Wednesday, December 27, 2006

How to Brine a Turkey

We had guests for Christmas day -- and they wanted to know how I prepared the turkey and gravy. I cooked for two solid days. Homemade everything. I used 3 pounds of butter and a quart of heavy cream. I will have to diet soon...

So here we go!

Brining a turkey will help flavor the turkey and it certainly makes for a moist and tender bird. Your turkey needs to be thawed – either a fresh turkey, never frozen or one you have left in the refrigerator for a couple of days to thaw. It shouldn’t be injected or treated with anything – no additives, just turkey.

Boil 2 quarts of water in a very large pot. I own a 10 gallon stock pot and use this for brining. Add a cup of salt, a cup of brown sugar, one bunch of rosemary (crushed, fresh), a couple of sticks of cinnamon, one bunch of sage,(crushed) and a handful of black peppercorns. Boil for a few minutes and set aside to cool. When cool, add a cup of apple cider.

After the stock is cool, rinse off the turkey and place in to stockpot. Fill with cold water and ice (as much as you can), cover and set in a cool place for at least 12 hours, but not more than 24. If you wish, stick a thermometer into the brine and do not allow it to get over 40 degree F.

When you are ready to cook the turkey, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Chop two or three apples and a couple of onions. Steam the apples and onions for a couple of minutes in the microwave, along with more rosemary (dried this time), cinnamon (powdered), rubbed sage, pepper and a cup of apple cider. Let the aromatics steep while you prepare the turkey. Rinse the turkey and discard the brine. Place the turkey in the roaster in the usual manner (which is actually upside down for the poor old turkey.) Tuck the wings in. Place the apples and onions in the cavity, mix a cup of white wine (I use a sweet wine, like a Riesling) with the liquid and drizzle the liquid over the turkey. Pour a cup of olive oil over the turkey and rub in the spices and oil with your hands. Place the turkey in the oven, uncovered for 30 minutes and brown the skin. This will keep the moisture in the turkey.

After 30 minutes, take the bird out of the oven and flip it over, so that the breast is down. Cover with the lid and cook for an additional 2 and a half to 3 hours (for a 12 to 15 pound bird, you will need to adjust for a smaller or larger bird). A half hour before the turkey is done, flip it over again and recover. Basting is not necessary. Take it out when done (when the interior temp gets to 162 to 170 degrees F) and leave it covered. Let it rest for 15 minutes to an hour before you carve it.

While the turkey is resting, you can take the stock out of the bottom of the pan and make a gravy. I don’t like giblets, so I make a traditional brown gravy. Start with a roux made with butter. When the roux is nice and brown, use the stock to make the gravy – you can add some wine, if you wish and if you like a creamy gravy, you can use some heavy cream. I also will chop up the onions and apples and some of the meat to give the gravy some texture.

This bird will have a slightly sweet flavor, with apples. You can do this with a hen, if you wish, but will have to adjust the cooking times. You also leave out the apples, sage and cinnamon, and use only onions, rosemary and lemons. (I do dearly love Lemon/Rosemary chicken.)


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