Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Brining my Bird

I've tried a few things in my kitchen but this was never one of them. The Holidays, however, produced a pork roast and a turkey breast, both of which were wanting for juice. Juice, baby, juice. I feel terrible when after spending hours seasoning and roasting a fine cut of meat I serve up rawhide. So I've been shamed into learning to brine my bird.

What I'm discovering might be enough to develop in me a taste for rawhide.

After checking a few cookbooks and browsing the web, I settled on this brine mix:


1 gallon water
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary

1    Dissolve the salt, sugar, and spices in the water.

Note: When I'm cooking, I like to use the cleanest water I can get. In my case it was cool tap water that I had run through a Brita Water Filter and which was sitting in a pitcher in the refrigerator. Let me tell you, by no feat of physics will 1/2 cup of kosher salt and 1/4 cup of granulated sugar dissolve in a gallon of cold water on contact. You may stir and stir until your bird takes flight, but alas, those hard little granules will resettle back to the bottom like fake snow in a Christmas water-ball ornament.

So, an instruction that would improve on my No. 1 might say: Dissolve the salt and sugar in a half-gallon of the water that has been heated to some degree less than boiling. (A microwave works well for this.) When fully dissolved, add the remaining half-gallon of cool, unheated water to the solution, along with the spices. Allow entire solution to cool. (It seems contrary to everything I learned about food safety to submerse raw foul into warm water and allow it to incubate there. Thus the cooling.)

2    Rinse bird in clean water inside and out. Submerse the bird in brine for 12 to 24 hours. Place a weight on the bird if it takes to floating.

Note: Logistics are key here. First, instructions I read said to place bird and brine in a large pot. That I can do. Then it says to place said pot in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Unfortunately, there was no bottle of juice, carton of milk, or flask of vermouth that agreed to give up their hallowed place in my fridge. Am I the only person who can't find room for a 6 qt. stock pot in her fridge? I recalled one person saying they used a Ziploc bag for brining. I suspect they were referring to its use for a couple of pork chops. Still, this was an idea I could work with.

So, an instruction that would improve on my No. 2 might say: Place bird in a one-gallon Ziploc storage bag. (I used Ziploc Freezer bags because they're sturdier than their Storage bags.) Pour brine into cavity of bird until bag fills. (I had about 2 or 3 cups of brine that didn't fit.) Seal bag and place upright into a carved-out corner of your refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours.

Luckily I double-bagged, because my inside bag leaked. And as you can see, I used an 8-inch baking dish to contain the brining bird while it was in the refrigerator. This served to prop it and to catch any floods that might occur overnight ... none did. Another benefit of brining in a bag: I did not have to contend with a floating bird.

Holy brined birds, Batman, no wonder people don't bother pickling their poultry!

The taste test is tonight.

(Oh my, was it a Hammy Bird.)

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