FoodLove's newsletter for 11/11/16
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It's time for your juiciest turkey ever, FoodLover!
PHOTO CREDIT: VIRTUALWEBERBULLET.COM
I've always been an experimenter with food and I'll give anything that sounds interesting a try. Well, at least 20 years ago I first heard of brining a turkey and it may have been one of the best experiments I've ever done!
Brining at its most simple means soaking a piece of meat, most often poultry, in salted water. This serves to pull the blood out of the flesh and replace it with the salted water (remember osmosis from 5th grade science class? Yup, that's this!) resulting in a turkey where every single bite is juicy and flavorful.
In addition to salt, a myriad of flavors can be added making your bird totally custom to your preferences. I favor the addition of apple cider, juniper berries, peppercorns, bay leaves and onion. In addition to flavor and moistness (two things seriously lacking in almost every bird I've ever eaten that goes unbrined, yuck) a brined turkey tends to cook faster, like a solid 30% faster, and remain moist even as leftovers.
I really can't say enough about brining! A professed poultry hater has told me over and over how he can't believe a turkey can be so delicious and a lovely lady well into her 80s told me it was the best, juiciest and tastiest turkey she'd ever had. When someone who's eaten at least 80 turkeys tells you that, you know you're on to something!
So, think you want to give it a try? Great! Follow these steps and you’ll be eating the best bird you’ve ever had!
Choose an untreated turkey. That means a turkey that is not koshered or injected with any flavor solution. Many grocery store turkeys are treated for flavor with a salt and sometimes chemical solution and if you brine them they’ll be too salty to eat. Koshered birds are also treated with salt to remove the blood from the flesh, which is exactly what brining does. So, why not just buy a treated turkey and skip the brining effort? Not one of these treatments even comes close to the juiciness and flavor a home-brined bird.
Choose your brining container and location. A large soup or lobster pot is a good choice if you can make space in your fridge. I prefer using my cooler (make sure it’s CLEAN!) and keeping it in the garage so my fridge is free for everything else! You can line your cooler with a clean garbage bag because that will allow you to pull the bag close around the turkey ensuring the brine surrounds it. I also like using these (http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=2e6ea43b91&e=0ab9ec18fb) because they're made from a nice heavy plastic and they tend not to leak.
Choose your brine flavor. The simplest brine is just salt and water. These alone will dramatically change the quality of your meal. Kosher salt is the salt of choice as it has a clean flavor and most brine recipes are created to accommodate it's particular grind. A medium grind sea salt is a fine alternative but do not substitute table salt; it'll be too salty and have a slight chemical flavor.
Brining is so effective as a way to flavor meat (like a marinade on steroids!) that it’s the perfect vehicle for other flavors. Here are some options:
Sugar, or honey/maple syrup/molasses: Any sugar substance will aid in the gorgeous browning of the skin and provide a balance to the flavor so go cheap and easy with plain white sugar or add more flavor with one of the other options.
Cider, beer, wine or whiskey: I’m a HUGE fan of cider in the brine because the flavor of apples is so complimentary to a turkey. Adding some beer, wine or whiskey will also up the flavor and if you have an affinity for any of those beverages then go for it, you’re unlikely to be disappointed!
Herbs and spices: This is entirely up to your personal preferences. For most people, sage is the quintessential Thanksgiving herb. Just the scent of it evokes the holiday so that’s a totally safe bet. Thyme, bay or rosemary are terrific and peppercorns, allspice berries, juniper berries or ginger are terrific as well.
Aromatic veggies: I like to stuff the turkey with the classic French mirepoix combo of onion, celery and carrots so the flavor can permeate the flesh as it cooks but you could also add any or all of these to your brine.
Give your turkey a bath! Unwrap the turkey, remove the giblets and neck from the cavity, submerge your bird in the brine and set aside for at least 12-24 hours, or more. I leave mine in for close to 72 hours because during the very busy Thanksgiving week picking up the turkey and making the brine on Monday leaves me free for all other tasks the rest of the week.
The important thing is that your turkey should remain at about 40º to inhibit the growth of bacteria. Thats the temp of a home refrigerator so no worries if you’re brining in the fridge. If you’re using a cooler, make sure to refresh the ice every 24 hours (if you choose to do a long brine). If you’re just doing a 12-14 hour brine one batch of ice will suffice. If it’s your first time brining, a 12-24 hour brine is probably the easiest and safest way to explore brining.
Note: Keeping the turkey at 40º is widely accepted as the only way to insure food safety. However, salt has been used for centuries as a way to preserve meat and allow it to be stored at room temperature (that’s how we got ham!) so all that salt in your brine is also working to inhibit bacterial growth. I’m sharing this with you for the sake of easing your mind should the temp in your cooler rise somewhat above 40º. No need to freak out!
Here’s the brine I’ve been using for years. Make the flavored version or the basic, your choice!
This is enough for a 12-16 pound bird. Double it if your bird is 20-28 pounds. Depending on the shape and size of your container you may need just a little more brine to cover. In that case, just mix 1/4 cup salt with 1 quart of water. You can add as many additional quarts of salted water as needed. If you’re using the full flavored recipe don’t worry about diluting the flavor, it’ll be great no matter what!
In a med/large pot, bring to a boil:
* 2 quarts water
For basic brine, skip these additions.
For flavored brine, add:
* 10 bay leaves
* 1 Tbs each: dried sage, dried thyme
* 1/4 cup each: peppercorns, juniper berries, whole allspice
* 1 med yellow or sweet onion, quartered
Simmer over low heat for 20 mins.
Remove from heat, add:
* 2 cups kosher salt
* 1 cup sugar or dark maple syrup
Stir until salt and sugar/syrup are completely dissolved. Allow to cool to room temperature. Pour into brining container.
* 2 quarts cold apple cider
* 4 quarts ice water
Stir to combine.
Submerge turkey and allow to soak for at least 12 hours and up to 72. Remove from brine, rinse in cold water, pat dry. Place on rack in roasting pan and loosely stuff with aromatic veggies (see above) and fresh herbs. (I do not recommend stuffing with bread stuffing. It affects how evenly the bird cooks and it creates several extra messy steps with no real pay off!) Coat skin with oil or butter and pepper, if desired. Do not salt the skin or the cavity, the brine did all the salting for you!
Roast at 325º until an instant read or meat thermometer reads 165º in the thickest part of the thigh and breast. The pop up timer that comes in most birds is an ok indicator but isn’t as accurate as a quality thermometer.
Estimate how long you should cook your bird according to this chart (http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage2.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=d8acca9ec9&e=0ab9ec18fb)
but start checking for doneness about two-thirds through the cooking time because brined birds often cook faster. Also, there’s no need for basting; it really just cools the oven down every time you open it. If the skin is perfectly browned before the meat is cooked just tent a piece of foil over the bird to prevent excessive browning.
When the turkey reaches 165º, remove from oven, tent with foil and allow to rest 10-15 mins before carving to insure maximum juiciness. Carve and enjoy!
Next week, delicious, easy, lump-free gravy!
Thanks, FoodLover, for reading. Head on over to our blog (http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=d73d54aeef&e=0ab9ec18fb) to join the conversation and please share (http://foodloveinc.us13.list-manage2.com/track/click?u=77cc26e06f414291d7c463df7&id=ea2f7b82b2&e=0ab9ec18fb) with all the FoodLovers you know!
Hi! I'm Tonianne, food evangelist and creator of FoodLove. That's me happy as can be, cooking for friends on a camping trip, and sharing wonderful conversation about – yup, you guessed it! – food. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the conversation, too. PHOTO CREDIT: D. SHEA
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