To brine or not to brine...that is the question. I have found that brining a turkey produces very flavorful, juicy, and tender meat. In this post, I'm going to show you how to brine a whole turkey. Brining is the process of soaking the bird in a salt solution. Water from the brine is absorbed into the meat thereby increasing juiciness of the final roasted bird. I like to add flavoring agents as well such as sliced onions, garlic, oranges, and fresh herbs. A flavorful brined turkey will certainly impress your Thanksgiving guests!
I prefer to purchase turkeys from one of my favorite local organic permaculture farms. They are humanely raised and slaughtered right there on the farm. In our town there are a number of farms who raise organic turkeys and sell directly to the consumer. Sometimes you can ask your local Farmer's Market or health food store for the names and numbers of these farms. Often times you need to pre-order, though sometimes they have extra turkeys that they need to sell. Buying direct from a local, organic farmer is by far the healthiest and most sustainable way to enjoy a Thanksgiving turkey!
So now onto the actual process of brining a turkey! There are a few really important things to consider before embarking on this project. First, you will need a very large pot or container to hold the bird, brine, and flavoring agents. I use a 42-quart stainless steel pot. Some people use small coolers (this would work well if you can keep the temperature below 40 degrees, such as in a cold storage room or cold garage). Others use plastic bags. I prefer not to brine in plastic for various reasons, but if you do then you need to make sure you are using food-grade plastic, not plastic garbage bags. Second, you will need a space in your refrigerator to store the pot or container during brining. We have an extra refrigerator in our garage that I use. So as long as you have the right container and the space, then go ahead and try this recipe.