Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving free range turkey, with brine


I was really nervous about making any semblance of a complete Thanksgiving meal, since I've never done it before. On Thanksgiving Day, yesterday, I actually cooked nothing; Sally, Manda, Johnny, Ashley, and Mike blessed us with a wonderfully delicious meal. But the next day, today, I had been planning on having my international student friendship partner over and a fellow Denver Seminary student over for a meal. This would be the international student/friend's first traditional Thanksgiving meal and my first Thanksgiving meal preparation, so I was quite nervous.

My mother-in-law and numerous other friends had suggested the Reynolds Oven Bag as an easy and sure way to cook turkey. I had even purchased some bags early in the week. However, once I had them in hand, I chickened out on using them. I don't know whether it was the idea of throwing them in a plastic bag or the chef part of me coming out. Anyhoo, I asked around to see by what other methods people favor cooking turkeys, and one particular approach was of interest to me, albeit far from the simplest. It involved soaking the turkey in salt water for about a day, which I later learned is a process called brining.

Thankfully, my husband was of tremendous assistance, and he humored me by doing it as I suggested (even though I was flying by the seat of my pants). I had purchased a fresh, free range turkey that had been flash frozen (whatever that means). Having a turkey that was not confined to a cage was very important to me, even if it meant paying a bit extra. Our turkey was somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-12 lbs.

If you'd like the details of how we treated the turkey, pre-cooking, I defrosted it in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Then I brought roughly 2.5 gallons of water to a boil and dropped approximately 3 (is that right?) cups of kosher salt and waited until the salt was entirely dissolved before turning the stove off. Let the salt water cool to room temperature. We double bagged brand new trash bags, placed the entire turkey inside and submerged it in salt water. Then, I had my husband stick the bag in a huge tupperware container and he surrounded the bag with ice cubes and snow (leftover snow from about a week and a half ago). Since we're dealing with poultry, it needs to be kept cool to prevent it from spoiling. We left the turkey in salt water for roughly 24 hours. The next morning, this morning, I had my husband pull the turkey out, get rid of the internal organs, and rinse the turkey under water.

Here are the ingredients for the turkey that I used:
  • a couple of tsp of thyme.
  • a couple of tsp of sage.
  • some pinches of brown sugar.
  • diced celery - I used probably 5-6 stalks.
  • diced carrots - I used 3-4, I think.
  • 1 onion.
  • 10-12 lb turkey.
  • 1 cup of water.

I lined the bed of the roaster with the ingredients, minus the turkey, before putting the turkey on top. Cooked the turkey for about 2.75 hrs, at 325 degrees fahrenheit, with the lid on. Look so juicy.

After we enjoyed the fruit of our labor, he said, "guess we'll always be having turkey brine." The turkey was juicy and tasty, to be sure. And our guest absolutely loved it, too; had to take some home with her. My husband graciously helped by doing most of the lifting and pouring, the grunt work for the turkey preparation, while I just directed traffic and manipulated the other ingredients and spices. So good, it's worth the effort, we all said.

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