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Brining Your Turkey Means Added Moisture And Flavor


Most people take refrigeration for granted, but it’s only been around
since the 19th Century. A German engineer, Carl von Linden, invented
the process if liquefying gas that is used in refrigeration
units. Eventually Americans got into the act, and in 1911 GE, who has
always claimed to bring good things to light, unveiled a refrigerator
invented by a French monk, Abbe Audiffren. However, mass production of
refrigerators didn’t start until after World War II. Today, 95 percent
of all Americans own one.

So what did people do to preserve meat before there was a
refrigerator? Usually, they soaked it in a salt water solution called
brine. Today many cooks still brine meat, not preserve it, but to
maximize its flavor. Daniela Massey, a food scientist for the
California-based company The Spice Hunter, says that brining locks in
moisture. It does this because the salt in the brine breaks down part of
the muscle filaments in the meat, allowing the water to enter and be
trapped. Very little of this trapped moisture is lost during the cooking
process, which means added juiciness in the finished product.

Daniela also says that most brines are just salt and water. However,
you can add other ingredients like sugar, herbs, fruits, and spices
whose flavor you want to infuse into the meat. Keep in mind that these
other ingredients are secondary, because the salt is the key to
expanding the meat’s water-holding capacity. That means that the brine
must contain a heavy salt base. She recommends you use about 8 oz of
salt in a 2 gallon mixture, which is about what you’ll need to brine a
whole turkey.

There’s another important reason to brine a turkey before you roast
it; maintaining the internal moisture in the meat frees you from having
to baste it every ten minutes. Basting is, after all, an external
application of moisture, whereas brining puts the moisture right inside
the meat, especially in parts like the breast, which tends to dry out
during the long cooking time necessary to thoroughly roast a turkey.

Home cooks shouldn’t be hesitant about brining
their bird because it’s incredibly easy, according to Daniela, and you
don’t need any particular supplies. Just find something big enough to
hold your turkey and the brine, like a clean pail or bucket, an ice
chest, or even a sturdy garbage bag. Pour the brine over the turkey and
store refrigerated or on ice overnight. Just make sure the temperature
does not exceed 40 degrees F to prevent the meat from becoming
contaminated with the bacteria that causes botulism. One solution is
to put your turkey in a picnic cooler with ice, which will keep its
temperature even. Before roasting, you will want to rinse the meat with
cold water and then pat it dry. The moisture will already be soaked into
the meat, so you don’t have to worry that the skin stays wet.

If you have never brined a turkey before, and are a little
apprehensive about mixing spices, you might want to try The Spice
Hunter’s new brine mixture. It’s comprised of sea salt, brown sugar,
cranberries, apples, garlic, orange peel, juniper berries, Malabar black
peppercorns, thyme, rosemary and sage. It has a great balance of fruit
and herb flavors to complement the salt in the brine; it’s also a
nice complement to any stuffing mixture that contains cinnamon, apples,
apricots and chopped nuts. You can find it at Target and Safeway, or
online at www.spicehunter.com. It retails for $7.99 for an 11-oz jar and $11.99 for a 22-oz jar.

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