Saturday, November 26, 2011
a brined turkey
I'm filing this one away until next year, but our turkey turned out so wonderfully well, I couldn't wait until then to share this recipe and technique with you. When my siblings and I were kids, we used to beg my mom for a turkey dinner again come Christmas, and many times we got our wish. Two turkey dinners just a month apart was (and still is) such a luxury. Not to mention the days of leftover bounty. So, in case your family is still begging for more, here's something to try before next Thanksgiving. And now the pressure to deliver the perfect turkey is off, which I find is a perfectly freeing time to try something a little different.
I've found that brining not only makes for more tender and subtly flavored meat, it also helps the turkey roast up quicker. This means your dark meat gets cooked through without drying out the breast. An added bonus is the flavorful and already salted drippings that make for an excellent, richly colored gravy.
Brining a Turkey
~for a 15-20 pound bird
~brine your turkey 24-48 hours in advance
3 Gallons cold water
2 Cups kosher salt
1 Cup sugar
1 handful juniper berries
1 handful peppercorns (black or mixed variety)
1 handful cloves or whole star anise
1 garlic head, cut in half (just leave the skin on)
2 bay leaves
a few sprigs each of fresh: rosemary, sage, and thyme
1. Bring the water to a boil
~note: I use an extra large stockpot for this task. You could also try cooking the brine in batches, or perhaps try using half the water and then adding a bunch of ice into the cooler afterwards (see below).
2. Add everything else, and give it a good stir
3. Remove from heat after salt and sugar has dissolved. Place brine in the refrigerator or a cold area for a few hours until cooled down
4. Place the turkey in a cooler (or any other large container you can dream up--I like to use a cooler because the drainage plug makes it easy to dispose of the brine later) and add the brine. If the brine doesn't completely cover your turkey, flip the turkey over once at the halfway point.
~note: I keep the cooler in a cold area, either in my mudroom or outside in the snow, and also add some ice if I think the turkey's not at "refrigerator temperature."
5. After 24-48 hours, remove turkey from the brine, rinse, and pat dry before roasting