It's BRINE TIME for Mr. Turkey.
I went a little over the top this year and got a 17.46 lb free-range bird from a local butcher shop (there are still a few left). I think one of the biggest advantages to this bird is that it is 100% fresh so there is no defrosting and no accumulated ice that often shows up in even "fresh" birds from the supermarket.
The next step: BRINE. I am using a recipe that is a modification of some other recipes I've seen floating around:
Main active Ingredients:
3 gallons of water (as you'll see below, some of this water can come from ice cubes)
3 cups of salt
2.5 cups of brown sugar (I used dark but I don't think it matters that much)
Fun extra ingredients:
1.5 tablespoons of black peppercorns (whole)
1.0 tablespoon of Allspice berries (whole)
3-5 Bay Leaves (mine are dried so there are smaller than fresh bay leaves)
1. Get water into a large pot. I have a big 2Gallon pot and I ended up prepping the brine in 2 stages, so be prepared to break up the recipe. I highly recommend leaving a generous gap at the top of the pot for tossing in ice later.
2. Heat water over medium to high heat. (Boiling is not the goal here, but heating the water is useful for dissolving)
3. Dissolve the salt at a rate of 1 cup / gallon and the sugar at a rate of ~0.75 cups / gallon (2.5 cups is technically 0.8333/gallon).
4. Add in black pepper corns, allspice berries, and Bay leaves to hot water.
5. Let the water steep almost like you are making tea, but don't let the water boil. Stir until the salt & sugar are dissolved or mostly dissolved.
6. Remove the pot from the heat and add in ice cubes to accelerate the cooling process, you never want to put hot brine on Turkey!
7. Lemons (haven't forgotten them!): Wash the lemons first, then slice in half and squeeze the juice out into the cooled brine. Some people zest the lemon skin, but I just score the skin with a knife and then throw the lemon halves in whole to accompany the brine.
8. Make sure that turkey is cleaned and that liver/gizzards/giblets/etc. are removed from the bird.
9: Put turkey in a large, food-safe bag with the breast (white meat part) facing down since the breast is usually the part that needs brining the most.
There are overpriced "brining bags" out there, but I have found that the Ziploc XL bags do a great job and are not too expensive. I recommend opening the bag up a day before brining to air out the plastic smell, but it is still safe to use straight out of the box. (http://www.amazon.com/Ziploc-Double-Zip ... =Ziploc+XL
As you can see from the pictures below, I put my bag in a cooler with ice packs surrounding the bag to keep the turkey at a safe temperature. While not shown in the photos posted below, I put a layer of ice over the top of the bag to 1. help keep it cold and 2. help weight down the turkey to keep it submerged.
10. Slowly pour the brine over the turkey. You really want the bird to be submerged as much as possible. Seal up the bag (no mess!) and let the bird sit overnight (I would give it a bare minimum of 12 hours, with 16 - 18 hours being better. Some people even go over 24 hours).
Picture Time!TOMORROW: We do a Beer-Can Turkey Roast!