Brined Turkey

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Contributing Writer
Vicki McGraw
Elegant Edibles Catering

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 (but wait…we were just doing that with last week’s “Indian summer”!!), and yet here we are, just a few days before Thanksgiving. While you can’t walk into a store without being bombarded by Christmas decorations, I think we first need to stop to say a word of thanks for all we have been given (and survived) in the past year. This year we really do need to stop and say a work of thanks…for our health and our family, and hopefully think more of what we have, than what we may have lost this year. Thanksgiving may 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 14 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 2-3 pounds of turkey (for example, give an 18 pound turkey about 5-6 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!”

For the first time in more years than I can count, I will not be hosting our Family for Thanksgiving! My husband, my Mom and I are headed to Florida to spend the holiday with our beautiful 19 month old granddaughter and her parents. While I am excited to actually be a guest this year, it sure will feel odd to not be tied to my usual lists…shopping list, cooking schedule, to do lists…whatever will I do with all my spare time?

While I don’t have to worry about shopping and prepping this year, I know many of you will, so I do have a few suggestions for you. Now is the time to stock up on all of the non-perishables you will need for your holiday feast; remember, if it’s on sale, why not buy extra to have for the entire holiday season? Canned goods and baking ingredients can be bought ahead for last minute preparation. I recommend buying your fresh veggies and other perishables early in the week, so you can start your 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 is the time to place your 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). After doing this, the turkey-bucket and all- will need to go back in the fridge. Brining a turkey gives it a wonderful flavor infusion as well as making it extra juicy. And a word of caution for those of you who purchase turkeys with “pop-up timers” in them. Remember, those timers are not always accurate! You will still want to double check the internal temperature of your turkey with a probe thermometer, making sure it has, indeed, reached 165*. Nothing will ruin a great Thanksgiving meal quicker than cutting into a semi-raw turkey! Finally, to keep it nice and juicy, be sure to let your turkey rest 20-30 minutes before carving it. After removing it from the oven, simply cover it with foil, and keep your husband away from it (mine likes to pick all of the skin off when I’m not looking!).

This year, hopefully our holiday get-togethers will look a lot more like those we are accustomed. We may still be social distanced, and in smaller groups, and sadly, there may be empty seats at our table that we will be able to fill only in our hearts. My wish for you all, dear readers is that as you gather with those you can, you remember those who are not at your table, and may you all have the same peaceful, happy holiday!


Brined Turkey

  • 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.


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.