Food scientist Shirley O. Corriher, author of "Cookwise" (Morrow), is a major proponent of soaking the turkey in salt water to get the juiciest result.
As Corriher explains it, salt rubbed on the surface of the turkey draws moisture from the meat and dries it, which is how jerky is made. However, when that salt is mixed with water, the concentration outside the turkey's cell wall is less than the concentration in the meat cell.
"Water flows toward the most concentrated side of the cell wall," says Corriher. "The minute you dilute that salt, it becomes less concentrated than liquid in the cell and water flows into the cell. Brining is a way to increase the amount of liquid inside meat cells and make it juicier. That's what they've done with hams for years. They've sold us water for years."
Brining requires a deep container so the whole bird can be submerged in the cold brine. Since most of us don't have the room in the refrigerator for this procedure, Corriher has a suggestion.
"Put it in an ice chest," she says. "Start it with lots of ice water and keep it cold."
She uses ice packs to supplement the ice and keep the water cold. Corriher also says to check the saltiness of the drippings when making gravy. There may be already enough salt and the gravy will not need any more.
1 turkey, from 10 to 18 pounds
1 cup salt
2 onions, quartered
3 leaf ends of celery stalk
10 sage leaves
10 sprigs fresh thyme
4 1/4 cups water, divided
1 small orange, quartered
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons dark corn syrup
4 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Thaw turkey following package directions if needed. Remove neck and giblets. Pull off the flap of fat around cavity and neck. Rub turkey all over with salt. Place it in a pot large enough to hold it and cover completely with ice water. Stir briefly. Place a heavy plate on top of turkey if needed to keep it under the water. Place in refrigerator 12 hours or overnight.
Meanwhile, make a simple stock by simmering neck, giblets (minus the liver), 1 onion quarter, 1 leaf end of celery, 2 sage leaves, 2 thyme sprigs and 1 quart water over low heat for 1 to 2 hours. Strain stock. Pull meat from neck bone and cut up giblets; add to stock. Refrigerate until ready to use.
When it's time to cook the turkey, remove the bird from brine and rinse for several minutes under cold running water, inside and out. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Place remaining onion, celery stalk ends, sage and thyme, plus orange and bay leaf, into cavity of turkey. Arrange turkey breast side down on rack over roasting pan. Pour 1 1/2 cups stock in the pan.
In a small bowl, stir together corn syrup and butter. Brush turkey lightly with this mixture and place in oven. After 20 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees. After 1 ? hours, turn turkey breast side up and continue roasting, basting frequently with the butter/corn syrup mixture, until breast temperature reaches 153 degrees. The temperature will rise on standing. Remove from oven and let stand 15 minutes. Remove vegetables from cavity and discard before carving.
(Adapted from "CookWise" by Shirley Corriher -- Morrow).
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