Friday, November 28, 2008

Brine the turkey, darn it!

After being badgered for years by my youngest son to brine my turkey, I finally did it. Naturally, I overthought the process and compared website recipes for days, including the information about where and how to actually do it. My eventual container was an XXL ziploc bag (big enough to hold a small adult) since it is food-grade plastic and doesn't leak all over the place. I put the turkey into the bag, put the bag into a cooler (brilliant idea from several websites since there is never enough room in the refrigerator for such a thing) and poured the prepared brine into the bag. I covered it with bags of blue ice, although it probably wasn't necessary. Weather permitting, you could also leave it outside; usually the temp around here on Thanksgiving is slightly cooler than the fridge. Every so often I turned the bird around and upside down, which was made easy by using the bag. 
I made my brine by boiling an assortment of root vegetables in 2 gallons of water: carrots, garlic, celeriac, potatoes, a couple tomatoes. I added 2 cups of salt and 1 cup of sugar, and cooked it until they were dissolved. I cooled it and boiled it down until it was half the volume, then refrigerated it. When I poured it onto the turkey, I added one gallon of water/apple cider mixture.
After about 20 hours, I hoisted the bird into the sink and filled the sink with cold water. I washed all the brine off, inside and out, and patted it down with paper towels. Finally, I rubbed oil all over it. 
To roast: preheat oven to 500. Place turkey breast-side up on a rack in a roasting pan - sides shouldn't be too high so that the heat can circulate. Roast on lowest rack centered in the oven for 30 minutes. Take out and turn oven down to 350 - cover the turkey breast with a double layer of aluminum foil. Return to oven and bake for about 2 1/2 hours - the thermometer should read about 160 when placed in the thick part of the breast. Remove from oven and cover with more foil and let it rest. Use the good yummy juice on the bottom of the pan to make gravy.