Thanksgiving is approaching…and with it, holiday meals, events, family and friends getting together, sharing food, traditions…
I love to cook! And I love using local, sustainably produced, and organic products as much as possible. During the holidays all my loves (herbs, cooking, local) come together along with family and friends in a large melding of delicious, healthy, food and drinks.
One of the items I have been working on for years is my Turkey recipe for Thanksgiving. One year we bought free range turkeys from a local sustainable farm, used a wet brine, then baked them in oven bags. They turned out amazing but the mess of the wet brine didn’t appeal to me. I tried Martha Stewart’s Spatchcocking method and loved it: amazing taste, great results, only the turkey doesn’t look amazing in the pictures or on the table (it is cut into pieces). Then, last year, my husband smoked a turkey in our smoker:
Yum! It took a long time to smoke and we were not sure how long it would take so we smoked it the day before Thanksgiving and had reheated and cold smoked turkey the day of the feast.
I decided to create an herbal dry brine
I have spent over a month trying out different herbs, brine recipes, and researching what other amazing cooks like to use and how their Turkey’s turned out as well as experimenting with pasture raised chickens.
The results are in! Dry Brining is a great, easy, and fun way to get an amazing tasting turkey (or chicken) every time.
The science behind the Dry Brine: The addition of salt alone will allow proteins to bind more readily to water during the cooking process, so in the simplified sense that brines improve texture, flavor and moisture retention, a salt heavy dry rub can be thought of as a “dry brine.”
When making a dry brine, salt is usually mixed with other dry seasonings such as herbs and spices and rubbed onto the surface of the protein. A good starting point for the amount of salt to use is around 1% based on the protein’s weight.
The salt rub is left on for a given period of time, (anywhere from 4-48 hours), and then cooked as is, usually without being rinsed. Although this method doesn’t introduce excess water to be absorbed, the salting does allow the protein to bind moisture more tightly, yielding a moister finished product, assuming of course that the protein is cooked properly.
To understand what’s really happening, you have to look at the structure of turkey muscles. Muscles are made up of long, bundled fibers, each one housed in a tough protein sheath. As the turkey heats, the proteins that make up this sheath will contract. Just like a squeezing a tube of toothpaste, this causes juices to be forced out of the bird. Heat them to much above 150°F or so, and you end up with dry, stringy meat.
Salt helps mitigate this shrinkage by dissolving some of the muscle proteins (mainly myosin). The muscle fibers loosen up, allowing them to absorb more moisture, and more importantly, they don’t contract as much when they cook, making sure that more of that moisture stays in-place as the turkey cooks.
How to Dry Brine a chicken or turkey:
The Quick overview: Carefully pat your bird dry. Generously sprinkle Mothering Herbs Herbal Dry Brine on all surfaces by picking up the mixture between your thumb and fingers, holding it six to ten inches above the bird and letting the mixture shower down over the surface of the turkey for even coverage (then rub into the areas not reached). The turkey should be well-coated with salt, though not completely encrusted.
Transfer the turkey to a rack set in a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours. Without rinsing, roast your bird.
Dry-brining for more than 24 hours will produce even more juicy and well-seasoned meat. To brine longer than 24 hours, loosely cover turkey with plastic wrap or cheesecloth before refrigerating to prevent excess moisture loss through evaporation. Let rest for up to 3 days.
Exact Directions to Make the turkey (for a 22-24 lb Turkey): Rinse inside and outside of turkey, and pat dry. Rub or sprinkle 2 tablespoons salt mixture evenly inside turkey cavity, 2 tablespoons on each leg portion, 1 1/2 teaspoons on each wing, and 2 tablespoons on each breast. Place turkey in a large Pot with a top or an oven bag and seal tightly, removing any trapped air. Place on a rimmed baking sheet, and refrigerate for 24- 48 hours (see above instructions about covering vs not covering and timing).
Remove turkey from bag, and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Combine 1 stick butter, 1 cup of dry white wine, and 4 whole bay leaves in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, then remove from heat.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees with rack in lowest position.Place turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. Tuck wings under turkey. Loosely fill cavity with 4 cups stuffing (use your favorite recipe). Tie legs together with kitchen string. Rub 1/2 stick butter on turkey. Pour water into roasting pan.
Place turkey, legs first, into oven. Roast for 30 minutes, then baste with butter-wine mixture. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees, and roast, basting with butter-wine mixture every 30 minutes, for 2 1/2 hours. (Add more water to roasting pan if necessary to prevent pan drippings from burning.) Rotate pan, and roast until skin is golden brown and thickest part of thigh (avoiding bone) and center of stuffing register 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer 30 to 45 minutes more. (If turkey is done before the stuffing, remove turkey from oven, and spoon stuffing into a buttered baking dish, and continue to roast until golden and center registers 165 degrees.) Transfer turkey to a rimmed baking sheet, reserving pan juices and roasting pan, and let rest for 30 minutes before carving.
Where to purchase Mothering Herbs Herbal Dry Brine: The Saturday before Thanksgiving (November 18 2017 9-3) I will set up at Bluewater Creek Farm selling the Dry Brine, Bay Leaves, and other herbal goodies for all your holiday needs (Healing Balm for cuts, Holiday Home and Body Spray for stress and a great smell, Baths for De-Stressing, organic soaps, Hostess gifts and more!). You can also order, anytime, from my website shop www.motheringherbs.link.
Don’t forget hostess gifts and gift baskets! Any host or hostess would love a basket of organic herbal products to thank them.