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Brine Your Thanksgiving Turkey In Pickle Juice

Here’s how to bring pickles into your Thanksgiving feast.

It's safe to say a traditionally roasted turkey is not the highlight of Thanksgiving. The sides steal the show, and trendy turkey prep methods risk a garage fire, so why focus too much on the bird?

But there's a way to achieve a more flavorful Thanksgiving turkey, and it's by making use of a condiment whose vinegar-forward profile has steadily grown into an American obsession. We're talking about pickles, and their brine is the poultry pairing you never knew you needed.

Turkey brining 101

Aside from dunking an entire bird in a vat of hot oil (or having Popeyes do it for you), brining a turkey is a top preparation method that can create a more flavorful meal. The U.S. Department of Agriculture explains that the goal of brining a turkey is to make the meat more tender and juicy.

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To brine a turkey involves soaking it in a water and salt solution, aka brine, but many people add other ingredients such as sugar, molasses, or honey for added flavor. The salt in the brine dissolves some of the protein in the muscle fibers of the turkey meat, allowing it to absorb the brine and retain moisture during cooking.

Why you should pickle brine your turkey

Hannah Lewis, Head of Strategic Channels at fermented pickle brand Bubbies Fine Foods, shared with The Takeout why pickle brining a turkey is a game changer at the Thanksgiving table. White meat tends to need more of the brine treatment to keep it moist than the dark meat, and since white meat is what's often used for days after the feast in leftovers, keeping that meat tender and full of flavor is important. By brining the turkey, Lewis explained, home cooks can achieve a crispier skin and an overall "tasty and beautiful bird."

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Bubbies published its own recipe for brining a turkey in pickle juice back in 2017. And since Bubbies pickles are fermented, Lewis advises those using Bubbies Kosher Dill Pickle Brine for their turkey to make sure they keep the turkey cold while it rests in the bath of brine. This will help prevent any kind of secondary ferment from happening.

"It is probably fair to say that you have to like pickles to like your turkey this way," said Lewis. She noted that the finished product doesn't taste too much like pickles, it may have "a slight pickle aroma."

Just imagine a juicy forkful of turkey with a light vinegary bite at the end. If the pickle notes didn't come through after cooking, I'd be tempted to keep a cup of brine on the side for added flavor.

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Although this method of turkey prep has been around for years, this year's peak pickle popularity has made this year the year to pickle brine your turkey. Happy Thanksgiving, my fellow pickle pals. 

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