It’s that time of year again. Time to plan the Christmas Feast – turkey, ham and all the trimmings.
I don’t know about you but I’ve always found turkey rather dry despite trying all sorts of methods including cooking it in buttered muslin, breast side down, basting………….Then last year on our Fáilte Ireland food trip to Canada I had my eureka moment when we were treated to a Thanksgiving dinner in the lovely Elmhirst Resort – Brining!
This is so easy to do and you won’t believe the difference this will make to your bird – ask anyone who’s been to one of my Christmas Cookery Classes 🙂
What you need:
- ¾ cup salt
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 carrot
- 1 large onion
- ¼ cup diced celery
- 2 large sprigs thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp. black peppercorns
- ¼ tsp. chilli flakes
- ¼ tsp. fennel seeds
- 7 litres of water
What you do:
- Bring the salt, sugar and 1 litre of water to the boil, stir until dissolved, turn off the heat and add the remaining ingredients and 6 litres of cold water.
- Add the turkey to your brine mixture and leave to brine for 24- 72 hours (make sure bird is fully submerged, place a plate on top to help)
- Remove the turkey and pat dry
- Cover the skin with softened butter
- Cook as normal
This brine mix will work for up to a 16 lb. turkey.
I’ve changed the ingredients occasionally to suit what I have to hand. I did two turkey breasts last week using rosemary and pink peppercorns instead of thyme and black pepper and they were gobbled up (sorry I couldn’t resist!)
This year we’re having turkey wellington for Christmas Dinner . I’m going to brine a turkey breast for 48 hours, then remove it from the brine, split it in half (not going quite the way through ) and fill the ‘pocket’ with stuffing.
Then I’ll spread two sheets of puff pastry with cranberry sauce ; place turkey on one sheet and top with the second – sealing the edges together. To finish I’ll brush the pastry with beaten egg and cut a little cross in the top to allow steam to escape. My rule of thumb for cooking this is 20 minutes per pound plus 20 minutes.
This is one I prepared earlier !
I’m still deciding on which stuffing to use on the ‘Big Day’ but at the moment hazelnut & apricot is looking good:
What you need:
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 50 g butter
- 50 g hazelnuts, chopped
- 140g dried ready-to-eat apricots, chopped
- 200g breadcrumbs
- Handful parsley, chopped
- Juice & zest of 1 orange
What you do:
- Melt butter in frying pan and sauté onions until soft but not coloured (about 5-10 mins).
- Add hazelnuts and fry until golden
- Stir in apricots, breadcrumbs, zest, juice and parsley. Remove from heat.
- Allow to cool completely before using to stuff your bird.
Happy Cooking and Happy Christmas!
P.S. Here’s a few tips for safe cooking this Christmas
- Make sure when you’re brining your bird to keep it in the fridge or somewhere cold.
- Take turkey out of fridge an hour or two in advance – it will cook more evenly from room temperature
- Cooking time depends on size and type of bird – see link below for cooking chart
- Use a meat thermometer if you have one, and test thickest part of breast and leg. You want the temperature to hold at 70 C for at least 2 minutes
- If you don’t have a meat thermometer use a skewer in the thickest part leg and breast – make sure juices run clear.
- Allow the turkey to rest – will stay warm under foil for up to 2 hours. Use this time to cook vegetables
- Save yourself time and prep your veg day before!
You can get more safe cooking tips here: