JEFF TIEDEMAN: Turkey that everyone will loveBrining will ensure Thanksgiving bird will stay moist.
I don’t think my family has ever celebrated Thanksgiving without roasting a turkey. It’s been that way for as long as I can remember, going back to my childhood, when we used to go to my grandparents’ house for dinner along with all my aunts, uncles and cousins.
My mom continued the practice after Grandma Menard became too old to prepare the feast, and I’ve since taken up the mantle.
I’ve always fixed our turkey the same way they did — roasted and filled with stuffing. But this year, I’m going to try something new. And from what I’ve read and heard, this could be the start of a new tradition.
We’re going to brine our turkey before throwing it in the old-fashioned roaster that my youngest brother, Chuck, gave us a couple of years ago. We’ll still have stuffing, but I’m going to make it on the side. Wet brining, I’m told, can make stuffing too salty. (In lieu of stuffing, place fresh herbs, roughly chopped celery, onion and carrots in the cavity for added flavor.)
I probably wouldn’t have considered the method if Lavonne Garceau, Grand Forks, hadn’t called me a couple of weeks ago in search of a turkey brine recipe that she had misplaced. Lavonne thought the recipe, which contained brown sugar and lemon juice, had been in the Herald a few years back and asked if I could help her out.
A search of our online archives came up empty, and I had just about given up when a brine recipe came to my attention last week. It was only after I returned Lavonne’s call, shared the recipe with her and listened to her enthusiasm that my interest became piqued.
Generally, I don’t have a problem with a roasted turkey being too dry, since dark meat is my preference, and it is usually pretty juicy.
But sometimes, a turkey can get overcooked because of the well-founded concern about the doneness of a meat-based stuffing. And when that happens, the white meat of the breast can lose much of its moistness. Brining can provide a cushion for the breast meat.
I thought we were set after purchasing a 12½-pound turkey at our neighborhood Hugo’s for 47 cents a pound (with a coupon and an additional $25 purchase). But after doing some research, I discovered that it’s not recommended to brine a self-basting turkey, since it already is injected with turkey broth and salt, among other things, and the result would be too salty.
So, with this in mind, I made another trip to the store and bought a fresh turkey, relegating our self-baster — which had been thawing in the refrigerator — to the smoker.
Other things I learned about brining included:
n The turkey must be completely submerged in the brine. Most require at least 2 gallons of brine. Larger ones may need 3 gallons.
n Make sure the salt has dissolved completely before adding the turkey.
n Use a sealed container of water or bag of ice to weigh down the turkey.
n Rinse brined bird inside and out and dry with paper towels before cooking.
Perhaps the main reason I’ve decided to switch things up this Thanksgiving is the list of proponents who endorse brining a turkey, including chefs Emeril Lagasse, Alton Brown and Bobby Flay, and authors Pam Anderson (“The Perfect Recipe”), Shirley Corriher (“Cookwise”) and Diane Morgan (“The New Thanksgiving Table”).
I bet if my grandma were alive, you could count her among the fans of brining, too.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at (701) 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.