Wine. Food. Reviews. Recipes. Lap it up.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Spruced-Up Turkey Brine

This is a recipe I got from an issue of Wine Spectator two or three years ago, and have used more than once. The spruce, rosemary, juniper berries, star anise and other spices really penetrate the meat, and the flavor is wonderful. I use a plastic 5-gallon pickle bucket to put the turkey in — many restaurants have a stack of them sitting around and will cheerfully give you one; another approach is to use a plastic cooler. After the turkey has been brined, I drop a couple of chickens in to soak for a day then put them in the freezer to cook later.

1 1/4 cups kosher salt
3 1/4 cups sugar
2 cups honey
6 sprigs each of parsley, thyme, tarragon and sage
2 sprigs rosemary
1 cup pickling spice
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon juniper berries
2 lemons, halved
5 star anise
8 sprigs spruce branch (or one 2-foot-long branch, cut into small pieces)
2 gallons boiling water

Combine all ingredients except the boiling water in a 5-gallon, heat-proof container that is large enough to hold the turkey. Pour the boiling water over the brine ingredients and let the mixture cool to room temperature. Submerge the turkey in the brine, cover and refrigerate overnight. (I just leave mine on the deck if it's cold enough outside.) Rinse turkey, pat dry, and cook as usual. I rub olive oil on mine and sprinkle freshly-ground pepper (but no salt!) all over before roasting.

Note: Most of the brine ingredients can easily be found at your local grocery and at Penzey's, but you’ll have to identify and cut your own spruce branches. The easiest variety of spruce to identify is the Colorado Blue, which is a popular landscaping tree due to its attractive color, shape and hardiness. They're sharp, so be careful.
M. Zane Grey, 9:55 AM