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Turkey brining basics

Posted Nov 15 2008 9:25am

Those of you that wanted to know more about how I brine a turkey.... this post is for you. Those of you who didn't, I'm really sorry!

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First the disclaimers: I am not a legitimate Foodie. I'm not sure of the science behind why brining works. I do know folks claim brining takes the moisture far deeper into the bird as opposed to basting. Because my results have been consistently good (moist tender turkey) I can't imagine not brining. Finally, I'm not trying to convert anyone. If you're not into brining because of time and what not, I get that! If you're into off the shelf brining mixes, all good! Now, on with the show.

Prep: bathe your bird, remove his bag of goodies and scrub your bucket. I use a bright red 5 gallon bucket I got at Lowes. Thus far, I've gotten an 18 pound bird in the bucket no problem.

Mix: Prepare yourselves... here comes my wacky brine. I start with the basics. The theory as I understand it is a balance of salt and sugar. So in warm water, about 3-4 inches of the bottom of my bucket, I mix about 1 cup to a cup and 1/4 Kosher salt and about 2/3 cup sugar. I give this a good stir to dissolve it and add a couple more inches of cool water before slipping the turkey in.

Insert: Toss your clean turkey in here head first and add cool water until he's covered. At this point, I will say that I've heard of folks brining in beer, cider or stock. I say whatever floats your boat, but I just go with the water.

Now add your flavor. I like to brine with succulents. At least that's what my former boss (a foodie) called it! So I thinly slice about two lemons and three limes and toss that in the brine. I add one or two cored and diced apples, about a cup or two of whole cranberries (I rough them up a little). I also float coriander or allspice seeds in there as well as fresh herbs like thyme and sage. Then I throw some ice on top and cover the bucket with foil and set it on the patio for at least 6 hours where I watch it like a hawk to make sure the cats don't get any ideas. If the cats are too curious, I put the bucket in the garage. You want to keep the turkey at 40 degrees or less and it's always that cold here in the evening in November so no worries! If it's warm where you are, you might want to consider a 5 gallon drink cooler to brine in so you can keep the turkey cool during the process.

Variations: If you wanted to, you could easily forego the succulents and add herbs and garlic in the brine, or add cinnamon sticks or substitute brown sugar or maple syrup for the regular sugar...or even go just salt and sugar. Bay leaves would work, cilantro might be interesting... even rosemary... Design your brine!

After 6-8 hours have passed, I remove our bird and pat him dry with paper towels. Then he goes into the roaster pan and with the lid loosely placed, and he goes into the fridge for the night. Do not cover tightly! Then I strain the succulents out of the bucket and put them in a zip lock bag and into the fridge. Wash bucket thoroughly and attempt to hide from family so they won't use it to wash the car or something!

In the morning: Once you're ready to put your bird in the oven, open the roaster and finish preparing your bird. I roast with the succulents from the brine in the cavity. It doesn't impart significant flavor to either the bird or the gravy (it won't taste like citrus), but it does add some interesting highlights  and it smells great. So succulents in! Then I pull up the skin on the breast and insert fresh herbs next to the meat. Tarragon, thyme and sage are all good candidates. Then I give him one brush of butter across the boobs and into the oven to slow roast... UNCOVERED. If you cover him, all the moisture you soaked into him will end up in the bottom of the roaster. ( learned the hard way-year one of brining experiment )

That's it! Easy Peasy! A little bath and a pat down the night before and your turkey has moved from average to exceptional. And moist! And Tender!

Happy brining! Asthmagirl out!

PS~ I've never done this with a Butterball. They have additives that may mess with the brining. I always look for a turkey with no additives or injections.

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