Friday, November 20, 2009

HypFoods Champagne Brined Holiday Turkey

Ahh, Thanksgiving.  The crackle in the atmosphere as weather and landscapes all signal the change of seasons.  The fragrances of fallen leaves and woodsmoke.  The memories of happy holidays past and the comfort of having a routine to guide you into this particular season.

We pause to consider that not everyone has happy memories of family holidays and note that grocery shortfalls are climbing this year in many American households.  As you plan for your own celebration, will you also commit to make a food/support gift to someone of lesser means this Thanksgiving?

We serve a turkey every year because our grandparents have done so for every preceding American generation.  At my table, we also serve an alternate protein to honor the original American Thanksgiving bounty and the melding of cultures breaking bread together in peace.  Venison, salmon, buffalo; each has graced our table at times and if any of our guests are vegan, we accommodate them, as well.  

Guests often think they don't like turkey until they have tried this preparation. Once perfected, there is really no going back.  A chemical-free, organically raised turkey rested in a good champagne brine is truly something to look forward to.  Sound excessive?  Read on...


Whatever you do, don't buy a commercial turkey that has been artificially treated with hormones and antibiotics or waterboarded at the farm to pump up the profits by cheating the scales with false pounds that provide no nutritional benefit and may, in fact, be harmful.

Buy the best turkey you can afford, even if it means that you buy a portion of turkey rather than a whole bird.  Thanksgiving happens once per year.  Your choice today becomes tomorrow's memory.  Purchase organic breast or half-breast and some drumsticks for the kids if it saves you time and money.

The trick to successful brining is to place the brining bag INSIDE a container that closely supports the protein so that liquids cover the meat and flow into crevices. Simply setting a bag of meat and liquid in the fridge is not going to yield an optimal result.  Use a large bowl, a dishpan or a Cambro from your local restaurant supply.

Remember that brined poultry will finish with a pink tinge to the meat.  It doesn't mean it isn't done.  Use your instant read thermometer judiciously and be sure to rest the roast for 20 minutes or so after is comes out of the oven at the perfect temperature.

Don't oversalt.  This will make an otherwise delightful protein completely inedible.

Don't over-brine!  Leaving the bird in brine for days is dangerous at a microbial level and will also cause the meat to become spongy and unappetizing.

If you are roasting turkey weighing less than 16 lbs, you probably want to halve this recipe.


2/3 Cup kosher salt
1/3 Cup local honey
   6 leaves of fresh sage
   6 sprigs of fresh thyme
   4 bay leaves
 10 whole cloves
   1 tsp dried juniper berries (crushed)
   1 tsp black peppercorns (crushed)
   2 tsp allspice berries (crushed)

1/2 jar LuLu Meyer Lemon, Fennel, Sage Marinade

   2 bottles Segura Viuda Spanish Champagne (runs about $8.99 per bottle) or other bubbly
   2 juice oranges, quartered
   2 large shallots, quartered

   1 fresh or thawed chemical free turkey (up to 25 lbs can be prepared from this recipe)
   1 large, heavy duty ZipLoc or other sealable, culinary grade plastic bag

Step 01 -- Place all ingredients (up to the LuLu marinade) in a large saucepan.

Step 02 -- Add 8 Cups of filtered water, stir and bring to a boil.  Continue stirring until honey and salts have thoroughly dissolved.

Step 03 -- Boil for 3 minutes, then remove from heat.

Step 04 -- Add the LuLu Marinade (available from Amazon) OR your favorite gluten free salad dressing and stir to combine.

Step 05 -- Add 4 cups of ice cubes and stir until melted.  Squeeze the juice from the orange quarters into this, then add champagne.

Step 06 -- Test brine temperature by hand.  If it is the least bit warm, place in fridge to cool down further.  You don't want to parboil or precook the protein when the turkey goes into the brine.

Step 07 -- Bring out your container and line it with the culinary grade plastic bag.  Open the bag wide.

Step 08 -- Remove all papers and plastics from the turkey.  Remove giblets, neck, etc.  Set these aside for stock or gravy.  Rinse the bird thoroughly with cold running water, inside and out.

Step 09 -- Place the turkey in the bag, neck down and ankles up.  Stuff the cavity with shallots and orange quarters.  Pour the cooled brine into the cavity and allow the bag to fill.

Step 10 -- Draw up the bag close around the bird, eliminating as much air as possible.  If the turkey is not covered by the brine at this point, add enough water to make it so.  

Step 11 -- Secure the bag closure with a twist tie.  Double-bagging is recommended, in case the brining bag springs a leak.

Step 12 -- Refrigerate for 12 - 24 hours, turning the bird every 6 to 8 hours.

Step 13 -- Remove the turkey from the brine about 30-40 minutes before roasting and allow to come up to room temp.

Step 14 -- Discard everything that remains from the brining process.  Do NOT try to re-use or re-process any of these items, as they have been in contact with raw poultry and could conceivably contaminate other foods and other surfaces.

Step 15 -- Rinse the bird once again under cold running water.  

Step 16 -- Stuff the cavity with quartered fennel bulbs, quartered oranges, and chunks of fine Parma or Tasso ham.  Turkey is now ready to be roasted until delectable.

This recipe was adapted from a Juniper Brine recipe posted at in 2002 by Sue L. id=39506

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