Published on December 20th, 2011 | by Gareth8
Christmas dinner is my favourite meal of the year, it’s a chance to cook a real feast and indulge in culinary excess. However, turkey the Christmas bird of choice for many is often seen as dry, bland and about as sexy as a politician’s choice in neckwear. Not any more.
To get the most out of this maligned flightless festive fare from the Americas, brining is the way to go. Last Christmas after thumbing my way through a Jamie Oliver recipe I discovered what a number of celeb UK chefs, including the wizard of wow, Heston Blumenthal have been preaching for the last year or two. Brine your bird and you will be rewarded handsomely with flavoursome juicy slices of turkey. In fact the Scandinavians and Chinese have known this for donkeys years. Brining essentially involved soaking the turkey overnight in a solution of salt and water, the addition of sugar also helps.
How does this work? Partly to do with osmosis and even more to do with how proteins work. Without wishing to get into the science the salt solution helps the meat retain moisture during cooking.
I apologise for the quality of the photos up front, they were taken over a year ago, and miss out the brining process. Clearly I knew nothing and got so excited I missed the vital brine part (will take some pics on Christmas Eve morning to update). This simple recipe and process (courtesy of Jamie Oliver) is worth investing a bit of time. If you are concerned about strong flavours reduce the salt to 2/3 of a cup and swap 1 of the cups of cranberry juice for 1 cup of water.
- 1 cup of sea salt (I used Himalayan rock salt – the pink stuff)
- Zest and juice of 1 large ripe orange (Valencia’s are the best for juice)
- 2 cups of cranberry juice
- 1 whole nutmeg, grated
- 1 tsp of ground white pepper
- 4 tsp of olive oil
- Extra large roasting bags
To prep the turkey
- 10 Sprigs of rosemary
- Salt and pepper
- Few knobs of butter
- On Christmas Eve (you will need 12 hours to brine) mix the ingredients in a bowl or jug. Make sure the salt is dissolved.
- Rinse the turkey under the cold tap and pat dry with a clean tea towel or kitchen paper. Make sure you remove the giblets if they are included.
- Put the brine solution into one of the roasting bags and add the turkey. Don’t be tempted to use a carrier bag, it’s not food grade plastic and just isn’t nice.
- Tie the end of the bag then either put it inside a second roasting bag or a carrier bag.
- Pop in the fridge over night, ideally in a plastic box or roasting tin just in case it leaks.
- Next day empty the brine in the sink and discard the bags.
- Pat the turkey dry and bring to room temperature for 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 160 degrees.
- Rub salt and pepper and the butter into the turkey skin.
- Remove the leaves from the rosemary sprigs (set the leaves aside) use the stalks to tie the turkey cavity up once the turkey has been stuffed.
- Use the leaves for the stuffing mix.
- Once stuffed put the turkey in a roasting tray and pop in the pre-heated.
- Roast the turkey for 50 mins per kilo, you can roast at a higher temperature (180 degrees for 35-40mins per kilo) but I prefer slower at a lower temperature (in fact I even read a Heston recipe that recommended slow roast for up to 9 hours at 80 degrees).
- To check the turkey is ready, pop a skewer in the thickest part of the thigh and also the breast. If the juice runs clear it’s done. If you are still unsure use a meat thermometer, you want the internal temp to be 72-75 degrees.
- Once ready remove from the oven, cover with foil and allow to rest for 40 mins.