Tuesday, November 20, 2012

To Brine or Not To Brine...


For the last 10 years I have "brined" my turkey for Thanksgiving. 
It helps to make it moist, and juicy and yet really flavorful depending upon what you put in your brine. 
I generally use Rosemary and Sage, garlic, brown sugar, Kosher salt, whole peppercorns and just plain water. 
   But, there are ba-zillions of ways to change it up. 
Throw in citrus peels, Thyme, dill, Savory. Add onions halved, mustard seed, coriander seed and on and on. Use Apple Cider, bottled Ale, broth instead of or together with the plain water.
I would really add whatever you most like to have "stuffed" in the cavity of the bird to make it flavorful. 
So, once you've got an idea, I generally heat 2 quarts of water to a simmer and add in all your aromatics, 1 cup of Kosher salt and 1 cup of brown sugar. Turn of the heat and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar, this not only helps to dissolve the salt and sugar, it releases the oils from the herbs or aromatics. . Let cool or pour this into a metal, glass, or plastic container ( just don't use aluminum), and then dump in about 8-12 cups of ice if you"re not in the Midwest or just water if you are. Be sure to keep your bird cool.
Whatever container you're using, place your bird in (I put mine in frozen with the packaging slashed) and make sure the bird is 95% submerged. Weight it down with a heavy plate if you have to. I will do this on a Tuesday evening and by Thursday morning the bird is 90% thawed and perfect to take out, rinse and roast. 
I generally use a 11-12# turkey. 
So this is what it looks like during brining. 

The reason I can get away with using a frozen bird is because I live in the upper MIdwest and the nights here are in the 30's with the high's during the day only in the 40's and I put it inside an insulated cooler. 
Once ready to cook, rinse it well inside and out and dry it and prep it how ever you would normally to roast. 
I rub the outside of mine with a butter herb mixture. and stuff the cavity with more herbs and lemons.
Roast it per the instructions for any turkey. Making sure to use a thermometer to get the interior of a thigh at 165F. 
Cover it and let it rest for 20-50 minutes while preparing the rest of your dinner and voila!!
It's beautifully browned, moist and flavorful.
If you make gravy from the drippings be sure to taste before adding any salt. I always add homemade chicken broth to the bottom of my roaster to not only help steam the bird and prevent the drippings from burning and smoking, but to insure I have enough goodness to make a great gravy!