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The brining process, water saturated with salt, is believed by some to be a favorable way to prepare turkey, resulting in a moister product. The brining process requires two or more pounds of salt and a four to six hour soaking period.
For centuries salt has been used in meat processing to extract proteins from muscle cells. During the soaking process the water is trapped within the turkey. As the cooking process begins, the heat gels the proteins and forms a barrier to keep the liquids from escaping. The results are a moist white meat turkey with a slight salty flavor.
There is an additional large container required for the brining process, along with lots of space in a refrigerator. A large covered non-corrosive pan or stockpot (glass or stainless-steel) or food-safe plastic container (available from home-brew supply stores) is required for the soaking process.
Several chefs add other ingredients to the brining solution including a combination of herbs such as 6-8 bay leaves, ½ cup dried rosemary leaves, 3 cloves garlic, 2 teaspoons peppercorns and ½ cup dried thyme leaves. Other chefs recommend the addition of 2 cups packed brown sugar with the herbs. Still others prefer the heat imparted by the addition of 1-cup small dried red chile peppers.
Remember the addition of the salt in the brining procedure will yield a salty flavor to the turkey so it is wise to omit salt as an ingredient in the turkey stock.
BRINING WHOLE TURKEY
1 15 to 18 pound whole TURKEY, thawed, giblets and neck removed
2 pounds salt (2 lbs. table salt or 4 lbs. Kosher salt)
2 gallons water
1. Rinse the turkey in cool water.
2. In a clean container, large enough to hold the turkey, mix the salt and water together until the salt dissolves. If desired, add herbs, brown sugar or chile peppers to the soaking solution.
3. Submerge the turkey in the solution. If the turkey is not completely covered, prepare additional brine using a ratio of 1-pound salt to 1 gallon water. Cover and set the turkey in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours.
4. Remove the turkey from brine. Thoroughly rinse under a slow stream of cool water, rubbing gently to release salt, both inside and out. Pat the skin and both cavities dry.
5. In the cavity of the turkey, place any combination of the following:
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
1 small celery stalk, cut into 1" chunks
2 tsp. dried thyme
6. Brush the turkey with 4-6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter. Place the turkey in a V-rack or sturdy wire rack and arrange the turkey with breast side DOWN on the rack.
7. Roast the turkey, breast side down, in a preheated 325 degree F. oven for 2 hours. During this time, baste the legs and back twice with 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter.
8. Remove turkey from the oven and protecting your hands, grasp the turkey with several layers of clean paper towels at both ends, and turn turkey, breast side up.
9. Return the turkey to the oven and continue to roast, basting twice with pan drippings. Continue to roast until the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees F. in the breast and 180 degrees F. in the thigh. Remove the turkey and allow to stand for 20 minutes before carving.
(Courtesy of The National Turkey Federation, www.eatturkey.com)
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