Monday, December 10, 2012

Turkey Brine and Aromatic

        I know that Thanksgiving is over, but Christmas is coming up. I know that a lot of people like to have turkey for Christmas dinner as well as Thanksgiving. So I thought I'd share with you what I did. Our Turkeys turned out moist tender and flavorful. Part of that reason was the brine.

        I know that there has been some debate about the benefits of brining a Turkey. I am still a fan. I like the texture of a bird that has been brined and it is very moist. I suppose that it will all boil down to preference. Still, it will be your bird, and you will be the one eating it. Some say you can't make gravy with the drippings. I've personally never had that problem. My gravy always seems to come out pretty good. One thing to note, is that brining will add salt to your turkey. Perhaps people are adding too much salt, which then is too much for gravy. Basically brining causes some exchanges of water and salts in and out of the flesh. First, the bird which is relatively unsalty, loses water and allows salt to enter the meat. After the meat is saltier, then water enters the meat, more than the original amount which makes it moister. Well that's the basics of what happens. It does take time and preparation so you will need to plan ahead. So go if you want to brine then follow along.

  • 2 to 3 gallons of water and ice
  • 6 to 10 teaspoons salt
  • 6 to 10 teaspoons packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons liquid smoke
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon allspice
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 lemon cut in half
  • 1 small onion cut in half
  • 1 ginger beer

        You are going to want to try and keep the salt/ sugar ratio to about 10 teaspoons for every 3 gallons. Don't worry too much about being precise. these are just rough guidelines. I did about two gallons for a twelve pound turkey. So use your best judgement to plan ahead. Mix about two quarts of water with all of the other ingredients except the ginger beer. Bring to a boil, making sure all the salt and sugar dissolve completely. Allow the mixture to cool completely and refrigerate. You can use ice to cool and chill the mixture quicker. I like to use a plastic bucket to brine my turkey in. I use a 3&1/2 or 5 gallon bucket depending on the size of the turkey. Mix the now chilled brine mixture with more water and the ginger beer to bring to your final volume. Place your thawed, cleaned (no internal organs etc) turkey in the brine. Make sure that the turkey is completely covered. Weigh it down if you need to. Cover and refrigerate for 10 to 20 hours depending on the size of your bird. You don't want to leave it in too long or it can get too salty. You will want to do a minimum of eight hours to make sure it is moist enough. I did my twelve pound turkey for about twelve hours.

        After the bird has been in the brine you will want to rinse it off inside and out and pat it dry before cooking. Stuff the bird with aromatics if you want and cook it with your preferred method. Make sure to get it to a safe internal temperature but not overdone. The meat should come out moist, tender and flavorful. Enjoy.

        I like to pair a brined bird with some things meant to add more flavor to the meat. To be honest the flavors from the brine are really subtle. Still, I think a brined bird tastes a lot better. The aromatics enhance and kick the flavor up another notch. If you also want to give it a try, this is what I like to do.

  • a fist full of fresh rosemary
  • a small onion cut in quarters
  • an apple cut in quarters
  • a tablespoon minced garlic
  • a tablespoon cinnamon
  • a tablespoon sage
        Alternating ingredients a portion at a time, I layer them into the cavity of the bird. Again, this is not something that needs precision. The amounts given are just a guideline. Feel free to adjust as you see fit. After the bird is stuffed with the aromatics, cook it with you r favorite method. Make sure to get it to a safe internal temperature but not overdone. 

Image courtesy of TheKohser and used under Creative Commons and GNU licences.
        I have always loved the turkeys I have cooked after brining and stuffing with aromatics. I love how juicy and tender they are. I love how flavorful they are. I was hooked after the first time I tried one like this. I don't think I'll stop preparing them this way anytime soon. I hope you enjoy the results as much as I do.

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