The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Chicken in a Bucket

February 23rd, 2011 · 2 Comments · Posted in Recipes

Chicken waiting to be covered with brine

Can you believe that after all these years of cooking, I’ve never brined a chicken? Not a turkey, either.

Well, our next project for Charcutepalooza is brining. They suggested pork chops. But I’ve already brined pork. I wanted to try something different. So I chose the chicken recipe ouf of our guiding text–Michale Ruhlman’s Charcuterie. Calling for tarragon in the brine, Ruhlman’s recipe sounded a bit too springlike. Plus, I don’t have any tarragon on hand. So rather than buy it at the store, I chose to use the herbs we have growing outside our front door: sage and rosemary. These are the herbs we typically use to flavor our chicken when we roast it.

I brine beef tongue for boiling on a regular basis. Otherwise, I’ve resisted brining meats on grounds that the superior meat raised on pasture is already full of flavor. Why mess with it?

The chicken I chose originates in Pennsylvania, which qualifies as “local” in my book and is conveniently available at our local Whole Foods. Otherwise, I would order a whole roasting chicken from our dairy. These are pastured birds with a bit more gamy flavor.

A brine made with herbs from the garden

For the brine, pour 1 gallon water into a non-reactive pot. Add 1 cup (225 grams) kosher salt; 1/2 cup (125 grams) sugar; 1 bunch fresh sage; a couple of short branches of fresh rosemary; 2 bay leaves;1 head garlic, halved horizontally; 1 onion, sliced; 3 tablespoons black peppercorns, cracked with a mortar and pestle; 2 lemons, halved and squeezed into the water.

Heat the brine to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the salt and sugar are completely dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Refrigerate the brine overnight.

Weighed down with a bag of water

The following day, place a whole roasting chicken at the bottom of a non-reactive storage container. I’m using the same 2-gallon plastic bucket I use to make sauerkraut. Pour the brine over the chicken and weight the chicken down with a ceramic plate. It must remain completely submerged during the brining process. I place a plastic storage bag partially filled with water on top of the plate. Just make sure the bag isn’t leaking water into the brine.

Place the chicken in its brine in the refrigerator. A four-pound bird such as mine should remain in the brine for eight to 12 hours. Then it is removed from the brine and allowed to sit uncovered on a rack in the refrigerator to dry.

Stay tuned….

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  • Sheila Crye

    How does the brine marinade method fit with a target healthy daily salt intake of 2,300 mg. per day for adults?

  • Ed Bruske

    Interesting question from a hydrology standpoint, Sheila: How much salt is left in the chicken after a 12-hour marinade. Perhaps there’s a formula for that, incorporating the several variables involved: salt content of brine, mass of object being brined compared to volume of brine, ambiant temperature, brining time. From a health standpoint, I’m not going to spend one second worrying about it. We don’t use much salt in our food except what’s needed to season it.