God I hate brining.
Sure, the concept is nice. The results are even good. But the actual brining is a royal pain in the ass.
This year I’m brining two turkeys, about seventeen pounds each. They started the day in our boat cooler, submerged in ice water with three others – the five that remained of our flock of six. I needed a vessel that would A) hold the turkeys and the brine and B) fit in my refrigerator.
Because I’m a genius, I decided to use my super-jumbo twenty-gallon Ziploc bag. I put the bag on the floor and wrestled the two turkeys into the bottom of it – no small feat, given that the legs of one always wanted to go in the cavity of the other. In went some six gallons of brine. It was only after I cleaned off the kitchen table and the sink that I realized there was a leak in the bag. As I watched, Lake Listeria was forming on my kitchen floor.
Genius. A regular fucking Brinestein.
I had to get the thing in the sink. Any idea how much two turkeys and six gallons of brine weigh? Yeah, that would be eighty-two pounds. And, genius that I am, I embarked on this godforsaken venture when my husband wasn’t home to help.
I took the turkeys out, one at a time, and put them in the sink. I plugged up the drain and poured in the brine. The leaky bag, I threw away.
But now what? The only other bags I’ve got big enough to hold a turkey are the kitchen garbage bags, and those have some nasty scent block thing.
No, wait! In the recesses of my memory I see the mental image of a little yellow box with “turkey brine kit” written on it. Is it possible that it’s still up there in my cabinet?
Yes! There it was, behind the summer roll wrappers that I never did master.
I open it up, and find that it’s so old it has the texture of cellophane. I’m afraid it will shatter in my hands. But I don’t have a lot of options, so I put a turkey in it, along with a gallon or two of the brine. I seal it, and put it back in the cooler full of ice water, where it sinks a bit and the brine actually seems to distribute around the turkey and, miracle of miracles, looks to be contained by the bag.
One down, one to go.
There’s a standard-size cooler on the porch, but it doesn’t look big enough. I try to put the turkey in it and, sure enough, it isn’t big enough. Or at least it isn’t big enough if you’re being persnickety about actually having brine in between turkey and cooler wall.
I gave up on persnickety years ago, and I manhandle the thing into the cooler. I put in the rest of the brine, and make another gallon or so to cover. I scoop some ice out of the big cooler to make sure everything would stay cold enough, and there it will stay until morning.
Come morning, I have to take both behemoth birds out of the brine, find bags big enough to hold them, and make enough space for the them in the refrigerator.
Whose idea was it to make birds the size of carry-on luggage standard-issue for this holiday? Quail are native to this country, and would make a perfectly respectable Thanksgiving dinner.
Quail. Any takers?