Friday, November 20, 2015

Turkey tips: brine your bird

Posted By on Fri, Nov 20, 2015 at 1:13 PM

click to enlarge turkey.jpg

If you pick up a copy of this week's Arkansas Times, you'll find some tasty recipes from Little Rock chefs—just in time for Thanksgiving. One of the recipes is a turkey brine from Gilbert Alaquinez at Forty Two, and I was happy that we were able to include a brine recipe in this issue. Brining a bird is one of the best ways to impart loads of flavor to the meat, and it's a great way to keep a lean bird moist and juicy—because nothing is worse than biting into a slice of turkey breast that tastes like sawdust.

You can go as simple or as complicated with a brine as you want. For a bare-bones version, add 1 or 2 cups of salt (non-iodized is best) and one half to one whole cup of sugar per gallon of water, then heat the water until everything is dissolved. Chill the brine down, then submerge your turkey overnight. The salty water will cause the turkey to absorb moisture, and the addition of sugar will give your skin a delightful golden-brown color.

Of course, the best way to do a brine is to add other tasty things to it. Fresh sage, thyme, garlic, onions, lemons and other tasty things are all great additions to a brine, as is white wine, brandy or cognac. Pretty much anything you like to taste can be added to a brine, and instead of having a seasoned skin and flavorless meat, the flavors will get distributed all through the bird, making it delicious from the first bite to the last.

I really like Alaquinez's version of a brine, so I've reproduced it here in case you all didn't see it. Do you all brine poultry? Let us know what you put in yours down there in the comments.


7 quarts (28 C.) water
1 1/2 C. coarse salt
6 bay leaves
2 T. whole coriander seeds
1 T. dried juniper berries
2 T. whole black peppercorns
1 T. fennel seeds
1 tsp. black or brown mustard seeds
1 fresh whole turkey (18 to 20 lbs.), patted dry, neck and giblets reserved for stock, liver reserved for stuffing
1 bottle dry Riesling
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bunch fresh thyme

Bring one quart water, the salt, bay leaves and spices to a simmer, stirring until salt has dissolved. Let cool for five minutes.

Line a five-gallon container with a large brining or oven-roasting bag. Place turkey in bag. Add salt mixture, remaining six quarts (24 cups) water, and the other ingredients. Tie bag. If turkey is not submerged, weight it with a plate. Refrigerate for 24 hours, flipping turkey once.

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