Herb-Brined Roast Turkey
(15- to 20-pound) fresh turkey
2 cups coarse salt
½ cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. The Spice Hunter Malabar Black Peppercorns
2 Tbsp. The Spice Hunter Mediterranean Rosemary
1 Tbsp. The Spice Hunter French Thyme
2 Tbsp. The Spice Hunter Rubbed Dalmatian Sage
1 gallon vegetable or chicken broth
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 medium celery rib, chopped
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
The Spice Hunter Citrus Pepper Fresh Twist Grinder
Stir 2 gallons water, broth and salt in large pot until salt dissolves. Stir in the remaining brine ingredients. Add turkey to brine. Place large plate atop turkey to submerge. Place in refrigerator. Soak turkey 8 to 10 hours. Remove turkey from brine; rinse and pat dry. Preheat oven to 450°;F. Place turkey on rack in large roasting pan. Place cut vegetables inside turkey cavity. Rub butter over turkey. Grind the Citrus Pepper Fresh Twist Grinder over turkey to evenly season. Place turkey in oven. Reduce temperature to 325°;F. Roast turkey until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 175°;F, about 2 ½ hours. Transfer turkey to platter; tent with foil. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before carving.
Garnish suggestions: roasted onions, roasted red potatoes and/or green beans.
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. What is brining and what ingredients are contained in it? Can these ingredients be changed without destroying the effect of the brine?
Brining is a method of soaking meat in a water-based salt mixture before cooking to lock in moisture. Brines are typically a blend of salt and other ingredients with flavor you'd like to infuse - this can be anything from sugar, herbs, spices and pepper to dried fruits - into your meat. The salt is the key to expanding meats' water-holding capacity, which is how the brine keeps meat moist throughout cooking, so any brine must contain a heavy salt base - I recommend that salt comprise anywhere from three to six percent of the total liquid mixture, for example 4-8 oz. salt for a gallon mixture (which is about what you'll need to brine a whole turkey). Other ingredients can be substituted for flavor, which is why it's so much fun to customize and experiment with this way of cooking - just make sure your mixture is salt-based.
2. How does it make meat more flavorful (what is the chemical process that causes this)?
The salt in a brine interacts with the muscle proteins in meat to actually dissolve part of the muscle filaments, then increase the water-holding capacity of the muscle protein cells. The cells retain this extra water throughout cooking, which actually adds to the overall weight of what you're brining and serves to reduce water loss during cooking by half. As an added bonus, brining frees up your busy cooking time because you don't have to stand by basting every ten minutes!
3. Do I need a special container to brine?
Brining is incredibly easy precisely because you don't need any particular supplies. Just find something big enough to hold your turkey and the brine - a (clean!) garbage pail, an ice chest, or even a garbage bag will do just fine.
4. Where do I store a turkey that is being brined?
Pour the brine over the turkey and store in a cool place overnight. One great solution is to throw your turkey in a picnic cooler with ice, which will keep its temperature even. If you live somewhere cold, you can let it sit outside or in your garage. If not, just clear a space in your fridge.
5. When I prepare the turkey to be cooked, do I wash off the brine, or cook it as is?
Before roasting, you will want to rinse the meat with cold water and then pat it dry. The moisture will already be soaked into the meat, so you don't have to worry that it stays wet on the skin.
6. Describe the brine you developed, and how does it differ from traditional brines?
The Spice Hunter's brine is comprised of sea salt, brown sugar, cranberries, apples, garlic, orange peel, juniper berries, Malabar black peppercorns, thyme, rosemary and sage. It has a great balance of fruit and herb flavors to counteract the salt in the brine, which I've found is often overpowering in other brines I've tried. We also source our spices from the best producers worldwide, so the flavors are sure to be strong and fresh. If you like to stuff your bird, try sweetening it up - the brown sugar and dried fruit in the brine will perfectly complement a stuffing with cinnamon, apples, apricots and chopped almonds.
About Spice Hunters
The Spice Hunter manufactures, distributes and markets gourmet spices, herbs, seasonings and flavors nationwide. Founded in 1980, we pride ourselves in sourcing herbs and spices from the most ideal growing regions of the world. All our products are all natural. We offer 100% organic herbs and spices as well. Located on the central coast of California in San Luis Obispo, The Spice Hunter is part of The C.F. Sauer Company Retail Brands based in Richmond, Virginia.