The snow has just started to fly and its got me looking forward to all the holiday feels! The excitement starts to bubble up inside, the warm fuzzies start to tingle and a smile starts to spread as I think about twinkle lights, sparkling drinks, toasts with friends and family, sharing special gifts, delicious eats, decadent treats and counting all of the year’s blessings! If you are looking forward to holiday season as much as I am, then its time to start planning for your entertaining!
For me, the most special part of the holidays is gathering together to share a wonderful meal. For many homes, a roast turkey is the star of the main event. If you are searching for the secret behind a perfectly seasoned, juicy, roast turkey – its all about the brine! Brining your turkey for 24 hours in advance of roasting allows an abundance of flavour and moisture to soak into the meat; seasoning and tenderizing it for the perfect taste and texture in each bite! Creating the perfect brine is much easier than you think, and the best part is you can use ingredients in your fridge that would otherwise normally go to waste.
“Waste-not, want-not” is the approach when it comes to making your Zero-Waste brine. The more flavours you incorporate into your brine, the richer and more complex your roast drippings will be for a rich gravy. Here’s some ideas of ingredients to save for making your savoury Zero-Waste Turkey Brine:
- pickle juice
- leftover or stale wine
- vinaigrette from olives or artichokes
- cheap beer
- kombucha vinegar (kombucha that may have brewed too long and has become sour)
- the woody stems from herbs like rosemary, thyme and sage
- peels from lemons or oranges
- leftover tea
- leftover cider
- sauerkraut juice
- old spices you don’t use every day, such as pickling spices and bay leaves
- Start with a ratio of 1-2 of water, vs. flavoured liquids. For example, 1L of water, mixed with 2L of (combined) juices, wine, beer, tea, etc.
- The liquid from pickle and sauerkraut juice contains salt so if you are using this, you may not need to add additional salt to your brine. They also have the added bonus of extra seasonings that add wonderful taste.
- Acids from the vinegar and alcohol will help tenderize the meat.
- Herbs, citrus peels and spices all develop flavour. These can be dried or kept in the freezer for such an occasion.
- Wine, beer and fruit juices naturally balance with a sweet taste. Vinegar also reduce down to sugars when cooked.
- Always brine a FRESH turkey – frozen or otherwise prepared turkeys are often injected with a saline solution for flavour and weight. Buy your turkey fresh from a farmers market or order from your local butcher to ensure you are getting a quality bird without any unwanted sulphites, etc.
- Clean your turkey – take the giblets and neck out of the carcass and rinse everything thoroughly. Pluck out any stubborn pin feathers that may have got missed.
- Massage (yes, for real!!) the meat – just like massaging the kale for a salad helps break down the tough fibres to make it more palatable, showing some TLC to your turkey also helps to tenderize the meat before roasting. You can take this opportunity to work in a dry rub of seasoning inside and around the bird. You may even consider separating the skin off the breast meat to work some seasoning underneath – just be sure to peel it back from the neck side, and not the keel, so the skin can be replaced to keep the breast meat from drying out. (If you detach it from the bottom it has a tendency to shrink and peel back as it cooks, exposing the breast meat and drying it out.)
- Brine! – place your turkey in a stock pot and cover with the brine. Let is rest in the brine for a good 24hrs, flipping or turning if necessary.
- Roast & Reduce – When you are ready to roast your bird, put about 1 cup of your brine in the bottom of the roasting pan to keep it moist and create a base for your gravy. The rest of your brine you can boil on the stovetop, stirring frequently, and allow it to reduce down into a concentrate that can be used in soups, sauces, gravies and more! Tip: Freeze your concentrate in an ice cube so you can easily add your portioned, homemade “bouillon cubes” to recipes.
- Enjoy! – now that you’ve brined your bird, there will be no going back to plain ol’ roasted turkey anymore. Remember brining can be done to enhance the flavour of anything – chicken, fish, red meat, tofu, veggies, whatever you will be carving up this holiday season! Be bold experimenting with your own custom brine, allow your creativity to shine and feel good about repurposing groceries that would have otherwise been tossed. And most importantly, have a wonderful time celebrating your abundance with your loved ones!!