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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Recipes - Part 3.5 - Brining and Other Nifty Skills

Remember how a few days ago I covered turkey and its own little anatomy? I realized recently that I didn't even tell you guys how to brine things. Well, since I'm not a terrible person, I'm going to tell you how right now, using my own notes from Garde Manger. What's "garde manger", you ask?

Garde Manger is French for "keep to eat." Basically, it's preserving and smoking and making sausages and things like that. It's got little to nothing to do with recipes, but is all about techniques and skills on how to do very useful things. It is basically the cold side of the kitchen that makes terrines, salads, gazpachos, pates, sausages and house-smoked bacon, etc. Actually...

Garde manger
·         Created profession began with the need to preserve food
·         The practice of food preservation is much older than the term garden manger

1.       The Chef
2.       The Kitchen
3.       The craft of Garde Manger itself
Preserving Things

Fat -> CONFIT!
1.       Cure food
2.       Simmer in fat
3.       Pack the food IN the fat
4.       Allow it to mellow out/rest for at least a week

1.       Ready to eat cured food
2.       Cooked by the consumer cured food
3.       Dried after cured cured food!
Wet cures vs. Dry cures
Brines vs. Rubs!
·         20% salt…stick to 1 gallon water : 1 cup salt

·         Brine w/ acid
·         TCM ->tinted curing mixtre
·         TCM #2 -> sodim nitrate

Just hang it and let it air dry! Wooooooot

Flavor & preservation
Smoking gives awesome flavor and preserves…also been found that when we smoke meat it keeps animals away…good to know!
·         Hot Smoking
·         Cooks
§  180 to 250 degrees
·         You’re only going to smoke for about the first 30 mins…and after that you’re just roasting. So keep that in mind!
·         The number one thing you want to taste is the Meat, then the rub/flavor, then the smoke
Stuff you wanna smoke stuff in…(or possibly  not)
·         100% Lump Hardwood
§  *(compressed hard wood)
§  Nitrates + Humidity = Smoke Ring in the meat!
§  Keep your wood dry
·         Woods to use
·         Hickory
·         Medium: Cherry, pecan, maple
·         Light: apple/pear/orange wood
·         Other stuff…
·         Brickettes
§  Chemicals, and they burn hot and fast…stuff that you don’t necessarily want around your food!
·         Cold Smoking
·         Doesn’t cook, but flavors
§  60 to 80 degrees
·         Pan smoking
·         Number one thing is that you can get in BIG trouble by over-smoking stuff

Anyway, that's what Garde Manger is all about. But back to brining. 

 The basic ratio for brining is 1 gallon of water per 1 cup of salt and 1 cup of sugar. So it goes Water:Salt:Sugar in a 16:1:1 ratio. That's a basic, basic ratio. As far as technique goes, you boil the water with the salt and sugar until completely dissolved. After that, you let it cool by either adding a few cups of ice or just letting it hang out on the stove, off the heat, and let it come to room temperature. Don't worry about any bacteria forming in the water, because of the salt content.

After this is cooled sufficiently, immerse your turkey - breast side down, please - and either use a plate to weigh it down or a brick wrapped in plastic wrap. If you can't find space in your hugely-stocked fridge full of Thanksgiving delight, you can pop it all in a cool spot in your garage, or any other cool dark space. If you'd like to make extra efforts on keeping it cool, use those cold packs you can find for keeping box lunches cool in the brine. It won't affect the flavor at all, but you can put them in a plastic bag if you're feeling a touch paranoid.

As far as introducing some more flavors to your brine, here are things that work for your hard boil:

  • Whole peppercorns
  • Bay leaves
  • Thyme sprigs
  • Elder berries
  • Whole cloves
  • Dry rosemary sprigs
  • Whole garlic cloves
 Some things you don't want in a brine are things that won't stand up amazingly to a super-hard boil. Also, these are things that have more delicate flavors that you'll want to save for rubs and infusions.

  • Saffron(which is also STUPID expensive)
  • Rubbed sage/sage sprigs
  • Tarragon
  • Paprika
  • Oregano
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Ground black pepper
  • Garlic salt
With these tips and tricks, you can create a beautiful brine.  The general rule is the longer the better, so a 12-hour brine for big turkeys are best.

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