Brining keeps poultry meat moist while cooking Ã¢€“ perfect for whole turkey, which has a tendency to dry out. It is especially great for free-range birds which, while more flavoursome, can be tougher than commercial birds. You will need a container large enough to hold the turkey covered with brine in the refrigerator, or you can line a chilly bin with clean bags to hold the turkey and keep cool with slicker pads. Smaller turkeys need less time in the brine Ã¢€“ about 18 hours Ã¢€“ but do not brine any for more than 24 hours.
Title:For the brining
1 turkey (4kg-6kg), giblets removed and cleaned
1 cup brown sugar
11/2 cups sea salt
2 litres clear apple juice
5 bay leaves
1/4 cup dried chillies
2 onions, quartered
12 garlic cloves, peeled
bunch fresh thyme
6 whole allspice berries, crushed
1 cornbread (recipe follows)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup fine yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup instant polenta
1 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 cup cooked corn kernels (fresh or canned)
For the brining
Carefully slide your hands between the flesh and skin of the turkey, without tearing the skin. Place breast side down in a large container.
Combine the sugar, salt and apple juice in a saucepan, bring to the boil then simmer, stirring until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Cool.
Combine the apple juice mixture, bay leaves, chillies, onions, garlic, thyme, cloves and allspice, and pour over the turkey, adding enough cold water to completely cover. Refrigerate for 18-24 hours.
After brining, rinse the turkey thoroughly before stuffing to wash off excess salt; some will still flavour the stuffing and pan juices so there is no need to add extra. I boil the neck and giblets to make stock to thin the gravy made from the pan juices.
Preheat the oven to 160°C. Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse out the neck and body cavities very well and pat the bird dry. Tear the cornbread into pieces and stuff into the cavities then secure the neck cavity with a skewer if necessary.
Preheat the oven to 220°C. Coat the bottom and sides of a 22cm cast iron skillet or heavy-based ovenproof pan well with the oil. Place in the oven to heat for at least 5 minutes.
Combine the cornmeal, polenta, flour and baking powder in a bowl. Beat together the egg, buttermilk and milk then carefully fold into the corn mixture along with the thyme, chilli and corn. Remove the baking dish from the oven and pour in the batter. Bake for 20 minutes until set. Cool on a wire rack.
Go all out with accompaniments Ã¢€“ lots of roast potatoes, pumpkin, courgettes and capsicums or match with more casual potato salad, iceberg salad and fresh corn.