Caring For Your Bird: Turkey Brine Recipe


This Thanksgiving, unlike last year – when I shunned turkey and roasted a sixty pound Berkshire pig in a Caja China(video) – I promise to embrace my bird.

I ordered a  fresh, organic twenty-two pound turkey from a local butcher, and on the advice of food enthusiasts and chefs, I will brine the bird using the recipe from Chef Johnny J below.  I will proceed to baste it, make gravy from the pan drippings, and generally treat it with tender love and care.  I will even refrain from comparing it to the luscious goodness that is pork.

If you’re debating whether or not to brine your bird, read Chef Johnny J’s article on Hot From The Kettle.

First, you will need to clean the turkey and set aside. In a large pot you want to bring 8-10 quarts of water to a boil. While that is fixin’, in a separate pot add:

1.25 cups of kosher salt

3 cups of sugar

2 cups of honey

6 sprigs each of parsley, thyme, rosemary, tarragon and sage

1 cup of pickling spice

2 cinnamon sticks

1 Tbl spoon of juniper berries

2 lemons, halved

5 star anise

8 sprigs of spruce branch or I found any pine tree branch will work also

Remember that recipes are merely guidelines and don’t get sour if you don’t have all of the ingredients. For instance, I didn’t have cinnamon sticks so I sprinkled some ground cinnamon in. No juniper berries, try all spice! The main ingredients are the sugar and salt so the aromatics are up to you!

One the water comes to a boil, pour the boiling water into the mix of ingredients and let steep covered until cooled to room temperature. Once cooled, submerge the turkey and refrigerate for 1-2 days. Then just rinse, pat dry and cook as directed. I like to rub butter on and in the skin and season with salt and pepper. That’s it!

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