Posted by: David | November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving All

May you, dear reader, have much for which to thankful. These are the good old days.

A friend from work convinced me to try a new way of cooking the turkey. We ordered a lovely organically raised and lightly killed 21 pounder from a Vermont farm. My friend sent along this recipe …

This method is pretty common in the Northeast, and what you do is soak the turkey in a mixture of salt, sugar, water and seasonings for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours. What this does is plump up the breast meat with a sort of moisture cushion, which keeps the bird moist during cooking and imparts a great flavor. Also brining speeds up the cooking time by about 30 minutes, since water conducts heat.

How to brine
Remove the neck, giblets and liver, and reserve for the gravy.
Rinse the turkey inside and out under cold running water.

Dissolve 1 cup salt and 1 cup brown sugar in 2 gallons of cold water in a non-reactive container, such as a clean bucket or large stock pot. (You can even pour it into a clean, heavy-duty, plastic garbage bag, or a small ice chest that will hold the turkey snugly).

To the brine solution I also like to add 2 quartered oranges, 2 quartered lemons, 6 sprigs of sage, and 4 sprigs of roughly chopped rosemary.

Note: if you have a big turkey and need more brine than this, use one-half cup salt and one-half cup brown sugar for every gallon of water.

Soak the turkey in the brine, covered and refrigerated, for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.

Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse well under cold running water.

Pat the turkey dry with paper towels, inside and out.

Transfer the turkey to a roasting pan, loosely tie drumsticks together with kitchen string, and cook as desired.

I used a 5 gallon bucket and the 2 gallons of brine covered it just about right. Since the temperature outside is 34F, we just closed up the bucket and set it outside.

Bet this is gonna be really great!


  1. Happy Thanksgiving, my friend! May your brine runneth over.

  2. Thanks mom-nos. I hope your Thanksgiving went well too. The brining was successful, but maybe the full 24 hours of brining would have made it even better. But hey, it was a fabulous turkey anyway and that’s hardly what this holiday is about.

    We have several family issues in process now, all of which hopefully are soon to find positive resolutions. And all of which are reminders of how close we all live to the abyss. Brine has runneth over …

  3. LOVE your photo. Food is hard to photograph without losing the beauty, but you really pulled it off. Brining is the only way to go, and it’s so easy I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do it. I bet you’ll never do it any other way!

  4. Thank you LWB. The ass end of the turkey peeking out of the brine doesn’t gross you out? Much to your credit. And I will brine turkey again. Always do the same with pork chops, but a much simpler brine.

    Next time I’ll try to give the bird a full 24 hours and chop up the sage and rosemary (which I won’t buy, since my wife reminded me that we have both those herbs growing here on the mini-farm) to see if the bird absorbs more of those flavors. This time it was about a 12-hour brine.

  5. I’m going to try this– it looks wonderful! But, how do you “lightly kill” a turkey?

  6. “Lightly killed” was a Monty Python reference- the “crunchy frog” candy sketch.

    But to answer your question, I think a turkey could be lightly killed by simply showing it a recent photograph of Michael Jackson. This would cause quick cardiac arrest in the bird, which is a “lighter” kill than the more typical method of induced ancephaly. Ya get me?

    I think brining is a good thing, but I would suggest allowing a full 24 hours for a large (over 20 lb) turkey.

  7. I don’t know. Having a recent picture of Michael Jackson burned into your retinas before you die, sounds kind of like cruel and unusual punishment.

    Thanks for the Monty Python link- hilarious!

  8. Yeah, I guess you have a point there. Perhaps I’d better consult the poultry literature for a more modern method of light killing.

    If you liked that Python link, try this one. It’s just the script of the dead parrot sketch, which we all know by heart, but it makes me laugh every time I read it.

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