Brining the holiday bird became an internet "thing" about 10 years ago, but those in the know have been soaking turkeys, ducks, or chickens in savory, flavor-y brines long before that. Why brine? Ever had a turkey that was just a bit too dry, chewy, or, god forbid, reminiscent of the one cooked in that holiday classic National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation?
Worry no more.
By sliding your uncooked Thanksgiving turkey into a herb-y, spicy liquid brine a day or so before eating, your family can be assured of a juicy, flavorful bird. Brining as a process breaks down the tough muscle tissues of turkey and allows moisture to infuse into the meat, especially for today's commercially-produced birds with enormous, er, breasts.
This brine recipe calls for several simple ingredients, but the door is open for other flavors in your cabinet or pantry. The key is to completely thaw the turkey, and place it in a non-reactive (as in, non-metal) container for the brining process. A handy trick is to utilize the roasting bags sold today, or even an extra-extra large zip-type food storage bag. Then, in case you need to use a regular, metal stockpot, the bag will prevent the metallic flavor of a reactive container.
Thaw the turkey in the fridge, or in temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (i.e. yes, your Alaska garage may work, but check to be sure).
2 gallons water
3 cups apple cider
2 cups brown sugar
1 ½ cups kosher salt
A few bay leaves
A few twigs of rosemary (get the fresh stuff, it's worth it)
3 Tbs black peppercorns
4 garlic cloves, minced
Sliced lemon and orange.
That’s it… simple. What do you have in your pantry? Go crazy.
Brine turkey below 40 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 to 24 hours.
Rinse bird in fresh cold water before preparing for roasting.
To roast turkey, preheat oven to 325F.
Follow directions on packaging for roasting times.
At the very least, make sure internal temperature is at least 165F at the deepest point in the turkey to insure safety.
Let turkey rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.
Serve with all the traditional fixings.
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