I brined a turkey for the first time for Christmas dinner, 2010. Brining a turkey infuses the meat with flavour and moisture. You can flavour the brine with any herbs and spices that you like. Although frozen turkeys (that have been thawed out) can be used, I prefer to brine fresh turkeys.
I had originally planned on spending my holidays in flannel pyjamas drinking canned mushroom soup and eating cranberry sauce out of the can. In bed. But my favourite people, Ed and Krystal, inspired me to host Christmas. So I invited the family for a few days and made them two [slightly healthier] traditional holiday feasts. I’m really glad I did, because the food turned out wonderfully and with my surprise (my “new” dog – a first for our family), it turned out to be the best Christmas ever.
Brined and Roasted Turkey Recipe
adapted from Alton Brown
At least two days in advance, make the brine. One day in advance, start brining the turkey.
for the brine:
4 or 5 apples, quartered
1 large onion, diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
4 stalks celery, peeled and diced
3 thin slices of fresh ginger
several sprigs fresh thyme
a large handful of fresh parsley (leaves and stems)
2 dried bay leaves
10 whole peppercorns
2 smashed cloves of garlic, peeled
12 cups (4 L) of water
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon whole allspice berries
Place everything Except for the salt, brown sugar, and allspice, into a large pot. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat and then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Stir every 30 minutes and skim off the froth from the surface of the broth. Simmer covered for at least 5 hours. When you are happy with the flavour of the broth, strain the stock and squeeze the juices out of the apples and vegetables before discarding. Stir in the salt, light brown sugar, and whole allspice berries and bring to a boil. Then remove from heat and cool completely. If you’re not using the brine immediately, store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. The brine can also be made well in advance and frozen.
for the turkey:
1 (8 to 10 pound) fresh, naturally raised, young turkey
a few wide strips of orange zest
canola oil or vegetable oil
optional: fresh sage leaves, fresh rosemary sprigs, and a few fresh cranberries for garnish
Note: I like to prepare stuffing separately from the turkey. This reduces the cooking time of the turkey, ensures a moister bird, and eliminates the risk of getting bacteria in the stuffing. Once the turkey is cooked, has rested, and has been plated, I add the stuffing to the bird’s cavity (see photo above).