‘Twas the night before Turkey Day, and all through the land, a million turkeys are bobbing in a sea of brine. Why brine? It uses the magic of osmosis to make turkey juicy and to infuse the plain flesh with flavor, though I’m sure some people do it just to make themselves feel culinarily superior to the neighbors and their factory-farmed, Frozen, Fully-Cooked, Lil’ Butterball (go ahead, click the link, I’m not making that up).
Brining isn’t exactly rocket science: mix 1 cup of salt per gallon of water, add flavoring ingredients if desired, and bring to a boil. Cool, then put the brine and turkey in a non-reactive container and refrigerate according to the turkey’s size. (Go here for a quick but comprehensive guide to all things brine: Cookshack.com’s Brining 101.) Possibilities for flavoring ingredients–dry spices or herbs, various sugars, garlic, onions, soy, worcestershire, citrus zest, liqueurs–are endless and easily tailored to complement other holiday foods on the menu.
This year, I’m cooking a Diestel bone-in turkey breast on my Big Green Egg, with a little pecanwood smoke during the first half-hour. The breast will cook for 18 minutes per pound at 325 degrees, or until it reaches 160 degrees internally. Meanwhile, here’s my brine formula, which combines classic poultry flavors with a Louisiana twist of cane syrup…..
My simple holiday turkey brine
To make brine sufficient to cover a 6.5 lb, bone-in, whole turkey breast:
- 1 cup kosher salt (or other non-iodized salt)
- 6 liters water
- 2 T peppercorns
- 2 T herbes de provence
- 4 bay leaves, crumpled
- 1 tsp dried thyme (whole rather than powdered is preferred)
- 1/2 cup Steen’s cane syrup
- 1 small onion, thickly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed
- zest of 1/2 lemon or orange, in long strips (not a satsuma; the peel is too bitter)
Combine all ingredients in a nonreactive saucepan; bring to a rolling boil. Allow to cool, then place in a nonreactive vessel large enough to accomodate the brine plus the turkey breast with several inches to spare. Add the turkey breast and fill any remaining space in the container with ice. Cover securely and place in the refrigerator for 7-10 hours. Remove breast from brine and blot dry before cooking. Cook as desired.
Have a happy Thanksgiving, whether you’re eating turkey or Tofurkey, in Algiers or Algeria. I’m thankful that people are still following this blog!