So Many Herbs, So Little Thyme!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

OK -- that little "thyme" pun is just criminal. I mean -- it's just plain bad. Not only is it not "new," it appears that I've stolen it from a sign in the Bird Herb Garden pictured to your immediate right.

A sign purchased at the Dollar Store earlier this spring.

So -- not only did Bill Bird steal a well-worn pun. He stole it from a Dollar Store poet. Heck -- that injustice rates slightly higher on the "criminal" scale. I think a Death Penalty sentence might be in order here.

Folks -- we're making good use of the Bird Herb Garden this year -- a first for our "work in progress" backyard. This year's Thanksgiving Day celebration at the Bird House will feature more than just simple Bird Feed. Nope -- we've got something special going on this year.

Our turkey is currently soaking in a brine mixture consisting of various salts -- sugars and a BOATLOAD of fresh herbs harvested from the garden. That's right kids -- BRINED TURKEY is the bomb. This isn't the first Thanksgiving that we've used this brined turkey recipe. However, it is the first time that we've used fresh herbs in abundance for the brine mixture.

How will it taste? I dunno. Check back in a few days. If you see news reports of a massive turkey poisoning in North Natomas -- then you'll know someone's experiment went a tad "awry." And - yes -- I've put the recipe for Brined Turkey below. I actually got this from the San Francisco Chronicle a few years back -- and I've used it every year since.

It's that good.

I'm hopeful -- however -- that this year will be the best ever. Why? This is the first time that we've been able to use the herb garden in abundance. I told the wife that I wanted a large and diverse garden selection of fresh herbs. I wanted this garden to be packed so tightly together -- that you couldn't even so much as notice the dirt on the ground.

Here it is -- in it's glory. We're not doing so bad. I built the raised bed holding this herb garden less than two years ago. Venus took to populating raised bed with a variety of starter plants and seed ordered from various seed providers.

The Lemon Thyme in the far left front corner for example? That came from a very small cutting that she received from a gardening friend at the Contractor's State License Board where my beautiful bride works. The big mound of parsely in the center of the bed came from seeds that Venus sprinkled on the ground earlier this spring.

We're not done populating the bed just yet. Where there's a crack of space -- there's room for another herb. At this point we have a couple different varieties of Thyme, scads of Majoram, two or three plantings of Sage and the Oregano is populating the back left of this six foot long, two foot wide raised bed. There's more -- but to be honest -- I can't remember the names of the stuff in there.

Ask the wife. She knows. I just give the herb garden a well-deserved "haircut" every once in a blue moon -- and use the vast amount of cuttings on dinner or lunch celebrations depending upon the holiday in question.

In this case -- it's T-Day -- or -- Turkey Day -- otherwise known as Thanksgiving.

Some people might argue that Thanksgiving is all about football. Most of the people who make that argument are men. They do have a point. I tend to think of it as family and friend time. Venus and I cast a wide net for our Thanksgiving celebrations. No crowd is too big.

We put the brine mixture together last night using that colandar of freshly harvested herbs to your immediate right. What's in there? In what amounts? I wish I could tell you. The truth of the matter is: it was dark. The flashlight I took into the yard just didn't do much justice. I just "cut a little here" and "cut a little there" and this is the result: a colandar of fresh herbs from the Bird Herb Garden.

While it's true that the brine is mostly a collection of various salts and sugars -- we like to add a few other ingredients to give it a little "kick." For instance -- have you ever used crushed Juniper Berries? Do you know what they are used for? Mostly that berry is used for the production of gin -- both good gin and the gin that the wife prefers (it comes in a plastic jug).

The freshly harvested herbs and two to three cloves of garlic went into the handy-dandy food processor last night -- and then directly into the brine mixture. Guess what happened then? If you're guessing that our turkey brine turned a bright shade of herb-color green -- well -- that would be a good guess. Does this mean green turkey for Thanksgiving? Doesn't green turkey sound absolutely luscious?

At this point -- we're not sure. Although the actual recipe does call for some fresh thyme -- it doesn't call for the boatload of fresh herbs that we added to the mix last night. But -- my lofty opinion (and the wife's) -- you can never have too many fresh herbs. That just doesn't compute.

So -- the herb-green mixture is now covering this "plump and juicy" Diestel Farms turkey that had been sitting in our sink last night. How do I know this turkey is "plump and juicy?" Can't you read the label to your left? You don't think the fine folks at Diestel Farms would lie -- would you?

Of course not!

Our Thanksgiving Day "star of the show" is currently brining in a plastic cooler normally reserved for beer out in the GarageMahal. It's critically important to keep the Bird cool during the brining process -- otherwise you risk all sorts of nasty problems.

Brining a big bird isn't easy. There are a lot of steps to cover. It's not easy lifting a 25 lb. turkey either. But I can tell you this much from previous experience.

Brined Turkey is the BOMB.

You can access the recipe for Brined Turkey in the San Francisco Chronicle here. If this is your first time brining a turkey -- you probably want to stick to the instructions. But we also like to play around a bit -- and we have this year with the introduction of fresh herbs.

I also wouldn't follow the Chronicle's instructions for cooking a turkey -- unless you really want a rare or undercooked turkey. To put it short and sweet -- those baking instructions are for the "birds." Venus and I normally stick to Butterball advice of 15-20 minutes cooking time for each pound of bird at an oven temperature of 325 degrees.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Greg Damitz said...

I brine all my turkeys. Osmosis is wonderful. It pulls all the juices out, they mix with the seasonings and once an equilibrium is met the wonderful mixture returns to inside the turkey meat. Cooked without stuffing inside the turkey is super moist. 15-30 minutes at 500 degrees to brown then 350 until the digital thermometer says done. 30 minutes to rest and mmm..mmm...mmm. You're post is making me hungry.

The Vintage Vignette said...

Yummm! The only thing that sounds better than an herb brined turkey is an herb and brined FRIED turkey! :)