I've always heard about brining turkeys - I have a habit of checking out from the library Martha Stewart's entire DVD filled with years of her Thanksgiving episodes.
So when Champaign resident Marjorie Willliams mentioned that she found a great brining recipe, I begged her to share. Here it is.
I learned about brining the turkey from President George Bush, during an interview where he talked about Thanksgiving at the Crawford ranch. I tried it, and now I wouldn't dream of preparing a turkey any other way.
There are hundreds of brine recipes, but I generally start with one and then improvise. As long as the sugar/salt and water amounts are in proper proportions, everything else is a matter of taste. Sometimes I substitute white wine for some of the water, or add a bit of apple cider, or a touch of fruity liqueur. Fresh fruit can be apples, oranges, peaches, etc. My rule of thumb is that if it would make good white sangria, it will make good turkey brine.
1 gallon water
1 cup salt
1 cup brown sugar
2 oranges, quartered
2 lemons, quartered
6 sprigs thyme
4 sprigs rosemary
2 bay leaves
To make the brining solution, dissolve the salt and sugar in cold water in a non-reactive container. I use a cooler, which I clean with bleach water afterward, but you can use a clean bucket or large stockpot, or a clean, heavy-duty, plastic garbage bag. The cooler seals, so I can do this in the garage or on the porch and not worry about pests disturbing it. Add the fruit, liqueurs and seasonings.
Note: if you have a big turkey and need more brine than this, use 1/2 cup salt and 1/2 cup brown sugar for every gallon of water.
Soak the turkey in the brine, covered and refrigerated (or in ice water in the container), for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours. I usually do this during the last part of thawing.
Remove from the brine, pat dry and roast, with or without stuffing.
You will never taste a more delicious, juicy turkey, and your family and guests will absolutely love it!
Photo from this Flickr page.