This year, I talked grandma
into letting me at the turkey, and I decided to use a brine
. It came out really really really awesome
, I had a tough time not nibbling on the leftover breast
meat that I was saving for a turkey gumbo
. So here's the basic procedure
Obviously, you need to make a brine. The idea here is to soak the turkey in some good tasting stuff so that it absorbs flavor and moisture. You want to start off with a basic vegetable broth. I used whatever I found in the fridge, which happened to be 1 onion, 4 carrots, 6 red potatoes, 1 sweet potato, 4 stalks celery. Start off with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large stewpot (at least 2 gallons). Add in minced garlic to taste (I used about 10 cloves...) and cook for about 1 minute. Next, add in all your veggies and saute for about 10 minutes to soften. Add in 1 gallon (8 cups) water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and get a good simmer going. Next you'll want to add in whatever good spices you want, I threw in 2 bay leaves, 2 sprigs of fresh sage, 2 sprigs of fresh rosmary, a pinch of dried thyme, and about 2 tablespoons of peppercorns. Add in 1/2 cup of salt. Now simmer this for about 45 minutes.
At this point you should have a wonderful smelling vegetable stock. Remove from heat, strain, and add in another 3/4 cup of salt. You now have a wonderful gallon of vegetable stock. If you can find this at the store, you can just buy it and add another cup of salt, but it's probably cheaper to make from vegetable scraps and my grocery store didn't have veggie stock anyway. Ok, now you need to cool this down, I let it sit on the back porch for about 30 minutes, at which point it was still pretty warm. No biggie, we'll get that next.
Now, you need a good bucket. A clean 5 gallon bucket would be best, but anything that will hold about enough liquid to cover your bird will do. We had a 21 lb turkey and a 5 gallon bucket barely held it. Dump your stock into the bucket and add 1 gallon of ice water. If your stock is still hot, don't skimp on the ice. Now you'll want to dump your thawed turkey into the buckey. If it's not covered to the top, add some more water. Now set this bucket-O-turkey somewhere cool, I just covered it and threw it in the garage. It doesn't have to be a cold place, remember there is a ton of salt in there that will act as a natural preservative so you don't have to worry about bacteria, but you want to keep it cool. Don't worry about sticking it outside, it will not freeze, just make sure it is safe from any animals.
You want to let the turkey soak in this for 6-8 hours. I left it in overnight. The idea here is that the salt and flavors are going to reach an equilibrium with the turkey meat so that you will have a wonderfully flavored turkey.
In the morning, take the turkey out and rinse it well in the sink, then dry completely with paper towels. Heat the oven up to 500 degrees. Now you want to make a breast sheild (no laughing!) to protect the breast meat for overcooking. Take some aluminum foil, and fold it over so you have a double thick layer. Form this to cover your turkey breast so that just the legs and thigh are sticking out. You want to preform it so you can easily get it on the hot turkey later.
Next, you'll want to prepare some stuff for the inside. First off, don't stuff your turkey!. Stuffing make it take longer to cook, takes a lot of moisture out of the bird, and is a breeding ground for bacteria. To be safe, the stuffing has to reach 180 degrees, which will generally overcook the turkey. So cook your stuffing in a casserole dish. For the inside, you want to take some good smelling things that will give a subtle flavor to the turkey while it cooks. Slide up 1 apple and 1 small onion, and add to about 1/4 cup water. Throw in 1 cinnamon stick, some sage, rosary, and thyme, and microwave for about 30 seconds. Throw all this inside the turkey. Next rub down the outside of the turkey with canola oil to help give it a good color and crisp skin (you can use other oil, but canola is the lowest in saturated fat).
Now we're ready! Throw that bad boy in the 500 degree oven for 30 minutes. Please note, this will smoke! If it's bad, turn the oven down a bit, but you want to get a quick browning on the outside of the breast. After 30 minutes is up, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and place your breast shield on the turkey and finish cooking. Cooking time depends on your turkey, remember that since we cooked at a high temp first, it will not take as long to cook as the package says (our turkey claimed 5 hours, but was done after 4). To properly cook your turkey, ignore the little popup thingy and get yourself a good meat thermometer. Stick it into the thickest part of the breast, making sure you do not go all the way to the bone. You want to cook it until this get's to 170 degrees. Take the turkey out of the oven and allow to sit for 30 minutes. Carve, and enjoy!
This was based on the Food Network's Good Eats Guide to Turkey