A couple of years ago I roasted two turkeys for Thanksgiving. I put both of them in a brine for about 12 hours. One, I put in a simple bath of 1 cup of kosher salt and one gallons of water. The other, was with molasses, brown sugar, garlic, onion and many more spices in addition to the kosher salt and water. Both birds were very large, somewhere in the ball park of 20-24 lbs. Oh, and no they are not wild turkeys, they are too tough!
We only had around 30 people, but we eat twice. Yes, sadly we have two Thanksgiving meals (Scandinavian tradition?). We eat at 1pm and then again around 6pm. So, we needed the 2 huge birds. This gave me an opportunity do a little experiment. I only told my husband what I was going to do. His relatives are very much traditionalists and the thought of some one putting unusual spices on their Turkey was going to be too much. I wanted to see if the bird really did taste better with all the added spices and stuff.
I poured about 6-8 cups of water in a large sauce pan and added the sugar and salt and warmed the water up to melt the brown sugar and salt. Then, I poured the salty/sugary water into more water to equal a gallon or so of cold water. I added the rest of the spices and let the bird sit for about 12 hours in the fridge. One year, I decided to leave the turkey outside. To my surprise the next morning, I had a Turkey with a hole in it the size of a soft ball with teeth marks around the hole. Being a cheap-scape, we cut off the bite marks and roasted that sucker for Thanksgiving (sorry everyone)! We later found the culprit to be the neighbors dog-of which I wanted to roast too, because he came and sat on our deck for the next 5 days thinking he was going to get more!
After pulling the birds out of the brine and baking them, I found it was hard to tell them apart. My secret was safe. When the birds were done, we let them rest for about 20 minutes before slicing them. We sliced them the same, put them on the same platter, on separate sides. I sneaked a little taste of each of them when no one was looking To my surprise, I could barely taste the difference between the two. The one with the molasses and brown sugar might have gotten a little darker (because of the sugar content) but the flavors were too close to go through all that effort the next year.
At the moment of dinner, after the prayer, I announced that there were two kinds of turkey’s this year and I would like everyone’s feed back. A few may have groaned, but to their surprise, you could barely taste the difference.
Going forward, I don’t bother with the funky brines and other hoopla any more. It’s not worth the time or money. Just, “keep it simple stupid” (the “kiss” method) as Great Aunt Joanne used to say and enjoy the day.
Simple Turkey Brine
1 large Turkey
1 cup of kosher salt
1 gallon of water
Dissolve salt in water and add raw thawed turkey and let it bathe in a bucket in the fridge or out side in a 37 degree spot (outside away from the varmints) for 12 hours. You can brine it longer but it may be too salty. Let the bird sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Pat the skin dry and slather it with butter, cover and roast in a 325 degree oven. Uncover (so the skin can darken) the last hour or so until the internal temp reaches 170 degrees. Remove the bird from the oven and let the bird rest for 20 minutes before cutting.
Currently, I will not be hosting thanksgiving but will have the luxury of attending this year. I will have an opportunity to make my own turkey on Sunday following Thanksgiving when we will be having a trim the tree party. I love all the fixing that go with it too. Nothing fancy, just -green bean casserole, corn souffle(see my recipes for this one), sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, and my dad’s famous apple stuffing.
Look for more Thanksgiving posts this week and next (yum, left-overs) and yes, I will toss in some venison too for all you successful dear hunters!