked, the meat still loses around 20% of its weight in moisture, but this loss is counterbalanced by the brine absorbed, so the moisture loss is effectively cut in half. (PG 156) This is what allows brined meat to stay more moist, compared to its unbrined counterpart."