Might Be In Over My Head…Maybe?

Monday Munchie: How to Brine a Turkey www.wifemomhouseohmy.comOn my posting day, another “funny” trip in my 2014 journey took place around 8am that morning. And when I say trip, I actually mean trip. It all started pleasant enough. I had my little baby girl Yorkie – all whopping four and half pounds of her curled under my right arm and my left hand securely on the stair railing as I made my way downstairs to start my day. It happened all of a sudden. One minute I was standing and taking a step and the next in complete slow motion I slipped and started to fall down the stairs. I curled in my little Chanel to protect her and leaving as the recipient of the brunt force of the fall…you  guessed it, my backside. Yep, my keister, tush, bum, booty, rear. However you want to say IT, IT hit hard proceeded to, ah…, bounce down the remaining flight. So began my painful and extremely embarrassing trip to urgent care. Oh, Chanel was okay. Other than her E-ticket ride that shocked her, she bounced off just fine.

After my visit, I was left with the knowledge and comfort that a fall to rump leaves you with some extremely painful recovery and the comfort of being told that basically its 2 to 8 plus weeks of misery for recovery. Believe me, I would rather have my broken leg back! I had no clue how MUCH your tooshie is involved in almost every action our body does. Its been eye opening and I don’t think I will ever think about my butt in the same way again. Besides the laugh I am hoping everyone is getting from this (especially my husband who reads my blog regularly), I am sharing to explain my delay in Thursday’s post and a little switch I’m pulling this week. (In fact, today is the first day I could sit at my computer for more than one minute at a time.)

I know Mondays are typically Monday Munchie but I’m pushing it to today as Tardy Tuesday Turkey Brining and I’m going to push last Thursday’s post to tomorrow. I think I should be all caught up at that point. Hopefully you will give brining a try if you never have and perhaps even one of the projects in tomorrow’s post.

How to Brine a Turkey 101 (AKA My Mistakes and Successes)

This year I had this brilliant idea that I would brine a turkey for Thanksgiving. Now I am not sure why I got this harebrained idea in my head considering my history. First, I have never, never ever, never brined a turkey in my life – never even tasted one. (Yeah I’m a little unique that way.)  In fact, no one in my family has ever brined a bird before so it was not like I had anyone I could turn to for advice on exactly HOW to brine a bird. The closest was my mom who in her cooking classes had brined a chicken breast and she said it was a pain in the…wait that’s what I’m dealing with right now. lol. Moving on. In fact, I don’t think up until this year anyone in our family had even tasted a brined turkey – I could be wrong but I doubt it. See, every year my cousin and her husband (Stuart) hosted Thanksgiving and, well, Stuart smoked his bird.

Second, it was the first time I had cooked a bird from scratch on my own. I had helped my mother in the past but this would be the first time ever from store to thaw to stuff to brine to stuff to roast to serve for me (truly first time EVER)! To say the process was perfect would be way more than stretching the truth but it did come out yummy! Laugh at my stumbling blocks and simple questions yet hard to find answers and successes; hopefully you’ll learn something from them all. If not, hopefully you will have a good laugh.

So being my first time and never one to back down from a challenge, I did my research and felt comfortable with the how and process of brining. Even found a multiple fan approved recipe for a delicious brine by Alton Brown off of Food Network. (I actually found several bloggers who reviewed the recipe and liked it.) My biggest fear…the bird would be inedible and I would have ruined Thanksgiving Dinner with visions of mouth puckering salty and pass me a pitcher of water dry and all sorts of other horrible images of indelibleness running through my head. So I figured if I did it his way I would be good to go.

Lesson 1 – Forget Making it Yourself, Buy the Mix

So I headed to the store to find the Allspice Berries and Candied Ginger that were not just handedly at reach in my spice cabinet. After much frustration and unwilling to drive to a specialty store, I spotted a jar of The Spice Hunter Turkey Brine that was on sale…the word SALE to me is like a cup of espresso to a caffeine addict. Even at $7.99 a jar, it was way less than the fresh herbs and spices I had been grabbing and frankly I was desparate. I turned over the bottle to check out its ingredients (and directions as Alton Brown’s seemed WAY complicated) and jumped for joy in the store at the list (it was more like a hop). It included Sea Salt, Brown Sugar, Cranberries, Apples, Garlic, Orange Peels, Juniper Berries, Malabar Black Peppercorns, Thyme, Rosemary and Sage. While not exact, it had many of Alton’s ingredients and almost all that I had seen on other recipes. So unless you are a purist and like the challenge of finding AND paying for all the fresh herbs, skip and go for the mix!

Lesson 2 – Math, Not Just a Requirement to Get Out of High School

This may sound silly but there really is a lot of math in cooking. Thank goodness I always got an A in math. Getting the timing right from store to serve was extremely important. Last thing I needed was to serve a frozen bird. Truth be told, despite following all directions for determining when the bird needed to start thawing, when I pulled it to start the brining, it was still slightly frozen.

General numbers:

Thawing – 24 hours per 4 pounds of turkey

Brining – 8 to 16 hours before stuffing and cooking

Cooking – varies but generally between 3 to 5 hours depending on size and whether stuffed or not

Lesson 3 – Clean Up on Aisle Three

I found out the hard way, always put your thawing bird on a jellyroll sheet or in a large bowl. Despite being sealed, my bird leaked or sweat all over my fridge. Oh well.

Lesson 4 – What the HECK Am I Going to Brine This In?

So this was probably the second hardest part about brining my bird and the second hardest question to get answered. How do I fit a 16 pound bird, two gallons of water in anything I own and not have a minor flood? This was my answer. Its a little unconventional but it worked. I took a fresh heavy duty black trash bag and placed it as a liner inside our cooler. Worked beautifully!

Lesson 5 – Enjoy the Aromas

In order to prepare the brine, the mixture has to be cooked and cooled completely. Best household air freshener since the cooking turkey. All the wonderful flavors filled the air in the most mouth watering and fragrant aroma as it boiled on the stove. As a tip, even though it takes longer, let the brine cool on the stove rather than the fridge. Not only does the aroma linger in the air but it gives more time for the flavors to infuse the water.

Lesson 6 – Doesn’t Foul Left Out Increase Salmonella Possibilities?

Okay, ever since I was a child, I have had it drilled in to my head – DON’T LEAVE CHICKEN, TURKEY OR ANY FOWL OUT! So, here was my line of questions. If the bird is suppose to brine for 8 to 12 hours and its in easily a three to 5 gallon container and weighs easily over 28 plus pounds, how do I put this in my fridge?  And if I can’t get it in the fridge and I’m not suppose to leave fowl out, then what the heck amI suppose to do?! This was the hardest question to get answered! Alton Brown gave me the inspiration for the answer. This sucker is going in a trash bag!

1. Get a WHOLE LOT of ice. Once the bird is immersed in the brine, pour at least 2 good sized bag of ice on top of the outside of the trash bag so you are not adding more water to the brine. The ice will not only keep the bird cool but helps weigh the turkey down. Make sure you keep adding ice as needed so the bird stays fridge cool.

2. Brine at night – a cold night preferred. Because the bird needed to brine for 8-16 hours and, as it would happen, my bird needed to go in to the oven by 9:30am, I was not going to be able to keep an all night vigil in order to keep my bird on ice. It also happened to be a cold night – for Southern California 55 degrees is a cold night. So out the cooler went and in the morning most of the ice was still frozen.

Now I realize I live in an area of So Cal where wildlife is not an issue. But if it was, my cooler would have gone out in my much colder garage.

Lesson 7 – Everything is ALWAYS Better with Butter

So not a brining lesson but definitely a yummy! Once I got my bird brined, stuffed and on the rack – is it me or does this sound a bit like medieval torture – then I infused it with melted butter. I have done this before. It definitely adds a yummy flavor to the bird and is better than canola oil coating it! First, I melt one cup of salted butter. Then with the infuser – a huge horse like large syringe that you can find in the cooking utensil aisle – I draw in the butter. Inject the bird and depress the butter underneath the skin so bubbles form under the skin. (Now I really sound like a medieval torturer.) Repeat in various locations around the bird. As the bird cooks, this will oil the skin and help make it crisp.

Next, refill the syringe and inject the bird into the meat this time and depress the butter into the meat around the breast area. Make sure to inject the bird in areas where there are no bubbles or you will pop the butter bubble causing it to leak out. This helps keep the bird moist and adds t0 the richness of the flavor.

All in all, despite being my first time and definitely some interesting hurdles, my bird came out a yummy success. And I would definitely do it again. If you are cooking a bird this Christmas, I highly recommend brining. And if you do, let me know what you discovered in the process and how you liked it!

Always love hearing from readers! What do you think of today's post?

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