Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Kathleen's Turkey Brine

Note: It was de-lish-us! 

So my daughter is cooking her first turkey this Thursday. An organic turkey, you know, the ones that cost a fortune. The whole dinner is going to be primal, organic, and natural as it can be...except for the pumpkin cheese cake and dinner rolls from Costco. Got to have that!

Becca's brined natural turkey
The turkey was fresh and natural, and I told her she really needed to brine it. Lee and I have been brining our turkeys for the past few years and they come out so flavorful, you just want to keep right on eating through the bird. Forget the rest of the dishes, the turkey alone is enough to gain euphoria.  I helped my daughter out by making the brine and getting the giblets cooked. Now we have some natural broth for the gravy. Oh joy! That, combine with some arrowroot powder and pan juices, will make a delicious gravy for the not-so-primal mashed potatoes that a relative is bringing. I am also making traditional sourdough bread dressing, not-so-primal.

However, the sweet potatoes will be organic, roasted and mashed with a hint of cinnamon spices. Becca improvised on a recipe she found, substituting cinnamon for thyme and spices she doesn't have in her pantry yet. There will be roasted green beans with bacon and almonds with coconut milk instead of cream soup. The organic butterleaf salad will be topped with organic cherry tomatoes and pomegranate seeds from SLO Veg, roasted pumpkin seeds and accompanied by a pomegranate vinaigrette that I just whipped up today.

The big dilemna was what to put into the brine and what method to use in roasting the bird. Here are two recipes I considered for the brine and the varied cooking methods. The similarity is that they are both brined and unstuffed, using fragrant aromatics in the cavity instead. Alton oils and sears his bird in a hot oven, then turns down the heat to slowly finish it off. Ree roasts her bird, covered in foil, for the first 3 hours, then butters it up and browns it during the last phase of cooking. My mom used to stuff her turkey and roast it breast-side down for the first 3 hours. Then she would enlist my father's help in turning the bird so it could brown on top. It came out really juicy, that's for sure. I am leaving my daughter with a few sprigs of rosemary, an apple, orange, lemon and a cinnamon stick, and letting her decide how to roast the big bird.
(Note: she ended up following the package instructions, roasting it in a moderate oven for 4 hours until the meat thermometer read 161 degrees. It was perfect!)


Here are Alton Brown's turkey roasting instructions:
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.

Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels.

Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey's cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.

Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving.
 here are Ree Drummund's roasting instructions:

"Preheat the oven 275 degrees F.

Truss the bird and place it breast side up on a rack in a large roasting pan. Cover the turkey tightly with heavy-duty foil. Make sure it's entirely covered (cover over the bottom edges of the pan). Place in the oven and roast for about 10 minutes per pound (a 20 pound turkey will roast for about 3 1/2 hours).

Remove the turkey from the oven and increase the temperature to 375 degrees F. Remove the aluminum foil and set aside. Mix the softened butter with the rosemary and orange peel and rub all over the skin of the turkey, covering every single inch of the skin. Insert a meat thermometer into the thigh, near the hip joint. Place the turkey, uncovered, back into the oven. Continue roasting the turkey, basting with butter every 30 minutes, until the thermometer registers 170 degrees F and until the juices are no longer pink.

Remove from the oven and cover with foil until you are ready to carve and serve. Reserve pan juices to make gravy."


I ended up mixing up a cup of Kosher salt, 1/4 cup each of brown sugar and coconut sugar, 2 teaspoons each of Juniper berries and peppercorns, coarsely ground in a coffee grinder, and a teaspoon each of orange peel and ground ginger. I will let you know after Thursday if it was any good.(Note: It was!)

Kathleen's Brine
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 cup Kosher salt
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbs. Black peppercorns
2 tsp. Juniper berries
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. dried orange peel
Grind peppercorns, Juniper berries and spices in a coffee grinder. Mix together with salt and sugars, then add to hot vegetable stock. Stir until dissolved. Cool brine. Rinse turkey and pull off excess fat, pin feathers, etc. Put bird in a large brining bag, breast side down, add brine solution and zip closed. Turn turkey every 12 hours to allow brine to completely cover bird.

Sweet potatoes and butternut squash, roasted with honey and cinnamon. Green bean casserole with coconut milk and bacon and fried onion topper
Turkey gravy, garlic mashed potatoes and a butter leaf lettuce salad with pumpkin seeds and pomegranate seeds
The big Thanksgiving spread!

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