Have you ever made a brine for your turkey? If you’re up to the challenge for this Thanksgiving Day, here’s a recipe to consider.
For those of you who haven’t tried a turkey brine, you will be very surprised at the difference in flavor from a typical basted turkey. The turkey will cook to be incredibly moist, tasty, and tender – a meal to remember…
The recipe ingredients for a turkey brine are nearly limitless, and you will find all sorts of brine recipes online.
Okay, so the best turkey brine recipe is subjective, but this one tastes pretty good!
This particular recipe is one that we’ve used for several years.
TURKEY BRINE RECIPE INGREDIENTS
1 handful fresh thyme branches (3/4 oz package works well)
1 handful fresh sage leaves (3/4 oz package works well)
5 bay leaves (or thereabouts)
2 heads roughly chopped garlic cloves
3 cups kosher salt (“kosher” has bigger crystals – absorbs more)
2 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup honey
6 lemons, cut into 8ths
4 large yellow onions, coarsely chopped
4 jiggers dark rum (optional) 2 for the brine, 2 for the chef
1-2 gallons apple cider (approximate – see instructions)
TURKEY BRINE RECIPE INSTRUCTIONS
Add the salt, sugar, and honey in a large pot big enough to hold all of the recipe ingredients (enough for several gallons).
Add 1 gallon apple cider. Slowly heat up the mixture to the point at which the salt, sugar, and honey dissolve. Stir occasionally during the process. The heated mixture typically will become dissolved when it gets warm enough, usually before it simmers. Add more apple cider if the salt is not dissolving enough.
Then, let cool to room temperature. To speed up the cooling process, set outside in the shade, covered. This process will take hours, so don’t rush it. The brine must be cool.
DO NOT add hot or warm brine with a fresh raw Turkey for the brine duration.
Once cool, add the rest of the turkey brine ingredients and stir well. Squeeze the lemons into the mixture while adding them.
Choose a container to fit and hold your turkey and brine
Ideally you want a container that will provide a fairly snug fit for your turkey so that it will remain immersed in the brine.
Otherwise, you could periodically rotate the turkey throughout the brine process for all the juices to absorb.
Not only do I use my pressure cooker for canning, but it is the perfect size pot to fit 1 to 2 gallons of turkey brine along with a 20 pound turkey. It also fit well at the bottom of the refrigerator after moving some shelves around.
Otherwise I would have set it outside where it’s cool (with the cover on), so long as it was cold enough outside (above freezing but below 45 F).
You could also use the bag method (double bag it in case one leaks) in an ice-chest (cooler), or even a cooler without the bag (clean it well afterwards!), or a 5-gallon food grade bucket. You get the idea – anything clean and safe for food – and kept in a cool enough environment during the soak (below 45 F). Consider adding ice if you need to keep it below 45-degrees outside.
If you will brine your turkey in the refrigerator, be sure the container fits in the fridge first!
Place the turkey in the container and then pour in the brine, making sure that some of the floating ingredients gets inside and around the turkey. The idea is for the turkey to be completely immersed in the brine solution. Add more cider if you need to. Otherwise, flip the turkey part way through the soak for even coverage and soaking.
Brine for about 24 hours.
Afterward, remove the turkey, and be sure to discard the brine ingredients.
Cook the turkey as you normally would until internal temperature reaches 165 F.