I cooked my first turkey some time in college, when we stayed on campus during Thanksgiving break and used the dorm kitchen. I think I might still own the muffin tin I got in this era. I really only manage to get excited about the holiday if I have guests, and this year a good friend was driving in from the Mid-west, bringing her dog as well.
As it happens, this friend eats a gluten-free diet. I have known her long enough to know that it is not a choice, like vegetarianism, but a medical necessity. From my perspective, there were only two big changes I would need to make: stuffing and desserts. I also had to adapt the gravy and creamed spinach; I did not make gravy back in the dorm at Middlebury, but I do have a photo of successful gravy from perhaps 1989. It must have seemed a real achievement.
How to Brine a Turkey
- Become aware that Thanksgiving is tomorrow
- Have already bought your turkey (important!)
- Realize you should brine your turkey
- Go to interwebs to get too many recipes
- Look at the weight of your bird compared to the weight of the ideal bird recipe is intended for. Attempt complex reduction of recipe from 20 lbs. to 14.31. Abandon attempt in favor of making the whole recipe.
- On Wednesday before Thanksgiving, dissolve 1 cup of salt in 1 quart of water in pot on stove. Heat to simmer, adding 6 bay leaves, 2 T coriander, 2 T black pepper corns, 1 t yellow mustard seeds. Notice recipe calls for black or brown mustard seeds and wonder what those are. Fleetingly regret not finding fennel seeds and dried juniper berries at your store. Stir until salt dissolves and set aside to cool.
- Remove turkey from fridge and commence wrestling the wrapper off. Remove neck, giblets and organs from cavity (you can use them tomorrow in stuffing and/or stock). Wash turkey in sink unless you read something which says this makes an aerosolized spray of bacteria which settles on every surface of your kitchen, in which case you pass a hand of hopeful blessing over the bird. Place bird in giant stock pot or brining bag.
- Add salt mixture to turkey, including an additional 3 quarts of water plus a bottle (minus one glass) of dry Riesling. Make a note to go buy more wine when you’re done. Toss in 2 thinly sliced onions, 6 cloves of crushed garlic and a bunch of fresh thyme. Tie bag shut and double bag. Place bag in cooler and cover with ice.
- Congratulations. You have now increased the room in your fridge by the size of your turkey. Drink that glass of wine in anticipation of going out and buying more wine.