Tuesday, November 21

Nov: Consider the Turkey

Brined and Basted Turkey

Well being as it’s Thanksgiving, I couldn’t help but to do something connecting to the holiday. And what relates more than a turkey! Here is the process of how I think one of those big birds should be prepared.

Brining is a process of moisturizing and flavoring the meat with a salt/sugar and water solution (brines are also used to preserve foods, such as a pickle “brine” or an olive “brine”). The salt unravels meat proteins and squeezes out the natural juices like a sponge while the sugar, which has a large capacity to hold water, absorbs them back into the turkey with whatever other flavorings you have added to the meat. Don’t worry about the sugar; your bird will not turn out tasting like a cake. Although if done properly your finished product should be moist and flavorful. Your brine should be about 4 cups of water to ½ cup of both kosher salt and sugar per 6 pounds of bird (if you have an 18 lb turkey you could do 12 cups water and 1½ cups of both salt and sugar). It is best to get a turkey labeled “natural” being as it has been minimally processed. A lot of the frozen turkeys already have injections and there’s a possibility that it could get too salty if also brined (If you have one of the frozen turkeys, then you might cut the salt and sugar in the brine in half).

Here are some brine flavoring suggestions in addition to the water/salt/sugar base:

Spices (peppercorns, cinnamon stick, cloves, juniper berries, fennel seeds)
Soy Sauce (if you use this, reduce the salt)
Herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage, bay leaves, mint)
Garlic and/or Onion

Possible combinations for the brine:

Soy sauce/Orange/Rosemary/Garlic


Maple/Bay leaves/Peppercorns/Cloves/Cinnamon

Have you ever seen pictures of Thanksgiving turkeys and wondered how they turn out looking so shiny and golden? What makes them so eye appealing? Well I believe the secret is basting. Basting is simple although it does require you to pay attention. You can’t just put the bird in the oven then pull it out after three hours. Looks isn’t the only thing basting is for...it also moisturizes the food as it cooks and prevents it somewhat form drying out. It also imparts additional flavor. You can baste what you’re cooking with the pan drippings, a sauce, or other liquid. For a turkey that shines like the picture I would use a pre-made sauce consisting of some sort of sweet syrup or liquid (like molasses, maple syrup, honey, apple cider, etc). The sugars will help the outside of it to caramelize and produce a glaze.

Possible combinations for the glaze:

Molasses/Apple Cider (or juice)/Butter

Maple Syrup/Ginger Puree (ginger, water, sugar)/Butter

Pomegranate/Balsamic Vinegar/Sugar/Butter


So let’s finally make this turkey!
This recipe is for one 18 lb turkey.

For the Brine:

12 cups water

1½ cups kosher salt

1½ cups brown sugar

1 gallon sized tea bag

2 cinnamon sticks

8 whole cloves

1 T black peppercorns

6 bay leaves

Ice cubes

For the Baste:

¼ cup unsulphered molasses

1 cup apple cider

1 T dried thyme (or 8 stems fresh, tied together with a string or twisty tie)

1 stick butter (8 T) cut into about 6 pieces

Add the brine ingredients except for the tea bag in an appropriate sized pot and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and add the teabag, let that steep for 30 minutes. Add Ice cubes to chill or place in the fridge until it is chilled and you are ready to use it.

Put the turkey in a clean bucket and pour brine over it. Add water to cover. Most of the brining action takes place within the first 3 hours of soaking, and it shouldn’t be in there any longer than 24 hours as it could start to dry out. I would recommend maybe brining it overnight then pulling it out in the morning.

You can make the glaze up to 3 days ahead of time. Or you can make it 3 minutes ahead of time. Combine all ingredients except for the butter in a saucepan. Boil for three minutes. Add the butter then turn of heat. Swirl around until it melts.

To cook the turkey:

Preheat oven to 450-475 degrees.

Roast the turkey for 45 minutes breast side up at this temperature to give it a roasted flavor. Then turn the heat down to 350-375 to penetrate and cook the bird thoroughly. After you turn the heat down, baste the bird all over (as much as you can without flipping it) with a brush or spoon. Baste every 30 minutes until the turkey is done. The turkey is done when you insert a thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh and it reads 160° (about 1½ to 2 hours)

You can make this turkey, but you may have more fun making up your own combinations for the brine and glaze to fit what it is you want to accomplish.


Fornari Family said...

We used this recipe for our Thanksgiving turkey. It was the best turkey we have ever eaten!

We used orange zest in the brine. For the glaze we used pomegranate juice, orange zest, balsamic vinegar, sugar and butter.

We also roasted a turkey without brining. The brined bird was much more flavorful and moist.

Thanks for the great recipes Peter!
Keep up the good work!

Peter Telian said...

I'm thrilled you tried it. And even more thrilled that it turned out good! And congratulations for experimenting and trying something that I didn't set out specific measurements for, that's exciting.

Thank you for commenting.

Cassie said...

This sounds tasty Peter! Let's do one for the progressive Christmas dinner. ~Mom

Peter Telian said...

I just realized my comment settings were only allowing registered users to comment. Now anyone can comment! How about that?

Parish Family said...

Wow . . . I wish we would've visited "My One Thing" before our Thanksgiving! I'll have to try your suggestions anyway. ;-) It's legal to eat a turkey dinner without it being Thanksgiving isn't it?

Yum . . . all your recipes look delicious! I'm inspired!