Brined Turkey

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Contributing Writer
Vicki McGraw

Well friends, as hard as it is to believe, the holiday rush is on.  It seems as though we were just enjoying the last long days of summer, and yet here we are, just a few days before Thanksgiving already.  You can’t walk into a store without being bombarded by Christmas decorations, yet we first need to stop to say a word of thanks for all we have been given and achieved in the past year.  It is too bad that Thanksgiving seems to be lost in the shuffle of Christmas preparation…it’s time to put it back in its’ place of honor!

As I write this weeks’ edition of Join me in the Kitchen, I have 6 turkeys thawing in my cooler.  One of the problems that is most often faced by cooks at Thanksgiving is a turkey that hasn’t completely thawed by Thanksgiving morning.  It is very important to allow sufficient time for your turkey to thaw completely…you can’t cook a frozen bird, and they don’t thaw quickly.  You don’t want to leave a frozen turkey sitting out on the counter to thaw; that is an open invitation to bacteria growth and spoilage.  The best method is to thaw your turkey under refrigeration, allowing one day refrigerated thaw time for every 3-4 pounds of turkey (for example, give an 18 pound turkey about 5 days in the fridge to thaw completely). If you find yourself desperate at the last minute, you can thaw your bird in a bath of cold water.  Simply submerge the wrapped turkey in cold (NOT warm or hot!) water and let it rest, changing the water every hour or two until the bird has completely thawed. I don’t recommend this method, but there are times when “ya gotta do what ya gotta do!”

Last week I bought all of the non-perishables I will need for my holiday feast.  Canned goods and baking ingredients can be bought ahead for last minute preparation.  Early this week I will buy my fresh veggies and other perishables, so I can start my prep a couple of days ahead of the big day.  Potatoes (and other veggies) can be peeled and cut for later cooking, simply put them in a large container, cover with water and refrigerate until it is time to cook.  Stuffing bread can be cubed, stored in a zip bag and frozen until the day before you need it.  I actually do this year round- that way I never waste the last dry slice or two in the loaf and always have it ready to use!  Similarly, pie fillings can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated for last minute assembly and baking.  Two days before Thanksgiving I will also place my thawed, rinsed turkey (neck and giblets removed from the cavity first, of course!) in a large bucket of brine (a brine is a salt and herb solution).  Brining a turkey gives it a wonderful flavor infusion as well as making it extra juicy.  

I always use my grandmothers’ china for holiday meals, so this past weekend I got it out of the china cabinet and made sure nothing needed to be washed (or replaced) before using it.  Being the rather obsessive person I am, I will label all of my serving dishes with what will be going in them and choose an appropriate serving piece so that I don’t have to scramble for a bowl, platter or spoon at the last minute.  I will also make sure my favorite tablecloth is clean and ironed and that I have a stash of my favorite wines ready to serve when the guests arrive.  

With a few lists and some pre-planning, Thanksgiving will be a breeze.  By the time my family arrives, I will just have to do the last minute stuff, then sit back and enjoy my family!  May you all have the same peaceful, happy holiday!

To read more of Vicki McGraw’s commentaries on good cooking, fine recipes and perfect party treats, visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on Join Me in the Kitchen’s own page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment. 

  • 1 ½ C sea salt
  • ¼ C sugar
  • ½ C chopped garlic
  • 2 T fennel seed
  • 2 T rosemary
  • 2 T sage
  • 1 T thyme
  • 2 T black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Gallon water

Mix all ingredients in a large pot; bring to a boil.  Let solution simmer until salt and sugar are completely dissolved.  Cool solution completely. Using a large bucket or similar vessel, pour solution over turkey (or other white meat such as chicken or pork).  If solution does not completely cover meat, you will want to turn the meat occasionally to ensure even flavoring. Refrigerate during brining, the longer the meat sits in the brine the more intense the flavor will be (24-36 hours brining time is suggested).  Prior to cooking, remove meat from brine, rinse and pat dry. Cook as desired.