But back to the fantastic bird I roasted and the chai spice cake that was crazy delicious. If you're not brining your turkey, you are missing out. It's so simple, requires less work over all (no basting!) and makes the juiciest, most flavorful meat ever. My recipe and instructions for brining under the cut. (And don't feel bad if you don't know how to cook a turkey. Neither do any of these people. LOL.)
I had an 18 pound bird, so I brined my bird for 18 hours. Can you figure out the math on that? :D 1 pound = 1 hour. A twelve pound bird would be brined for 87 hours, then. I learned math while being Christian home-schooled, I should warn you. (Lol.)
1 1/2 C of Kosher salt (can also use sea salt, but NOT Morton's pourable table salt. It's too fine.)
2 TBSP black peppercorns
1 C apple cider (you want some sugar/molasses/etc. in a brine)
1 handful sage leaves (stems and all)
1 handful thyme leaves (ditto)
1 large apple cut into slices
1 gallon of water
MASSIVE container, large enough for your entire bird to be covered COMPLETELY with the brine. Clear out your fridge, or get a cooler that can hold it and some ice.
Bring to a boil making sure salt is dissolved. (If you put sugar in, you want that dissolved, too.) Set aside and let cool completely. You can do this the day before the day before. I did it a few hours before I soaked the turkey. I did this in my large stock pot. Put the turkey in the container and cover with additional water (cold) until the bird is covered. If you need to put a can on the turkey to keep it under the water, do so. Refrigerate or put in the cooler until time to start cooking, again, each pound is one hour of soaking.
Carefully carry the container to the sink, dump out all liquid and herbs/flavorings. Those need to be trashed, you will not use them again. Rinse off the turkey with running cold water, inside and out. You don't want a salt lick on the outside. Turn on your oven or smoker (we use a smoker.) I used hickory chips that had been soaked in water. I couldn't find apple wood here in Texas.
Stuff the cavity of the bird with another chopped apple, a handful of sage leaves and a handful of thyme. Tie the legs together. * Rub butter or olive oil on the outside of the bird, season with thyme and black pepper. Transfer to a roasting dish. If using a smoker, add the wood underneath, pour water over the brick and add the damper to the brick.
We kept our smoker at 300 and the bird was cooked in just over 6 hours. The only time we did anything with the bird was when we'd change out the smoker chips - every hour and change. (We kept a bowl of water outside with the chips soaking it in. Pull out the smoker box, dump the chips into the conveniently located compost pile, pour in new chips, put back in the smoker, close door, drink beer.) If you're using an oven, leave that oven closed. No need to baste - it will self baste, that's why you brine. :) I used to do this elaborate thing with sage butter under the skin, a cheesecloth soaked in stock and herbs draped over the breast until the last hour, basting every half hour... No more! I liked the less work method, personally.
After six hours, we stuck our thermometer into the fat thigh, it registered 180, that's done! (It'll continue cooking to 185 after you pull it out. If you don't remove it until it's 185, it'll be dried out by the time you've let it rest and start carving.) Transfer to a platter and let rest for 20 minutes or so. (No less than 10. Everyone can wait, trust me. Just look mean and smack their hands away. Btw, a good method to time things: when you've pulled out your bird, pop your rolls in. When the rolls are done, so is the turkey. No jostling for precious real estate in the oven, either.)
I made some brown gravy with the drippings, a de-glazing of the pan with some white wine, chicken stock, some flour sprinkled over the drippings, and some freshly cut sage. OM NOM NOM.
I'm telling you, every bit of that turkey had delicious aroma of sage and apple, and was juicy all the way through. I just pulled some out of the fridge, reheated it, and there's juice on the plate after reheating. Brine is why!
*How to tie a bird: Make a square knot around the end of one leg (the ankle.) Cross over the cavity and loop under the tail bone, cross back up and loop around the other ankle. Put taut and repeat the other way, tie off the end with the original knot. This makes a bit of a "cage" in case the knots loosen during cooking, preventing the aromatics stuffed inside from falling out.
Chai Spice bundt cake
I used a doubled version of this recipe (the original recipe only makes one layer), poured half into my buttered and floured bundt pan, spooned dollops of pumpkin butter* all around, then poured the rest of the cake batter over it. Things to change: Pour almost all of the batter in - it's very thin, and the pumpkin butter sank almost to the top. Not that it's a problem, but it would have been prettier to have it in the center. I also baked the cake for 35 minutes - it was still moist, but it was cooked through. I basically waited until the cake was pulling away from the sides and was firm and springy when I touched it. I did not make a glaze for it, but I think that would be excellent (the glaze, not the whipped topping the author preferred.) We also had a pecan pie, so I worried about sugar shock. :)
*I made this pumpkin butter in Fall of '08 when I had a random growth of pumpkins in my compost heap. I ended up with something ridiculous like 48 pumpkins. Everyone got pumpkin butter and puree for Christmas last year. :D That's a fantastic recipe - made in a crockpot, and you could even use store bought pumpkin puree (not pie filling, just pumpkin.) Pumpkin butter is delicious. We made stuffed French toast with thick slices of homemade wheat bread, a slit in the side stuffed with cream cheese and pumpkin butter, battered, griddle'd, and dusted with powdered sugar. Fabulous Christmas Day breakfast, imo. Decadent and once a year. Mmmm.
I am NOT shopping today because why would I? When will people learn that the prices are jacked up today, you have to fight horrible crowds, and you can get anything ONLINE. I mean... today is a day for lazing about and watching movies, am I right? *cough* Anne of Green Gables, for those wondering. It's tradition. My little atheist self will be decorating the house, however, because I love twinkle lights. It's a Festivus for the rest of us thing at our place. :D
[ETA] I meant to talk about this. This article will either make you very sad, or feel very vindicated. (I feel very vindicated.) I am a proud wine snob. Yes, I'm self taught, yes, I've only been drinking wine for a few years, but dammit, I have excellent taste. Lol. SHORT HAND: if on your bottle it reads "PRODUCED AND BOTTLED" by such and such, you have a true vineyard/winery that is growing, making, vinting, and bottling on site. If it says "CELLARED AND-" or "VINTED AND-" then you are getting Mansanto-style produced grape juice that is being tinkered with artificially, with a pretty label being slapped on to convince you it's old school wine. It's not.
Also, I'm happy to note that with the exception of ONE wine I routinely drink/buy (Clayhouse, but thankfully they pull wine from a local Central coast grower, and it's organic/old school, so I'm still drinking it), all of my wine (which is typically French because I love me some Bordeaux) is made "in house." Look for Mis en Bouteille au Domaine or Mis en Bouteille au Château for French wines. And dovil will be happy to note that no Australian wines can be trusted. Ahahaha. I'm joking. Kinda. :D Long story short: if you don't give a rat's ass that your Two Buck Chuck comes from where it comes, no worries.