Sunday, December 16, 2012

Fabulous Turkey Brining

A few weeks ago I was in the grocery store examining the contents of the spice aisle and another customer asked me if I had ever brined a turkey. I said no, but it did make me wonder what was involved in it. Then, on Thanksgiving Day I watched the unfolding of a turkey brine process according to post updates from high school friend, John Despres. I happen to know that he is a food and beverage aficionado, so I’d bet his bird was delicious.

He has been working on perfecting the process for a few years and says that it continues to improve. The salt/sugar and then the cider/apple juice brine has been a basic constant since the beginning of experimentation. He told me that the bird was an organic, grass-fed, fine specimen of poultry.

Instructions are below; all times are approximate.

1.      Mix a brine solution of about 2.5 gallons of water (enough water to cover the thawed bird) including 2 cups sea salt and 2 cups brown sugar in a new 5 gallon pail. Sink bird 24 hours prior to serving; add ice to keep it cold. Check ice frequently, decanting the brine as necessary to make room for added ice.

2.       Twelve hours prior to serving, dump the stage one brine, and replace it with 2 gallons of apple cider. Add ice. After six  hours of this stage the bird will already be a beautiful bronze color.

3.       Six hours prior to serving, add a fifth of Jack Daniels to the stage two brine solution, making it the stage three brine. (The Jack Daniels is optional, but an interesting addition meant to tenderize the meat.)

4.       Meanwhile, soak some apple wood chips for about an hour following the package directions.

5.       Preheat a gas grill to 350 degrees F.

6.       Put the bird in the grill when it is at 350 degrees. Place the bird in a rack breast up and on a cooking sheet. Tthe cookie sheet is important for catching drips.

7.       Place the soaked chips in a recyclable aluminum pan (without the soaking water) and place them next to the bird on the grill. The wood chips will steam and then smoke. The chips will create quite a bit of smoke.

8.       Grill at 350F for 45 minutes or so, flip the bird breast down, cook until thigh reaches 165F (about two more hours), remove from grill, let stand under foil tent until thigh reaches 175F. Click this linkfor temperature checking information.

9.       Carve, serve, enjoy; listen to oooos and aahhs from guests.

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