Saturday 22 December 2012

Of Brewing and Brining

This was a new one on me, 'Brining' your turkey prior to cooking it. We hear through a number of Liz's friends on various cookery discussion groups that brining is an absolute must-do for moist, tender turkey meat and apparently it is also favoured by various celebrity chefs such as Nigella Lawson. I have done 55 Christmasses now and have never heard of this or seen it done but I do admit that turkey, especially the breast meat, can be a little dry in the mouth, so it will be interesting to see what brined meat is like.

Basically brining involved submerging your turkey, defrosted but not yet stuffed, in a cold 'brine' of sweeteners, herbs and spices for 24 hours plus prior to placing it into the oven, and the turkey thus enjoys taking up water and the flavours, like a marinade, from the water. The 'brine' comprises enough cold water to submerge the bird but also 500g salt, then peppercorns, bouquet garni, cinnamon sticks, carraway seed, cloves, allspice berries, star anise, mustard seed, caster sugar, quartered onions, sliced root ginger, oranges, maple syrup, runny honey, parsley stalks, eye of newt, leg of toad, hubble bubble etc. (OK I might have invented the amphibian body-parts).

Now, ours is a 9kg bird, so here is Liz, struggling first thing in the morning, still in dressing gown and slippers, plus gloves (frozen turkey, very cold!) to see will the bird fit in the new 5 gallon fermentation bucket which was part of an early Christmas Present from the Silverwoods. We don't need the bucket till day 6 of the wine task, so it is being pressed into service as a brining bucket. Thank you, the Silverwoods. The bird did fit, so it's now de-frosting gently in the Tígín in its bucket and will get brined up tomorrow, assuming it is thawed.

"But what of brewing?" I hear you ask. Having enjoyed the boxed set of The Good Life and Tom and Barbara Good's fun and games with 'Pea Pod Burgundy" we were thinking about this as another thing we could do after a gap, in my case, of 35 years+. I used to make gallons of the stuff but admittedly never grape wine - all manner of fruits, birch-sap, barley and so on, but never vine fruits. We were delighted then to receive from Silverwood as an early Christmas present, a starter kit for merlot wine including a 5 gallon fermentation bucket and a 5 gallon fermentation barrel with air locks, hydrometer, etc.

We got cracking on this today having bought the required 4 kg sugar, boiling water to dissolve the sugar, adding the gloopy red concentrate, then cold water, then the yeast and nutrient plus, amusingly a bag of oak saw-dust (for that "barrel aged" quality, it says here). The instructions are dead easy and all the ingredients come in packets labelled A through to F. The oak sawdust/wood chip is bag B.

The plan, roughly speaking, is to start the brew in the barrel on a chair near the Utility Room radiator. It is probably the most consistently warm place in the house which is not in a main thoroughfare or high-traffic room and will not be in the way over Christmas while we have all the guests. It sits there for around 6 days frothing wildly to start with and then settling down to a steady blip-blip-blip through the airlock while the specific gravity falls from heaven knows where to below 6 (0.996 kg/litre) on the hydrometer as the yeast burns through all that sugar.

At that point you stop the ferment with stabiliser (sachet C), add the essential Merlot-ness (sachet D) and start to fine it down (clear it) using finings (sachets E, then F then G). When it's all clear you syphon it off into your "turkey-brining bucket" from which you can taste, sweeten if need be (Can't see that happening here!) bottle and cork. Amusingly, given the number of times we have to go to the bottle bank, and how many "corks" (tough springy plastic these days) the pups have chewed on while teething, we are concerned we may not actually have 30 bottles and enough corks in which to bottle it, so we have Mr Silverwood out buying corks from the home-brew shop in their town, and we are saving 2 litre milk bottles and caps in case of emergencies.

Well, we had some fun with it, and it's now starting to blip in the barrel. 6 days takes us round to 28th Dec, so we might just be able to sample some on New Year's Eve. Bottoms up! Sláinte!


mazylou said...

QWe are alaso brining the BEAAST (and I have marzipan in the keyboard, asorry) and qwill folloqw your progreasas qwith intereast.

Matt Care said...

I reckon the marzipan is mixed up in your QWAS top corner, at a wild guess! Very funny results.

mazylou said...

Entirely poasasible, Matt.