I haven’t told you of the near fiasco I had with Tom Turkey as I subjected him to a brine soak on Wednesday. The difficulty came about in two ways: 1. A non-reactive pan (which I do not possess) in which to boil the brine is recommended. 2. A container large enough for Tom and his bath was necessary. I didn’t have that either, so I first tried a large oven-baking bag…stuffed in Tom, poured in the brine, which, despite recommendations to the contrary, I had cooked in an aluminum pan, and which turned out fine. What didn’t work out was the bag; it quickly sprang a leak, so I grabbed a white trash bag, and Jerry and Andrew pushed Tom, the original bag and the brine into the white trash bag. Then in a large ice chest on the back deck they placed Tom, covering him completely with ice.
Several hours later, thinking the turkey should be turned so that every area would be evenly brined, Jerry checked on the turkey, brine, and ice chest situation. “Shirley, both bags have now developed a leak, and the brine has leaked into the ice chest. ”
I really didn’t know what to do, because although I could certainly cook a turkey without its being brined, I wasn’t sure about the salt. Had Tom lolled around in the brine long enough to be salted, or should I salt him as usual? I couldn’t think of a way to know. An hour or so before bedtime, Andrew brought Tom into the kitchen. “Mom, there’s really quite a bit of brine in the bag. I think everything is all right.”
Tom was washed well, patted dry, talked to, and placed into the refrigerator. On Thanksgiving morning, I decided not to salt him, thinking it would be better to have him undersalted than oversalted. I peeked into the oven an hour or so after placing him there, and saw a beautifully browning bird, and knew then that he had been well brined. He turned out to be exceptionally moist and succulent…think I have never had a better or more beautifully cooked turkey.
I only heard of brining in the last few years. As I understand it, turkey meat strands are tightly woven, so that the juices produced as a turkey cooks often just drain off and are not absorbed into the flesh, which produces a dry meat. Brining is a chemical process that loosens the tight meat strands, making space for the juices that are formed, with the ultimate presentation of tender, succulent turkey meat.
The ultimate brine recipe is found on this link: I used apple juice, brown sugar, Kosher salt, coarse grain pepper and sage.
For the future:
1. I will always brine any turkey I cook.
2. I will buy a non-reactive pan in which to boil the brine, and for other food that really needs such a pan. Think marinara sauce and other tomatoey things.
3. Got to come up with a better brining container for a 20 pound turkey. I really don’t want to buy that big of a pan. There surely is a better bag I can find. Any ideas?