Friday, January 21, 2011

Turkey Brine Time (and Stock!)

Each year for Christmas at my work, we receive the gift of a fresh turkey from my boss. We were away this year (and last) so the turkey was put in the freezer until we were ready to cook it.

Well the time came and I took it home to defrost in the fridge last Tuesday. The plan was to have people over on Saturday for a big turkey dinner with all the fixins'.

Turkey defrosting in the fridge

A former co-worker (and cook extraordinaire) was always praising the joy of brining so I decided to give it a shot. I started looking for recipes and came across this recipe and guide to brining. I determined I needed 3 gallons to fully cover the turkey so for my brine I used:

        • 3.5 gallons water
        • 3 cups salt
        • 3 cups brown sugar
        • 2 palms of peppercorns
        • 1 large onion
        • 1 giant carrot
        • 1 big piece of ginger
        • 1 jalapeno pepper

All the chopped veggies

The sugar bear keeps the brown sugar fresh!

I brought it all to a boil on the stove, simmered until the veggies were soft, then cooled and bottled it. I put it in the fridge for a couple of days until it was time to brine.

Everything simmering away

How to store 3 gallons of brine!

I used a small cooler for my brining container, which was just the right width for the turkey. I put the cooler down in the basement (around 11C) and put some ice packs inside to keep it cool and submerged.

Placing the turkey breast side down in the cooler

Turkey floating in the brine

Ice packs to keep it cool and submerged

They recommend brining for about an hour per pound up to 24-hrs max. It was an 18-lb bird so I put it in the brine after lunch on Friday, since we were planning to eat around supper time and I estimated the turkey would take 4 hrs to cook; though it actually took 3.5.

About half hour before it was to go in the oven, I took the turkey out of the cooler, rinsed it off and patted it dry with paper towels.

Rinsing the turkey
Then we followed Alton's Brown's advice, and coated it with canola oil and stuffed it with aromatics. It was roasted at 500F for half an hour and the oil certainly fried the outside. Then I tuned the heat down to 350F and cooked until the breast meat reached 161F.

Crispy on the outside. Moist on the inside

By the time the turkey was cooked, I was so hungry that I forgot to take a picture of the slices. Donkey move. Anyway, the turkey turned out very moist and tasty and I would definitely do the brine again. The juices also made for excellent gravy. I would especially like to try brining a couple of small chickens and then smoke them in my charcoal smoker. I don't think I would bother with the veggies next time though. Just salt, sugar and pepper would do fine and make for an easier clean-up.

After dinner the fun wasn't over and I was starting the next day's project. Turkey soup. I put the carcass in the slow-cooker along with some vegetable trimmings and an onion and left it alone for the night while I went off to enjoy a few homebrew.

Simmering the carcass to make turkey stock
I had to top up the water before bed because about a liter had boiled off.

The next morning, I took the pot out of the slow cooker and left it to cool down while we had breakfast.

I felt like an archeologist as I extracted the bones and meat from the pot and strained off the stock.

Ancient turkey bones

Straining out the stock and separating the meat from waste
The soup was amazing and we ended up getting enough stock for 10 servings.

It was a big bird and the fun's not over yet because we still have four big baggies of meat left over in the freezer for meals like turkey-fried rice!

Left-over frozen turkey meat

See the whole turkey extravaganza gallery here.

1 comment:

  1. great blog Mike. Makes me want to have some !