Thanksgiving has become my favorite holiday, primarily due to the absence of commercialism. Granted the “Black Friday” phenomena has recently become a big deal in our consumer-spending driven economy, but each of us has the option to ignore it, without the consequence of being considered a friggin’ scrooge! Plus, we don’t have the bickering over what originated from Christian truths vs. which pagan holidays have had evil influence (where is the Church Lady when needed most?).
Faith, family, friends and food are my focus, and in that order! Consider the Psalms and other scriptures which point to our faithful Creator’s provision. Consider too that family and community are His gifts to us for organization, structure and protection, based solely on unconditional love and sacrifice.
Our immediate families are on the east coast, Chicago and Germany, so we generally holiday together with friends like the Henderson’s (BBQ buddy Lee) right here in plain ole Plano, Texas. Hearing our kids bantering and catching up, and seeing the flow of their friends in and out of the house is really cool, not to mention the aromas associated with cooking, baking and smoking all sorts of food! We start off Thanksgiving Day with sausage gravy and biscuits (fodder for another post), skip lunch and then gorge late afternoon/early evening on turkeys prepared several ways, smoked ham and all the other major food groups.
Lee Henderson’s specialty is smoked ham (previous post) while mine is brined and smoked turkey. The web has many variations of brines posted, but I really like just a few. This year I am doing a modified version of one submitted to “Saveur” magazine. Trust me on this and do the following:
CREATE THE BRINE:
1 cup kosher salt
1 lemon, halved
1 orange, halved
1 onion, cut into wedges
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 bay leaves
1 tbsp. dried thyme
1 tbsp. ground black pepper
4 juniper berries, crushed
4 allspice berries, crushed
Combine dry ingredients in a 12-qt. pot, or large brining bag. Add 1 1/2 gallons cold water and stir. Squeeze lemons and oranges into the brine and add the squeezed halves. Submerge turkey in brine, breast down. (Weight the turkey down with dinner plates if necessary.) Cover pot with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or store in a cooler with ice. Remove turkey from brine, pat dry with paper towels, and let come to room temperature.
Load up the smoker with a heap of Kingsford charcoal (burns best evenly for extended periods). Once the coals are gray, open the vents all the way, put the bird on the grate over the water pan, add hickory chunks, close her up and get a cup of coffee.
About every hour or so baste the turkey with a mixture consisting of a splash of red wine mixed with olive oil. About eight hours later you have smoked a beautiful bird with absolutely moist, tender and flavorful meat. Enjoy while giving thanks.