Much to Seth's dismay, I lack some of his organizing, um, talents. That's why I had to thumb through scraps of newspaper clippings, glossy torn magazine pages and envelope backs earlier today. I held each one long enough to read an ingredient or two. Then, I tossed them aside with a mental, "No. No. No," ticking through my head.
I knew my turkey brine recipe was somewhere in there, and I knew it was on a wide-ruled piece of notebook paper, scratched down in a hurry. The words actually run perpendicular to the lines on the page -- must have been some hurry. I jotted down this recipe while a great cook I know rattled it off one day. She did it in a way that meant, "Don't right it down, just listen." I get it now because I've tasted it, so I remember the slightly sweet, spicy and herb-infused flavors. It's not exactly about precision. The brine adds a subtle flavor to the turkey, and the salt helps keep it moist.
So, here it is. The biggest obstacle to overcome for those of us who don't have a commercial walk-in refrigerator is how to keep the bird chilled while brining. Unless you've got space for a 5-gallon bucket, get one of those oven bags. Put the bird and brine inside and secure tightly. Place the whole thing in a roasting pan to catch any leaks. Here's the big catch: You have to flip the bird regularly to make sure it gets brined on all sides. I'd flip it every six hours for a total of 24 hours of brine time.
Once you're ready to roast, rinse and dry the bird first. The juices will be more salty than an unbrined bird, so the pan drippings are not the best for a gravy. It's a trade off. Though you could make a turkey stock with the neck and other organ meats you pull from inside the bird.
8 cups water
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup salt
Fresh rosemary stems
12 cloves of garlic
Fresh thyme stems
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
Bring the water, salt, sugar, and syrup together in a large pot, heating until sugar and salt dissolve. Turn off heat, and add the remaining ingredients while still warm. Leave uncovered until completely cool, and then chill to bring the temperature down to no more than 40 degrees. Place the turkey in the oven bag and then into a roasting pan. Holding the bag in a way as to not let liquid out, add liquid. Then securely tie the bag and refrigerator for 24 hours, rotating occasionally to brine all sides equally.
*Note: Because of the sugar in this recipe, the turkey skin may be more prone to burning, especially if it's a large bird. Loosely tent with foil to help keep it from browning too soon.
*Bonus: It's not bad on pork, either!