Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How To Brine A Turkey

In these past few years it seems that brining a turkey has become a popular way to prepare the big bird on Thanksgiving Day.  Maybe I am just imagining it, since I have only really been in charge of my own turkey since moving to New York three years ago, but seriously every magazine I pick up or cooking show I watch, brining the bird seems to be an essential part of the process.  What is brining?  It is a salt-water solution mixed with other aromatics that the bird soaks in over night, to ensure even moisture content throughout the bird.  The result is a juicy, tender turkey.  Although, I am a vegetarian, I have been assured that this turkey is very delicious, but honestly I have never tried it.  I trust my carnivore friends though.

Just some tips to mention before you start your brining.  Make sure your turkey is fresh or thawed out completely if frozen.  Also, you can either set the turkey in a large 5-gallon container, or a brining bag, which you can find at Whole Foods.  You can also get them on Amazon here.  Brining bags are like a huge ziplock bag, and are actually really sturdy.  It does help if you have a friend help you hold the bag while you place the ingredients in.  I also like that you can smush it into the refrigerator.  The last tip, is make sure you get your bird early enough.  You need to start brining your bird the morning before you plan to eat the turkey (at least for this recipe).  So have your bird thawed and ready on Tuesday night, brine on Wednesday, and cook on Thursday.

Ingredients for Riesling Brine from Martha Stewart Living, November 2008:

-7 quarts water (28 cups)
-1 1/2 cups kosher salt
-6 bay leaves
-2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
-1 tablespoon dried juniper berries
-2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
-1 tablespoon fennel seeds
-1 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
-1 fresh whole turkey (18-20 pounds) patted dry, neck and giblets reserved for stock, liver for stuffing
-1 bottle dry Riesling
-2 medium onions, thinly sliced
-6 garlic cloves, crushed
-1 bunch fresh thyme

Bring 1 quart water, salt, bay leaves, and spices to a simmer, stirring until salt has dissolved.  Let cool for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, slice onions and garlic.  Place onions, garlic, and thyme in the bag or container.  Place turkey on top and pour in Riesling.  I like to pour in about half the remaining water (3 quarts), then the spice mixture, then the rest of the water (3 quarts), so everything gets mixed well, and the warm spice mixture doesn't directly hit the bird.
If the turkey is not submerged, weigh it down with a plate.  Refrigerate for 24 hours, flipping the turkey breast side down once in the middle of brining.

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