"Perfect Wild Turkey"
Submitted by: Joe and Carla Corcoran, Windsor, Calif.
You Will Need:
- 12-16 pound wild turkey, cleaned, plucked, whole (do not use this recipe with a skinned bird; pluck your bird when it's still warm)
- A container large enough to submerge the entire turkey in brine and keep it cold (a large ice chest works well)
- An extra-thick garbage bag
- Aluminum foil
- Meat thermometer
- Ice to cool the turkey in the container
- 4-5 cups of salt
- Approximately one gallon of water
- 60 ounces of beer (avoid sweet or over-hopped beers)
- One standard-sized bottle of dry white cooking wine (Chardonnay is best; nothing sweet)
- 6-10 large bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon rosemary
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 3 tablespoons thyme
- 5 cloves garlic (3 tablespoons garlic powder)
Additional Basting Ingredients:
- 3 cubes of real butter to rub and baste the turkey
- A pinch of ginger
- Thyme, garlic salt, and rosemary to smell
- White wine
Boil the water and add salt. Stir often, making sure that the salt is completely dissolved. Turn off heat and let cool slightly.
Add herbs. Turn the heat back on, but keep it very low. Steep the herbs in barely boiling water until the flavors seep in (around 15-20 minutes). Turn heat off.
Add wine, saving a couple tablespoons for the baste. The alcohol must be retained for marinating purposes, so do NOT cook the wine (or the beer).
Put the turkey into the garbage bag, then into the container. Carefully pour brine mixture into the bag, making sure the cavity of the turkey fills. Then add beer until the turkey is completely submerged in liquid. Tie off the top of the bag and clear as much air from the bag as possible.
Next, pack ice around the bagged brine and turkey, while keeping the tied end of the bag toward the top. You will need to hold the turkey down in the brine with the weight of a bag or two of ice to ensure the turkey stays fully submerged in bring.
Make a small, 3-inch slit at the very top of the bag, pouring beer through the slit as needed, until there is enough liquid to fully immerse the turkey. Finally, you'll need to hold the turkey down into the brine with the weight of a block/bag or two of your ice until the turkey is completely immersed in the brine. Do not let the brine escape from the bag. I don't tie it off because I like to be able to smell it as it's in the brine--to make sure it's got a good smell. Check often to make sure you do not get an interchange between the brine and the melting ice. Check ice level and fluid levels every 8 hours or so, to make sure the turkey is covered in brine and the ice is fresh.]
Allow turkey to marinate in the brine for 24-48 hours. I prefer 48 hours to make sure the flavors and liquids are fully saturated.
After brined, rinse and pat the turkey dry. Rub the entire bird with one full cube of butter, leaving clumps of butter on top. Preheat oven to 250 degrees and place bird in a roasting pan while lying breast side up.
To prepare the baste, slowly heat the other two cubes of butter in a stove-top pan, adding the other ingredients as the butter melts. Be very careful NOT to boil the butter.
The baste should smell well-balanced, if a little on the sweet side. If you've got a sharp, bitter smell, add more butter and thyme.
Turn off stove-top heat, then add wine. Set baste aside, reheating as necessary throughout the day, NEVER boiling it. If it accidentally boils, make a new baste.
Place turkey in the oven at 250 degrees for 5-6 hours (or until it reaches 150-160 degrees), keeping the legs and thighs covered with aluminum foil, and basting the entire bird as often as possible.
Approximately halfway through the baking process, remove aluminum foil to allow the turkey to brown.
When your turkey's temperature reaches 150 to 160 degrees, flip it breast-side-down into the baste and increase the oven's temperature to 350 degrees.
If there is no baste in the bottom, be sure to add some to the pan. Watch the turkey's temperature in both the deepest part of the breast AND the thigh/leg intersections to ensure even cooking.
Try to get both sides of the breast to cook alternately in the baste at the bottom of the pan by occasionally tilting the bird it 45 degrees. The turkey is ready after it has reached 180 degrees.