Brine a Turkey with Sage
My husband recently made a Practice Turkey for Thanksgiving. Yes, you read that correctly: A Practice Turkey.
We are still kind of green when it comes to hosting Thanksgiving dinner, so we need to test things out before the big day. And... well, I think we just had a hankering for an early taste of all those wonderful Thanksgiving flavors: roast turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, etc.
Sage is a key ingredient used in many stuffings for Thanksgiving turkey. In fact, I can't imagine a Thanksgiving meal without sage included somewhere.
In this case, we used some of the sage from our garden that I dried this summer. It was a key ingredient in the brine. (Yes, Michael wanted to try brining a turkey, which seems to be all the rage right now when it comes to turkey cooking.)
Using a recipe from this month's Saveur magazine, he started out by toasting about 2 tablespoons of the chopped dried sage. This made our apartment smell absolutely wonderful. (I was hungry already!)
He put the sage into a pot of water with two parts kosher salt and one part sugar. He brought that to a boil and then let it cool. He put the brine into a big tub, added a 6 lb. turkey breast, and let it sit in the refrigerator for about 12 hours.
The next day... he took the turkey out of the brine, tucked some pieces of butter underneath the skin, and roasted it. No basting required! The whole idea about brining a turkey is that the salt alters the protein in the meat and seals in the moisture.
So now you're probably wondering...
Was it worth the effort? Was the turkey really moist?
Yes! This was the moistest turkey we've ever had. No dry meat here. The turkey didn't fall to pieces like the one at the Griswold Family's Christmas. It was juicy and delicious.
Did it taste salty?
Yes. Think of the way a brined ham tastes. It's similarly salty, but not inedibly so. (But if you're on a low-sodium diet, this is not the turkey for you.)
Where's the gravy?
The thing about the brine is that it seals in all the juices, so there were hardly any drippings in the pan. We'll have to figure out another way to make gravy.
Did it taste like sage?
Well, no, not so much. The meat really didn't taste like sage at all. Only the skin held the flavor of the sage. I think the best part about using sage in this was... the aroma. It smelled like Thanksgiving.
Anything else I should know about a brined turkey?
Yes. The meat was somewhat pinkish. Think pink, the way a brined ham is pink (although not that pink. Just slightly pink.). It took me a while to be OK with that, because we have it so ingrained in our heads that poultry needs to be well cooked. We used a meat thermometer and made sure the meat was heated above 165 degrees. Even fully cooked, there will be pinkness in a brined turkey. It's normal. (And you might want to explain this to your guests.)
So there you have it, brined turkey with sage. So moist and flavorful... you won't want plain ol' dry turkey ever again!
About brining a turkey
Video: The science of brining a turkey
Find a sustainably-raised turkey
Turkey brine recipe
Another turkey brine recipe
And... one more turkey brine recipe
Apple-orange cranberry sauce recipe
This is my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging, which will be hosted by Nandita at Saffron Trail. Are you blogging about herbs, vegetables, plants or flowers? Join WHB!