I was interrupted while making our Thanksgiving dinner today. I got a call from home care, telling me that there had been a sick call, and no one would be able to do the meal assist with my mother. I did confirm that she would still be getting her bed time assist, then said that I could go over to do the meal assist. So I turned all over to the girls to finish, and headed out to help out my mother.
Everything was ready by the time I got back, so we went straight to setting up for dinner. I half carved the turkey before I realized I forgot to take a photo! 😀 So here is half of our bacon covered, brined turkey!
It was perfectly moist and delicious!
Brining a turkey is easy enough. The hard part is having something large enough to enclose the turkey. I managed to find a huge stock pot some years back that is perfect for this. A brining bag is even better – and the clean up is easier – if you can find one that’s big enough. The magic of brining is what the salt does to the meat. It causes the proteins in meat to uncoil, forming strings, which link to water. This way, the meat is prevented from drying out as it cooks.
When choosing a turkey to brine, make sure it is one that has not had a salt solution already injected into it. Especially if using a frozen turkey. Look for words like “self basting”, “flavour enhanced”, or something similar. These don’t need to be brined.
The other thing you’ll need is somewhere you can put the turkey to rest in its brine for at least a few hours, or overnight, and stay cold. If you can fit it in the fridge, great. A cooler with ice might work. Some times, I’ve simply kept adding ice into the brining liquid. This year, because it has gotten cold enough, we could put the stock pot into the Old Kitchen, which is un-insulated, making it colder than our fridge, overnight.
For making the brine, you’ll need a pot large enough to boil about 2 gallons (8L) of liquid.
Though there are many recipes for brine out there, there is also room for a lot of creativity – or you can just use what you have at the moment!
For a medium sized turkey, you’ll need:
1 cup course or kosher salt
3/4 cup sugar (granulated or brown)
aromatics of choice
This time, I used about half a cup of white wine vinegar, bay leaves, the zest from an orange, onion and garlic (dehydrated, though fresh is preferable) and whole peppercorns. If you want to use fresh herbs, things like rosemary, thyme and sage are good. I’ve also used slices of lemon or lemon salt, instead of orange zest. Use whatever you like!
Put the ingredients into a large pot with 2 gallons of water. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt. Set aside to cool.
Prep your turkey by removing the bags of innards, giving it a rinse, then putting it into your brining container. Pour the cooled brine solution over the turkey. Add more water to fully immerse, if needed.
Close the brining bag or cover your pot, and leave the turkey for at least a few hours, or overnight.
The next day, pour off and discard the brine solution. Rinse, then pat dry the turkey, truss if needed, and put in a roasting pan.
Cut a lemon in half (I zested the lemon, first, and set the zest aside to dry) and rub the cut sides all over the turkey, squeezing while you rub, then leave the lemon halves in the cavity. You can also add a quartered onion into the cavity, as well as fresh herbs into the cavity or under the skin on the breast.
Take 1 package of bacon and weave the slices over the turkey to cover it as completely as you can. If needed, cut slices in half to cover the drumsticks and wings. The bacon helps keep the breast meat from overcooking, and adds moisture as well. Plus, as my late mother-in-law told me when I learned this technique from her, pieces of the cooked bacon can be broken off and snuck to hungry, impatient little children!
Preheat the oven to 425F. Roast at that temperature for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350F and roast until an meat thermometer reads 170F in the breast meat, or 180F in the deepest part of the leg.
Remove from the oven, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for about 15 minutes before carving.
This may come as a surprise, considering there is the salt of the brine, plus the salt of the bacon, but the turkey does not become over salted (unless you accidentally brine a “flavour enhanced” turkey). You just get a nice, moist, bird!