Hello to all my friends! Are we getting ready for Turkey Day? I know I am.
Thanksgiving gives all of us an excuse to go back into the kitchen and have a meal that is centered around the preparation of the food as much as it is on the eating. As a child, I loved being in the kitchen with my mother and grandmother as they prepared the special dishes that I looked forward to each year. At our house, it was the rest of the meal which was as important as the Turkey. Our sides were quite a bit different than the normal sides and included dishes like Tortellini Soup (handmade of course) as a first course and mashed potatoes alongside Piselli alla Fiorentina (Peas Florentine style), whose sauce flows into the mashed potatoes when served together. Our Turkey gravy was the natural drippings, and I was always jealous of my friends who had “real” gravy, made with gravy mix.
Over the years, the Thanksgiving Turkey has evolved from those who cherish their old fashioned traditional plain Turkey recipes to new recipes which add flavorful herbs and spices as well as Turkey Brining which adds moisture retention for an otherwise potentially dry bird. Brining has become a very popular way to prepare turkey before it is cooked. Brining also allows flavor to be added before a turkey is fried, grilled or smoked, which can be difficult otherwise. Pélago Valley offers a natural brining solution, made with kosher salt, with seasonings already included, so you don’t have to worry about how to season your turkey.
Brining the Turkey
The first step to a successfully brined turkey is to make sure you buy the right bird. If you plan to brine your turkey, you do not want to buy one that has already been brined or has been injected with a saline solution. I think buying a free range or organically raised turkey is better anyway – why pay extra for the saline water the turkey has soaked up to increase its weight?
Once you’ve purchased your turkey, make sure you plan ahead to have it completely thawed by the day before Thanksgiving. Depending on the size of your turkey, you may need to pull it from the freezer two to three days prior to cooking day. You will want to soak your turkey in the brine solution for 12 to 24 hours, for the best results.
To use the Pélago Valley seasoned brine, mix the brine package with 4 cups (1 quart) water and boil the brine mixture for 10 minutes, then cool down by adding 3 quarts cold water. Place the brine solution and the turkey into a large vessel, such as a stock pot, a cooler or a bucket. A plastic bag can be used as a liner, then seal. Place the turkey in the fridge and allow the bird to soak for at least 15 hours. The brine solution soaks into the meat of the turkey, infusing it with flavor and adding moisture that will keep the bird from drying out while you are waiting for the legs to finish cooking thoroughly.
Once the turkey has finished soaking, it is important to rinse it thoroughly to remove any brine solution residue. If you don’t do this, you will have a salty bird. You can then proceed to prepare the turkey as you typically would. We roast our turkey, but brining is the perfect choice if you plan to deep fry or grill your turkey, since the flavor is sealed in.
Benefits of Brining
As the turkey soaks in the brine solution, it absorbs some of the solution through the skin and into the cells of the meat through osmosis. This retained solution provides the meat with a richer flavor, but also provides the meat with a protective barrier of moisture that prevents it from drying out while it cooks. The results are easy to taste, since a properly brined turkey will always be moist and full flavored.
- When brining a turkey, it is important not to season with salt or use a salt rub on the bird. Brining provides all the salt necessary.
- Because brining softens the skin of the bird, it may prevent the bird from crisping up as well. To ensure you get a nice, crisp skin, allow the surface of the turkey to dry slightly. To best accomplish this, keep it in the fridge uncovered after you have rinsed off the brine solution, until you are ready to cook it or until the skin is taut.
- Brining must be done with refrigerated meat. If your turkey will not fit in the fridge, place it in a plastic bucket or glass dish inside a cooler packed with ice for the best results.
Have fun brining! Enjoy your turkey and all the compliments you’ll generate on Turkey Day!
Recipes for Piselli alla Fiorentina can be found on my website, www.pelagovalley.com.