A Fowl Mood (That Turkey Brine Thing)

Update: Since I’ve received several email requests this week for “that turkey brine thing” I thought I’d repost this April 2008 entry with the recipe.

No doubt others before me have used this fowl pun, and why you may ask am I writing about turkey in April when Thanksgiving is six months away? There’s a turkey sitting on my back fence, that’s why.

The flock of turkeys that live in the canyon below our house is growing, probably over 25 birds now, including two toms that fan out impressive tail feathers as they strut along the hillside. These are probably descendants of some domestic creatures turned loose, epitomizing “free range.” They have no predators and without hormones, captivity and a ready supply of food, might have regained some of the instincts of wild turkeys, the kind that Benjamin Franklin called “respectable” as a truly native American beast. Or they could be the kind my mother declared “stupid and vicious” based on her experiences working on a turkey farm as a girl.

Having flushed a hen and chicks from the underbrush one morning when I was out hiking, I can categorically tell Arthur Carlson of WKRP that turkeys can fly.

Regardless, I look at that turkey on the fence, now joined by two companions busily depositing bird stuff on the wrought iron, and I see Thanksgiving on two legs. Which recalls our tried and true turkey brining recipe we use several times a year, even in summer when the hankering for turkey and all the fixings is too much:

2 gallons cold water or vegetable stock or combination
2 cups kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar
2 bay leaves, torn
4 tablespoons dried thyme
5 cloves garlic, smashed
5 allspice berries, crushed
4 juniper berries, crushed
½ tablespoon candied ginger root
8 cups of ice cubes

Combine all in a large stockpot and heat to the point where the sugar and salt dissolve. Remove from heat and add the ice cubes to speed the cooling off process. Don’t use until mixture is completely cooled.

A number of cooking web sites cover the steps for brining turkey safely. The concoction above is a blend of Chez Panisse and Alton Brown brines. The ironic observation here is that just as the turkey has been dumbed down by domestication, so has the human being, as I’m fairly certain that one reason the flock thrives is that no one in the vicinity knows how to pluck one.

3 thoughts on “A Fowl Mood (That Turkey Brine Thing)

  1. Hi Stevie — If you've never brined before, do a general search for a cooking site where they go over the technique thoroughly. There are some safe handling issues to be aware of. You could start with “turkey brine alton brown” as a search string. Hopefully, you'll get to Brown's recipe and very thorough description of the steps. He's a wonderful resource as both a scientist and chef.


  2. Okay, those are the brine ingredients – now what do you do with them?
    Forgive my ignorance, I'm an English woman living in Africa (but I am intrigued and I want to give this a try!).
    Stevie Godson


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