Brining and Roasting a Turkey

turkey-with-garnishEveryone has their own theory on what works best for cooking the Thanksgiving bird, and I’ve tried most preparation methods. Frankly, I prefer to keep things simple and I’ve found that brining the turkey prior to roasting has put the most succulent and flavorful turkeys on our holiday table.

In our Recipe of the Month I’m sharing my brine recipe, and I’ll take you through the few easy steps brining requires. It’s really much simpler than it might seem and well worth the extra time spent to ensure a roasted turkey that tastes heavenly.

Brining and Roasting a Turkey

Basic Brine Recipe for a 10 to 12 pound turkey
1-cup coarse kosher salt
2-tablespoons molasses
1/4 cup brown sugar
1-gallon vegetable stock
1 1/2 tablespoons peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons whole allspice (much like peppercorns)
1-teaspoon fresh ginger, finely minced
3 lemons, quartered
1-gallon iced water

Combine salt, molasses, brown sugar, vegetable stock, peppercorns, allspice and ginger in a large stockpot; bring to a boil (pictured below).

Once the mixture comes to a boil, remove it from the heat, add the lemons and allow it to cool. Refrigerate mixture after it’s reached room temperature.

turkey-seasoning-in-stockpot

The night before turkey cooking day, combine the cooled brine mixture with the reserved 1-gallon iced water in a clean cooler, a 5-gallon bucket or a large plastic bag (as pictured below). If using the plastic bag method of brining, it’s best to put the plastic bag with all the liquid inside a sturdy vessel to give it support.

turkey giblets and seasoing in bag

Remove the giblets from the turkey and then place turkey in brine with the breast side down. Turkey needs to be weighted so it’s completely covered with brine. I’ve found using the plastic bag method works best for me. It eliminates the need to fuss with weighting down the turkey, which needs to be fully covered with brine throughout the entire brining process. Leave the turkey in a cool place to brine for 4 to 6 hours.

Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse it with fresh water. Discard the brine. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Now you’re ready to prepare the bird for the oven. Note: If it’s going to be a while before you start roasting the turkey, store it uncovered in a cool place.

Roasting the Turkey

Fill the turkey cavity with herbs, salt, pepper, miscellaneous vegetables (onion, carrots, and celery) and a couple lemons that need piercing with a fork. Place a bed of vegetables and herbs in the bottom of roasting pan or oven bag for the turkey to rest upon while cooking. The oven bag is my preferred roasting method mainly because it makes the cleanup more convenient and the turkey cooks faster (pictured below). Spray the turkey with cooking oil spray (I use canola or olive oil spray) or dot with butter or brush with melted butter. Rub/sprinkle the turkey with herbs, fine kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

turkey prepared for roasting

Roast according to a standard cooking chart. I generally bake at 400° for 45 minutes to 1 hour and then reduce the temperature to 325° for the duration of the cooking time. I rely heavily on a meat thermometer for knowing when the turkey reaches an inside temperature of 180°. I prefer to cook it to 185°.  If using an oven bag put the meat thermometer through the bag’s top holes to test for doneness, and check temperature in a few different places. Allow the turkey to rest for 30 minutes before carving.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

roasted turkey on serving dish

Special Notes:

1)  Brine mixes are available at various outlets; however, I’ve never used one so I can’t comment on how they are compared to making brine from scratch.

2) Cooking a turkey in a roasting pan (without an Oven Bag) is a perfectly acceptable way to cook a turkey and millions of cooks do it that way. With practice, you can learn what works best for you…just remember to baste frequently.

3) The experts from America’s Test give tips on carving a turkey.

4) Here are some shortcuts from Kitchen Daily on making the best gravy.

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Ask Cynthia a Question – November 21, 2014

cooked-turkeySamantha asked:  What do you think is the best way to prepare/cook a turkey?

My answer: Brining has resulted in my most succulent turkeys.

Everyone has their theory on what works best for cooking the Thanksgiving bird, and throughout the years, I’ve tried my share of methods. Here’s an article, Take it easy, the Pilgrims didn’t Brine they’re Turkey, that I found amusing because it reflects some of what I’ve done and how I feel about the different processes.

I’ve brined turkeys that came from the freezer case and those that were fresh without noticing any difference in the final result. Frozen or fresh, I do think it’s best to buy a good quality bird, and I always check the “Sell By” date to make sure it’s as fresh as possible. The brand name I look for in the freezer section is “Honeysuckle White” but I’m not sure that brand is available nationwide.

Please refer to the Recipe of the Month for more details on brining a turkey, if that’s what you choose to do. I’ve found the few extra steps it takes to brine is well worth it to ensure a moist and flavorful turkey.

I generally roast the bird on a bed of vegetables and herbs. To the cavity, I add some of the vegetable/herb mixture along with cut-up lemons and roast it in a large roasting pan with a lid, which I remove about halfway through the roasting process. I’ve also had great success using the roasting bags; I don’t stuff the bird, the dressing is baked separately.

Sometimes it takes a while to get comfortable roasting a turkey, but my advice is to relax and enjoy creating a masterpiece.  Read a story about the year I roasted my first Thanksgiving turkey. Thanks for your question, Samantha, and Happy Thanksgiving!

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Keeping the Stuffing in the Turkey

turkey-stuffing

Keep stuffing from falling out of turkey while it’s baking, by covering the stuffed cavity with a heel from a loaf of bread. This seals stuffing in and juices won’t drip out.

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Apple Pumpkin Pie with Crumb Crust

apple-pumpkin-pieThis month’s Recipe of the Month combines the familiar taste of cinnamon, spice and everything nice with crisp fall apples and thick, rich pumpkin to create an unusual and delicious all-in-one pie. For a crunchy twist, I’ve added a sweet and buttery “Dutch Crunch” topping.

Apple Pumpkin Pie (pictured) is sure to satisfy those who have been waiting all year to sink their teeth into the two all-time traditional favorites. This recipe comes straight from the pages of SWEET APPLE TEMPTATIONS so we know every tender bite will say, “The holidays are just around the corner!”

Apple Pumpkin Pie

Apple Layer
1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
3 cups Cameo or Braeburn apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 9-inch ready-made unbaked pie crust

Pumpkin Layer
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Crumb Topping Layer (Optional)
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup butter or margarine
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup pecans, chopped fine (optional)
Whipped cream or pumpkin pie ice cream, optional

Apple Layer Preparation
In a medium-large saucepan, combine brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt; cook over medium heat.

Add water and butter to brown sugar mixture; bring to a boil. Add apples and continue cooking and stirring for 4 minutes.

Prick the piecrust thoroughly with a fork; pour apple mixture into pie pastry.

Pumpkin Layer Preparation
Preheat oven to 375°F. In a medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin, milk, 1/3 cup granulated white sugar, egg, cinnamon and salt until smooth; pour over apple layer.

Crumb Topping Preparation (Optional)

Combine sugar, flour, butter and cinnamon with a pastry blender or fork until mixture is a crumbly texture similar to dry oatmeal; stir in nuts, if desired. Sprinkle over pumpkin mixture.

Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

If necessary, cover the edges of piecrust with foil for the last 15 minutes of baking time to prevent over browning of edges. If the crumb top gets too dark, place an aluminum foil “tent” over it. Leave the foil loose over the top; don’t tighten it down over the pie.

Cool completely; serve with whipped cream or pumpkin pie ice cream, if desired.

Yield: 6-8 servings

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Ask Cynthia a Question – October 22, 2014

Pumpkins2

Brea asked: How can I tell which pumpkin(s) are suitable for cooking?

cynthia-briggs-2My answer: To quote the heading of one site ‘There’s the Carving Kind, Then There’s the Eating Kind’ which couldn’t be truer. Pumpkins aren’t created equal, and rule-of-thumb is to use the smaller pumpkins in cooking, especially for pies.

All pumpkins are edible, the bigger varieties used for carving make poor cooking choices because they contain low sugar, have thin walls, and are stringy. You can always puree the meat of the large pumpkins to make soup or pumpkin bread, but most pumpkin recipes, such as for pie, need the smaller and sweeter varieties that weigh 3 to 6 pounds.

Best cooking pumpkins have names like New England Pie, Baby Pam, Peek-A-Boo, Long Pie, Long Island Cheese Pumpkin, Trickster, Winter Luxury or Sugar Pumpkin. At a farmers’ market, the farmer can point you toward the pumpkins best for cooking and the name of the variety he/she is selling. A supermarket will usually label the cooking pumpkins as “Sugar Pumpkin” or they’ll be priced by “each” rather than sold by the pound as with carving pumpkins.

Whichever variety you select, make sure it does not have bruises or soft spots. If the pumpkin is greenish when you purchase it, don’t worry, it will turn orange when it ripens in a cool spot (don’t refrigerate). Thank you Brea for you question, and Happy Harvest!

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Remove Coarse Strings from Fresh Cooked Pumpkin

fresh-cooked-pumpkin

Remove coarse strings from fresh cooked pumpkin by beating it with an electric mixer. The strings will adhere to the fast twirling beaters and leave your pumpkin smooth and string-free.

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German Apple Cake

German-apple-cakeGerman Apple Cake is a vintage recipe that fully deserves the spotlight as Recipe of the Month. A longtime friend, April Poirier, gave me the recipe back in the early 70s. I still have the original recipe, handwritten on a plain recipe card in April’s noticeably neat script.

We’ve both transformed this rich, traditional beauty into cupcakes, mini-cupcakes, layer cakes and sheet cakes for weddings, baby showers, book signings and numerous other gatherings throughout the years. We’ve frosted it with cream cheese frosting, added chocolate chips and drizzled it with a simple glaze; any way you slice it, it’s enjoyed by all. German Apple Cake is a moist and versatile, old-fashioned favorite that celebrates the arrival of autumn and apples.

German Apple Cake

2 large eggs
1-cup salad oil
2-cups granulated white sugar
2-cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1-teaspoon vanilla extract
1-teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups cooking apples, pared and diced
1/2 to 1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
1-12 ounce jar ice cream caramel (optional)

German-apple-cake-powdered-sugarPreheat oven to 350°F. Beat eggs and salad oil until foamy; add sugar, flour, cinnamon, vanilla, soda and salt and mix well. Stir in apples and nuts; stir until well coated. Pour into greased and floured 9″x13″ baking pan. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Serve it plain to apple purists or dress it up with whipped cream, ice cream or caramel sauce (as pictured above).  Below it’s shown simply dusted with powdered sugar.

Yield: 15 delicious servings

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