To brine or not to brine…

I’ll come clean. I am barely cooking at all this Thanksgiving. Instead I’m flying to Florida on the holiday to help stage an epic 90th birthday party for my Grammie Florence on the Friday, and I am some kind of excited about it.

I wish I could say I’ll miss the unbearable stress of accommodating twenty people in a living space that barely houses four, or that I’m pining for the experience of getting a massive bird, fifty side dishes (including a jell-o salad) and six pies made IN ADVANCE, or even that I regret not having the opportunity to get sideways drunk well before sundown on the case of nasty  New Beaujolais my Uncle Fred invariably drags through the door. I won’t. What I will do is throw together a pie this afternoon, help roast up a little turkey breast tomorrow morning, then swallow three Klonopin in the car on the way to JFK in preparation for the flight and the prospect of having to re-don the skimpy summer wardrobe in a roomful of cameras.

As such, I’m not even going to apologize for recycling last year’s turkey post. Nobody was reading me at the time, so only a few stalwart family members even saw it anyway. And for those of you about to enter the inferno of frenzied dinner prep and family holiday shenanigans remember, it’s all about the path of least resistance, which in my experience leads straight to the portable bar.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


In your kitchen? Seriously?

Brine a turkey? Are you for real?

It isn’t hard enough to time everything so that a large turkey, two kinds of potato, four vegetables, three sides, dinner rolls, stuffing and gravy all hit the table at the same moment, hot and unspoiled?

Would you seriously consider adding to that madness a procedure that requires a trip to Home Depot the day before Thanksgiving for a bucket big enough to hold an eighteen pound bird and about fifty gallons of salt solution; soaking the bird in the solution for twelve to twenty-four hours; finding adequate cold storage for same; then fishing the sodden bird out of the drink early in the morning of a day when you’ve got ten people coming for a midday meal, some of whom might even be your in-laws?

Really? Well prepare to eat the meal in your pajamas, and you might as well start with Bloody Marys for breakfast and work up from there.

Let me tell you, I tried brining exactly once and all I have to say is never again. See above. Now, I can’t tell you absolutely that brining does not produce a moister bird. It may very well, and people who know a lot more about cooking than I do swear by it. What I can say is that when it comes to the year I tried to brine my bird, I can barely remember eating the meal (now generally referred to as the brining incident amongst my nearest and dearest) let alone cooking it. In any case, it took months of talk therapy, some high grade pharmaceuticals and a few meds that are not, strictly speaking, in the Physician’s Desk Reference to deal with the fall out from that little adventure, and there is no way I’m going to revisit it. For me, the big bird soak was the straw that very nearly broke the slattern’s back, the final drop that loosed the deluge from the sherry bottle if you will.

So long story short, my advice is not to brine. Just cook the stuffing separately and drizzle it with some of the drippings from the bird before serving. Same diff, and your guests will not be any the wiser. When you shorten the cooking time (unstuffed birds cook much faster), the white meat is less dry. For flavor, use lots of butter and sherry and shove some fresh sage and half an onion in the cavity before you roast the bird. That’s it. Not exactly rocket science, but at least it gives you a fighting chance of remaining upright until the pies are cut.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Game for more Thanksgiving madness? Try these:

Happy Thanksgiving: Embrace the can
Don’t desecrate your Thanksgiving bird

About WSW

Writer, wife, mother. Toiler in the bottomless, black, soul-sucking coal mine of domestic life. Thank God for the portable bar.

Posted on November 21, 2012, in Holiday fare, The Slattern Speaks and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. I was forbidden from brining the turkey this year by Liz…I think she is becoming an Italian Fascist.

    Hope you had a wonderful drunken Thanksgiving!

  2. I admire a woman who can bake a large bird in an oven and not have it catch on fire or end up tasting like sandpaper.

    • I never claimed my bird was palatable, though I have somehow managed to avoid any infernos on Thanksgiving — I’ve been told that attempting any ignited desserts at as stressful a time as the holidays would be grounds.

  3. Happy Thanksgiving! I only have a container large enough to brine an oversized Cornish game hen, so I decided instead to nominate you for a Liebster Award. Check out my latest post to get the details.

  4. Hope you had a good Thanksgiving :0)

  5. I’m glad we don’t have Thanksgiving in Australia. In just over a month you’ll have to do it all over again! Btw, I’m in the no brining group. Provided the bird is not overcooked, it will be moist and tender

  6. Don’t let a past teensy mistake sour you on cooking Thanksgiving day dinner. Turkey is a big chicken and cooking entails putting the bugger in the oven, basting and making sure it’s cooked’ the consumption of bracing beverages is not necessary but helpful. When I cooked, I had to do it sober and for an eight hour shift. Remember pizza is an option.

    • Truth be told, Tom, I am rather famous among my nearest and dearest for putting on a fabulous Thanksgiving feast, but I think I have finally run out of gas. Of course, your suggestion of a bracer is a good one, and I will certainly take it to heart.

  7. Have a great time! I usually prepare for 3/4 weeks somewhere exotic about now but am staying put this year. Not very happy about it now. I envy you going for some sunshine.

  8. Always advisable to work with a net in my opinion. And if you can’t rely on Mr Jameson to catch you, why bother?

  9. I seem to remember the brining incident. A lot of work for little results. It was good we could drink it away!

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