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Spicing Up a Brine

After all the positive articles on turkey brining, I plan to attempt it this Thanksgiving. All I find is the basic salt/sugar/water concoctions. Could you provide some recipes using various herbs and spices?

Yes, but how much flavor you're going to impart is a bit of a question. Brining is not exactly like marinating, where your food is bathing in a very strong, flavorful solution. No matter how many herbs and how potent the spices you add to the brine, the mixture is still going to be 95-point-something-percent water, and there may not be enough benefit to justify the cost or trouble of spicing it up.

But refer to our brining primer for thoughts on alternate brining liquids and other ways to add flavor.

We had come across very few recipes or suggestions for a spiced brine until we stumbled upon Jeffrey Steingarten's instructions for brining a goose in It Must've Been Something I Ate (Canada, UK). After dissolving salt (1 cup per gallon of water) and sugar (1/2 cup of sugar per gallon) in the brine, he removes the mix from the heat and encourages you to "add whatever flavorings you'd like." He says he likes 5 crushed black peppercorns, half of a cinnamon stick, a clove, a quarter teaspoon of ground cardamom, and half a bay leaf for each gallon of water.

That produces a somewhat sweet, Alsatian-inspired flavor, he says, which is very well suited to goose. If you'd like something a little more savory for your turkey brine, you could add or substitute marjoram, sage, and/or thyme for the cinnamon, clove, and cardamom.

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Related Articles:
A Brining Primer
Why Doesn't the Salt in Brine Dry Out the Meat?
Brining Turkey Breasts
Crisping the Skin of Brined Turkey
Brining a Self-Basting Turkey
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