20 November 2012

Bring on the Bird! Apple Cider Turkey Brine ...

Well, I feel like I've been away for a very long time ... so sorry if you have popped in to see what's what only to be faced with more peanut crusted chicken! I have been soooo busy working on the final preparations for my church's holiday fair that I had to set The Spice Garden aside for a couple weeks.  I had to concentrate on hand-sewing and press articles and ads, seeking contributions from local businesses and church members, setting up, decorating the church hall, taking down, counting money, saying thanks to as many folks as I can come across, etc etc etc ... it's exhausting for a hermit like me. And just when I finished that project, SB has begun the 'Bring on the Bird!' chant - I am out of the frying pan and into the ... brine!

Today, it's all about prepping for American Thanksgiving feast. The center of just about every American Thanksgiving dinner is the turkey - roasted, traditionally. Now, I know that some folks go the route of deep-frying or smoking, splatch cocking or cutting the bird into parts for baking. I am not one of them. I still doll my bird all up with dressing and spices, and melted butter. I roast it while the rest of the meal comes together, usually as people come through the door and offer to help peel potatoes, chop up squash, stir the gravy, or open another bottle of wine and cut some veggies or cheese for a snack platter. Thanksgiving, for me, is all about the communal preparations and the chatting over the cutting board and the clinking of glasses and laughing over the Macy's parade and the arrival of Santa. Yup, it's the same every year and yet, it always feels brand new! I love Thanksgiving!

Apple Cider Turkey Brine
3 c. apple cider
2 oranges, quartered
2 c. Kosher salt
2 c. light brown sugar
1 tbsp. allspice berries
2 tbsp. black peppercorns
5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
5 bay leaves
2 tbsp. chopped rosemary
2 gallons of ice water
a huge deep covered pot or a very clean plastic bin large enough to hold the bird and brine
a plastic bag for a liner
additional ice cubes to keep the temperature down in the brine

Before all that chit chat and fun, though, the bird gets the treatment.

This year, I am using a sweet and salty apple cider brining method. I have a huge aluminum canning pot that I lined with a clean plastic garbage bag. I'm concerned that I might get a metallic flavour in the brine if it sits overnight in the pot .... and that would never do. So, in goes a clean plastic bag, in goes a perfectly washed turkey that has had its parts removed. The bird goes breast side down. In goes two gallons of cold water. The brine is made in a large pot on the stove top and is simmered until the sugar and salt have dissolved to create a super-saturated solution. The oranges and spices get added and the heat is turned off. The pot is covered to let the spices and orange essense release into the salty sweet brine. When the brine is completely cooled, it gets poured over the bird. The bird gets jostled about to get any air bubbles out of its cavity, some of the oranges get stuffed in, and the bird is turned back so that the breast is down in the brine. The plastic bag gets twisted shut and fastened with a twistie cord. More ice cubes get placed over top, as it's important to keep the bird cold and submerged in the brine.

I have a cold back porch, on which the bird will soak for 24 hours. That's enough for today ... but wait! I was thinking that I should get a head start on the gravy base, so I simmered the giblets in some turkey stock (Better than Bouillon product) with some black peppercorns, carrots, celery, and onions.  After straining the final brew and adding the chopped heart and liver, I placed two quarts of gravy fixings in containers and put them out on the porch to chill with the brining turkey. That's enough for today.

Tomorrow, I make pies!


  1. What a fancy bath for such a humble bird. It is going to be so tasty and moist. Brining is the way to go now a days. Have fun making and baking your pies and have a wonderful day with your family.

  2. What a fantastic brine!

  3. I'm totally new to brining. This technique looks interesting.


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