Sunday, November 29, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015: Prep Work 2 - Turkey Brine

I first started brining just a few years ago, and I don't want to go back.  Brining is really quite a simple process, and at its heart I think it's pretty closely related to curing meats.  A solution of salt and sugar is used to infuse flavor and promote juicy, tender results.

Now, if you buy a frozen turkey, it's probably already done for you.  You'll generally notice some words on the package to the effect that the bird has been injected with a salt water solution.  Well, that's brine.

I get my Thanksgiving turkey from a poultry farm close to my home.  It has not been processed beyond basic cleaning, so it stands to benefit from this process.

Rather than a simple salt water solution, I figure it's good to add a bit of additional flavor right from the start.  I give all credit to Ree Drummond, "The Pioneer Woman" for the brine I use.  It's quite simple to make, and the results...  well, you'll have to try it, now won't you?  I won't presume to provide the recipe, you can get it at the following link:

Ree Drummond - My Favorite Turkey Brine

It takes only a few minutes to get this on the stove, and it comes to a boil soon enough (yes, it's a lot of water, and if your burners are smaller than mine, which they probably are, it will take longer).  I would suggest you can halve the water pretty safely, and then dump cold water or even ice in at the end to make up the difference.  That will also help to get it to cool down.  The first time I made this, I was very late getting the turkey into brine because of how long it took the stuff to cool off.

I prepared the brine while my stock was in the works.  My kitchen smelled wonderful at this point.

Once the brine has boiled and cooled off, you need to get the turkey into it, which can be done in a cooler or a bag or even a bucket if you so choose.  I'm told that paint buckets aren't really safe for this process, as they can leach chemicals into the brine, so to be safe maybe it's best to use a brining bag.

This was my turkey.  There are many like it, but this one was mine:

Remove the giblets, remove the neck, rinse it well and get it into the bag, breast side down.

Then pour the brine over it.

Now all that is left is to seal it up while squeezing out the excess air.  Oh, and give it a turn half way through to ensure that the whole shebang gets benefit of the brine.  I would suggest at least 24 hours for a bird this size.  I did longer and have no complaints.

There, two big jobs I didn't need to do away from home.

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