My father-in-law loves to joke about Thanksgiving. "You spend all day cooking. Stuffing, basting, roasting, sweating, stressing.. and at the end of the day, it's still just a turkey!" And he's not alone in this sentiment. There are a lot of folks out there who are perenially unimpressed by the centerpiece of the upcoming holiday. This is the year you change their minds. And all it take is a little salt, a little sugar, and some time.
If you've got a few minutes (13:50 to be exact - yes I know that's a little bit of an ask, but is it really, when the most honored meal of the year is on the line?) you should check out the YouTube video I've made on the subject. It goes more in depth about why and how we brine, with a step-by-step example. But for the rest of you, scroll on. I'm giving the quick and dirty rundown here.
Brining simply means soaking in, at minimum, a saltwater solution. This can be as basic as salt and water, or as complicated and fancy as your nuanced personality. Most often brining refers to a salt and sugar solution. Typically this is done for 12 hours, at a minimum. But, in a pinch, you can do a quick brine and still get a lot of benefit. We often thaw pork chops or chicken cuts in a brine around lunchtime, cook them at dinner (so maybe a 6 hour turnaround) and can taste a huge difference.
Our Recommended Ratio:
1/2 c Salt : 1/2 c sugar : 1 gallon water
Stir together, cover meat and store in fridge.
Soak 12 - 72 hours.
*For a shorter soak, you can try increasing the salt and sugar each to 1 cup per gallon. This helps make up for the reduced soaking time. I find this ratio too salty for longer soaks, though.
Optional Adds for Experimentation:
ShireFolk Farm's Thanksgiving Turkey Brine Recipe:
Makes 2 gallons of brine, enough to cover a 16lb turkey.
You will need:
1).In a large bowl, stir together salt and sugar in the warm water until fully dissolved (or see the video above for the blender trick). Then stir in the spices. Sitting in the warm water will give them a jump start to diffusing their flavor since they'll be in cold water the rest of the time.
2). While the spices are soaking in the concentrated brine, prep your bird. Give it a good wash and find somewhere to put it. A big pot it'll fit in, a cooler you don't mind sanitizing before and after the brine, or line a big bucket or pot with a brine bag (I'm a fan of this method. Go to the very end of the video to see why.
3). Once your bird is in it's final brining destination, pour the concentrated brine over it, then top with a gallon and a half of cold water. Stir it all around to distribute flavors, salts, and sugars. If you're using a cooler, top it off with ice and store it out of the sun. (If you're using a lot of ice, it's worth considering a slightly stronger salt and sugar concentration in your brine to offset the melting water from the ice.)
4). And wait! We recommend at least 24 hours, and up to 3 days of brining. When it's all done, rinse in cold water, pat dry and bring to room temperature before cooking using your desired method.