This year, due to lack of the usual guests, my wife and I are taking a break from the bird and cassarole &tc. Instead, we’ll be making a couple of dishes from scratch that we’ve always wanted to make, but never have for whatever reason (timpano and cannoli, for those who are curious).
NATHELESS, I’m reposting my traditional brined turkey recipe for those who are interested in a moist, flavorful, insanely delicious turkey (cooked whole, not chopped into bits prior):
If you’re interested in eating a succulent and mouth-wateringly flavorful turkey this Thanksgiving, you should really consider brining that sucker! It’s very easy, and the payoff is high-quality bird that’s absolutely shockingly delicious.
Here’s how it’s done.
One (organic, cornfed, free-range, of course) turkey, NOT self-basting or Kosher
A turkey-sized container of some kind
Salt, and lots of it
12 tea bags (preferrably yerba mate’, but any dark green tea will work)
Various spices and sundries
Lots of room in your fridge
A cup of butter
A cheesecloth or clean, disposable towel
1. Make sure your turkey is clean and completely thawed!
2. The night before you’re going to cook your turkey, place the bird in a massive container, big enough that the turkey can be completely covered by the brine.
3. Begin boiling your water in a stock-pot. You can also use a number of smaller pots if they’re all you have on-hand.
4. When the water reaches boiling point, turn off the heat and begin adding salt to the water. You’re going for a ratio of about 3/4 of a cup per gallon of water. If you’d like to check whether the water is salty enough, drop in a raw egg (in the shell). Does the egg float? If so, you have plenty of salt in your brine.
5. Add your boullion cubes, about two per gallon of water. Add your teabags. Add whatever other spices you’d like to seep into your turkey. I like some rosemary, some sage, some pepper. Add enough spices that the brine gives off a heavenly aroma.
6. Turn off the brine and (this is important) LET IT COOL DOWN! If you’re in a hurry, you can drop some ice-cubes into the brine, or put your stock-pot in a sink full of ice, or stick it in the fridge, but it’s best to just let it sit and cool off, which takes a while. It has to cool off because you don’t want to start pre-cooking the bird!
7. When the brine is cooled to room temperature, pour it over your turkey. Cover it completely.
8. Let it sit, in the fridge, for 8-12 hours (but not too much longer or it’ll get too salty).
9. When it’s done brining, remove the turkey and wash it off. Discard the brine.
10. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
11. Melt the butter on low, and soak the cheesecloth or towel in the butter.
12. Stick about six garlic cloves underneath the skin of the turkey. Place the bird on the roaster, and cover it with the butter-soaked towel. DO NOT STUFF YOUR TURKEY. Cooking your stuffing in the turkey causes problems. It makes the cooking time all wonky and you run the risk of cold stuffing in a hot bird, which is just gross.
13. When the oven reaches 450, put the bird in for a half-hour. After the half hour, take out the bird and cover it *LOOSELY* with a sheet of aluminium foil. Reduce the heat to 325, and place the bird back in the oven.
14. Baste your bird frequently. Once every half hour should do fine– don’t do it too much or you’ll interrupt the cooking process. This sounds pretty frequent, but if you remember to baste it eash time you go into the kitchen to refill your wine glass, you should be okay.
15. (Optional) If you would like to put a mild glaze on your turkey, here’s a neat one. Mix together about 1/2 cup of honey and 1/4 cup of tamarind syrup with a couple of teaspoons of olive oil. Coat the turkey in glaze about 45 minutes before it comes out the oven. Glazing isn’t imperative, but it can add some extra crispiness to the turkey skin.
16. If you have a meat thermometer, remove the bird when it reads about 180 degrees in the leg joint. It should take anywhere from 3-6 hours depending on how big your bird is. You can estimate an hour for every three pounds or so. Another way to check for done-ness is to stick a fork in the thickest part of the turkey. Are the juices clear? Then your turkey is done!
Enjoy your deliciously brined turkey, and impress your friends and family with your mad brining skills!