Happy Thanksgiving!

CSA Package Contents:

–       1 half gallon apple cider

–       1 quarter peck Mutsu apples

–       1 lb nitrate free bacon

–       1 dozen eggs

–       1.5 lbs white spelt flour

–       1 large bok choy

–       1 bunch leeks

–       1 bag mustard greens

–       2 lbs butter, salted or unsalted

–       1 pumpkin sage linguini

–       1 head cabbage

–       1 head cauliflower

Thanksgiving Packages: see confirmation printout.

Thanksgiving is perhaps the most traditional food-related holiday.  Many of you have your own traditional recipes.  So in this newsletter, we’ll focus on tips to maximize the flavor of your Fresh Fork Thanksgiving.

For the regular subscribers in the CSA, I focused this week’s selection on breakfast choices and shelf stable products since I’m sure the excess of Thursday’s meal will carry over well into next week!

 Turkey Brining

Brining is a method of soaking meat in a salt-based solution to tenderize the meat, infuse flavors, and help the meat retain moisture while cooking.  The salt and acid in a brine reduced cook time.  At the same time, the retained moisture can increase cook time.  This means watch your bird.

There are no standard “best” brines.  It is all a matter of personal taste.  There are a few guidelines though.  First, is the salt content.  Every brine starts with a salt-based solution.  The general guideline is 1 cup of kosher salt or sea salt per gallon of liquid.

How much liquid will you need?  Well, it kind of depends on the size of the turkey and your brining vessel.  A 14 to 16 lb turkey will fit in a five gallon bucket.  You will likely need less than 2 gallons of fluid to cover the bird.  If you are doing a larger turkey, such as a 20 lb or heavier bird, you will likely need a cooler or large plastic tote that will require greater volume of liquid to cover the bird.

As for liquid, this may be water, fruit juice, or vegetable stock.  For pork, apple cider, in my opinion, is by far the best.  I can’t attest to that rule for turkey though…I only get to experiment once per year!

Below is a brine recipe that won’t require you running to the grocery store a half dozen times!  This is already portioned out for a 20 lb bird in a larger vessel (most of your turkeys).


–        1 gallon apple cider (not apple juice)

–       1 gallon vegetable stock

–       10 lbs ice

–       3  cups kosher or sea salt

–       2 cups brown sugar

–       2-3 tablespoons whole peppercorns, slightly cracked under edge of knife or a pot

–       3 medium onions, quartered

–       3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

–        2-3 tablespoons each of dried thyme, rosemary, savory, and sage (you may ommit what you don’t have).  6 bay leaves


You may ommit the brown sugar.  I like it in all my brines to add a hint of sweetness to the meat and caramel color to the skin.


In a stockpot, combine all ingredients except the ice.  Bring the mixture to soft boil or simmer.  Essentially, when it starts to steam you can likely have all the salt and sugar disolved and the onions should be softer.  Stir the mixture frequently to ensure that the salt dissolves.


In your brining vessel, likely a medium sized cooler, pour the brine and add the ice.  Stir the ice around until the brine cools.  Place your bird in the brine breast side down.  Force the bird to the bottom; if needed, weigh it down any way you can!  You want the bird to stay completely submerged in the fluid for 16 to 24 hrs.


Place the cooler outside where the cool outside weather will help keep the ice from melting completely.  You want to make sure the water stays below 40 degrees for food safety purposes.  Add more ice as needed.  If you know in advance that your cooler is going to require additional ice or fluid to cover the bird (such as larger coolers), you should proportionally increase the recipe.


How to tell?  Maybe put your bird in the vessel first and add one gallon of fluid at a time until it is covered. This will show you how much fluid is needed.  10 lbs of ice is approximately a gallon of fluid.


To reduce the amount of fluids needed, you can do this in a plastic bag.  My biggest problem has been finding a large enough, non-scented bag.  Trash bags often have a Lysol fragrance that is completely undesirable in your meat!  The advantage of a plastic bag is that you can use less fluid then just place the blastic bag in a cooler with ice and not worry about diluting the brine!

Turkey Aromatics

When roasting the bird, some chefs like add aromatics to the cavity of the turkey to add flavor to the meat.  I’ve never done this . For me, it is traditional to stuff the cavity with stuffing; my family would give me grief if I didn’t do it.  I recommend not stuffing the cavity to allow for quicker, more even cooking.

The advice I’ve received is to simply add herbs and vegetables to the cavity that you like.  For example, apples, carrots, onions, rosemary sprigs, thyme, sage, and bay leaves.  First, place the quartered or chopped fruits and vegetables with the herbs in a shallow sauce pan or skillet.  Bring to a soft boil with some water to open up the aromas.  Then, place the aromatics in the cavity of the turkey. The cavity does not need to be stuffed full!

Roasting Your Turkey

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Remove one rack and place the remaining rack near the bottom.

An hour before roasting, remove your turkey from your brine and rinse with cold water.  Pat turkey dry with paper towels or make it do a funky dance to drip dry!   Sorry, turkey gets me really excited and I can’t help but make my turkey have character.

Add your aromatics to the cavity.  Place the turkey in a large rosating pan.  Your pasture raised, brined turkey will be juicy.  You will need lots of room for the turkey to drip without flooding your oven.

In the roasting pan, place 3 or 4 quartered onions, shallots, carrots, roasting potatoes, and any other root vegetables you prefer.  Think gravy.  These will be tasty side veggies as well as add flavor to your gravy.  For really large birds, you may want to add the potatoes and carrots half way through, coated in olive oil, to keep from over-cooking.

Place the bird on a rack in the roasting pan, breast side up.  Slice the skin along the breastbone and pour melted butter under the skin.  Rub melted butter, olive oil, or canola oil all over the bird.  Pin the skin back together or cover with cheesecloth, moistened in melted butter.  I’ve seen some cooks cover the entire bird in butter-doused cheesecloth and have excellent results.

Place your cool but not completely refrigerated turkey in the oven at 450 degrees for approximately 30 minutes.  You want to watch it carefully.  This is simply to allow the skin to crisp up and lock in the moisture.  Once the skin has browned moderately, reduce oven heat to 325 or 350 degrees and roast slowly.  For big birds, I recommend the 325.  If the skin continues to cook too much, apply a layer of alumium foil tented over the bird to keep it from burning.

Roast your turkey for approximately 12 minutes per lb.  After 2 or 2.5 hours at the lower temperature, check bird frequently.  You want an internal temperature in the breast meat or thigh meat of 160 degrees.  The turkey will continue to cook when removed from the oven…so don’t keep cooking “just to be safe.”  You can always put it back in!


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