Ingredients: Kosher Salt, Brown Sugar, Garlic, Juniper, Black Peppercorns, Fennel, Chiles, Bay Leaves, Thyme, Lemon, Sage, Allspice, Rosemary
Roasted turkey breast almost always seems to be dry and tough if it’s cooked even a couple of minutes longer than absolutely necessary. Some may even think that properly cooking a turkey is more of an art than a science. Actually, any kind of lean meat or fish will become tough as shoe leather if overcooked. There is hope – brining.
Brining is an ancient tradition in which people across the globe long ago figured out how to use salt, water, and spices to preserve meat well before the use of refrigeration was ever invented. The earliest records of salt being used to preserve fish dates back to 3,500 B.C, in 200 B.C. the Greeks learned the secrets of curing meat with salt from the Romans and in 1608 Native Americans taught the people of Jamestown, Virginia the time honored tradition of salting, smoking and aging venison.
Today the turkeys that Americans seem to prefer are extremely breast-heavy, which undoubtedly says something about our taste preferences. This disproportionately bred bird creates a problem during the roasting process as the breast meat cooks much quicker than the darker meat of the thighs and legs. The end result is that the breast meat ends up flavorless and dry (or more accurately overcooked). Brining your bird will help this dramatically.
In case you’re not fluent in the art of brining here’s a quick recap. The basic process involves soaking meat in a tub, bucket or cooler full of heavily salted water overnight (most turkey brines are in the 5 to 8% salt range by weight water). During the brining process a good deal of moisture remains inside the turkey even after the meat is cooked. Typically an unbrined turkey loses about 30 percent of its weight during cooking, most of which is water which is responsible for its desired juicy moisture. By brining your bird you can reduce this moisture shrinkage to as little as 15%.
For a medium size turkey (12-14 lbs), you’ll need approximately one pound of this brine mixture. You begin be adding the brine seasoning to two gallons of water (or if you prefer one gallon of water and one gallon of vegetable stock) and then bring to boil. Remove from heat and allow to completely cool before adding the turkey. The turkey should sit in the brine at least overnight in your refrigerator or cooler. If going the cooler route add the turkey and brine liquid to a large re-sealable bag and then place the bag of turkey in ice water to stay cool during the brining process.
We’ve tested brining our turkey from 8 hours up to 24 hours and found the optimum flavor is achieved at about 12 hours. Remove your turkey from the brine (discard brine), rinse the turkey with cool water and then pat dry with paper towels. Proceed with your normal roasting method that your Mom or Grandma taught you.
This brining blend also works well with chicken and pork chops although we would not brine the chicken for more than 4 hours and the pork chops for more than 2.
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