For years, I was tormented by turkeys. Sometimes they’d overcook and go dry. So the next year I’d try and pull them a little quicker. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like carving a turkey in front of God and everybody and cutting into a hip joint that is not fully cooked. And then there were the magical deflating turkeys. Beautiful when they came out of the oven, with puffed-up white meat straining against the bronzed skin, somehow they managed to shrink and wither before they got to the table.
Then I discovered brining. I brined my first turkey at Thanksgiving 1994. I had undercooked the bird the year before, so this was my dinner to overcook it. Even so, the breast meat stayed moist. When I sliced it, it fell away in neat sheets, it didn’t crumble into turkey-flavored sawdust. And deflation was not an issue. The bird came out of the oven looking like a ‘50s starlet and stayed that way right through dinner.
At our house, Thanksgiving is the one meal ruled by tradition. My mom’s cranberries, a loaf of iced julekake (a sweet bread from my dad’s North Dakota side of the family), my own Southern stuffing with smoked sausage and greens, pumpkin and pecan pies.
And for the last five years, in the center, a big beautiful brined bird.