Brined Smoked Turkey

>> Monday, November 25, 2013

Just in time for Thanksgiving, this brine works great for smoking whole turkeys, turkey breasts, and chicken. Brines are great for smoking because they add lots of flavor and help ensure the meat doesn't dry out. I'm not sure of the original source for this recipe, but it's posted on quite a few different recipe sites. I found it a few years ago and it's definitely a crowd favorite. Smaller birds are easier to smoke in a reasonable amount of time, so I'd recommend going with something around 16 pounds or smaller.

2 gallons cold water (see directions below)
1.5 c canning salt *See update below
3 T minced garlic
1 T ground black pepper (preferably freshly ground)
1/4 c Worcestershire sauce
1/3 c dark brown sugar, packed

24 to 48 hours before smoking, mix all ingredients in a container large enough to hold your turkey. I usually start off with about a gallon of water, add the turkey, then top off with enough water to cover the bird. I tend to go for about 24 hours on mine. Too long in the brine can make the bird too salty. You want the bird to be completely submerged in the brine, so I usually weigh it down with a dinner plate. It probably goes without saying, but put it in the fridge for 24-48 hours.

About an hour before you plan to smoke it, remove the bird from the brine and rinse it with cold water. Pat dry and leave the bird on a wire rack and allow it to come to room temp. That's about all there is to it.  Sometimes I will add a dry rub, but it's not necessary as the bird will have plenty of flavor from the brine. Also, don't stuff it. Smoke with your favorite wood; I usually go with hickory but this year I'm trying a blend of hickory along with some oak from whiskey barrel staves. Smoke until done (breast temp of 160F).

Speaking of temp, in the past I've always smoked the turkey at 225F but this year I'm going to try 325F. That may seem really high, especially to those used to smoking brisket or pork shoulders, but keep in mind turkeys aren't chock full of collagen and connective tissues that benefit from low and slow cooking like some of those other cuts of meat. At a temp of 325F we should get some of the same maillard reactions that we get when brewing beer. It also allows the skin to crisp up which simply won't happen at 225F.

Update 11/29/2013
I used this recipe on a boneless turkey breast yesterday. I put the breast in the brine Tuesday evening and pulled it out Thursday around noon. This is the longest I've tried brining and it ended up being a bit too salty for me. Next time I will brine for a shorter period of time, or reduce the amount of salt, or a little of both. I like the idea of giving the other flavors more time to work their way into the meat, so I might just try cutting the salt in half. Cooking at 325F and removing when the breast hit 160F worked out great. The combination of hickory and oak also worked well.

Update 12/30/2013
I used this brine again a few days ago. I picked up a Cabela's meat slicer over the holidays to use for slicing homemade bacon as well as things like turkey breast for lunch meat. I made this brine again and used it on chicken and turkey breast. I was out of pickling salt so I went with kosher salt. I used about 3/4 cup and brined for 48 hours. This worked out great, so I'd suggest cutting the salt in half if you intend to brine it for more than 24 hours.
Before smoking
Mmmm, hickory and oak smoke


Sour Beers Update

>> Friday, November 22, 2013

I was going to try to keg my Smoked Robust Porter today but it still had quite a bit of krausen, probably because I fermented it fairly cool. I decided to go ahead and give it another week in the fermenter, so hopefully it and the Peppermint Chocolate Stout will be ready to keg next weekend.

In the meantime, I figured I'd post an update on three of the sours I have going. All of these sours have been aging in my basement utility room. Their ages currently range from about 8 to 14 months.

Oud Bruin
First up is the Oud Bruin at 14 months. This is the only beer out of the three that wasn't fermented with Roeselare. Instead I used White Labs WLP665 Flemish Ale Blend. From the description I surmised this blend is the White Labs equivalent of Wyeast's Roeselare. However, it did develop quite a bit different than other sours where I've used Roeselare. This beer still has a pellicle but I think it's about ready to go. It has a maltier backbone than most of the other sours I've made. I'd say it's more tart than some of the commercial Oud Bruins I've tried, but I haven't had many. It has a bit of pie cherry character combined with dark fruits. Aroma is malt and fruity acidity. Tartness level is good but less than my Flanders Reds and my Berliner Weisse. Current gravity reading on the refractometer is 10.6P. Adjusting for refraction error, that puts it at about 1.001. I forgot that I hadn't adjusted this recipe for my system efficiency, so the O.G. was higher than expected. This is kind of an imperial Oud Bruin. My pH test strips put the pH at about 3.8.

Flanders Red #3
Next up is Flanders Red #3, at just over 12 months. This version was a different recipe than the first two versions. Color-wise it's closer to orange than red. It has less malt in the nose and on the palate. The focus here is on tartness, pie cherries pie cherries and more pie cherries. Current gravity reading on the refractometer is 9.4P. Adjusting for refraction error, that puts it at about 1.013. My pH test strips put the pH in the 3.0-3.2 range. This beer still has a pellicle so I think I'll leave it a bit longer and see what happens.

Last up is the 8 month old lambic, my first attempt at a Lambic style sour. This is the youngest of the three. There is quite a bit of sourness in the nose of this beer, but it also has a different barnyard funkiness lacking in the Flanders Red #3; odd because both used Roeselare. It's sharply sour but the tartness level seems less than the Flanders Red. The sharpness will likely mellow with age. The wheat also comes through in the aftertaste similar to my Berliner Weisse. The body is the lightest of the three. Current gravity reading on the refractometer is 7.8P. Adjusting for refraction error, that puts it at about 1.009. My pH test strips put the pH in the 3.4-3.6 range.


Peppermint Chocolate Stout

>> Sunday, November 10, 2013

Trying to keep the pipeline going, so today I'm brewing a beer that I'm hoping will be a wintertime pleaser, a Peppermint Chocolate Stout. This recipe is based on Andes Mint Chocolate Stout posted on by modernlifeisANDY.

I've been wanting to try a mint chocolate stout and this one kind of jumped out at me when I was perusing the recipe database on HBT. Mint and chocolate are an awesome combination in things like candy and ice cream. I'm hoping it will turn out to be a great combination in this beer too. I've never had a mint chocolate stout, so I'm kind of going in blind on this one. I figure I'm either going to love it or hate it. On the up side, the recipe has quite a few good reviews on HBT so I'm hoping for the best.

Here's the recipe as I'm making it

8# Crisp Maris Otter
1# Flaked Barley
8 oz Weyermann Carafa II
8 oz Briess Caramel 40L
8 oz Dingemans Chocolate
2.0 oz EK Goldings (60 min)
10 Celestial Seasonings Peppermint tea bags (10 min)
4 oz Hershey's Unsweetened Cocoa powder (5 min)
Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale Yeast in 1L starter
1t Vanilla extract at kegging (or to taste)

Mash at 156F for 60 minutes. Ferment at 62F.

Brewing Notes
I wanted to note, the purpose of the vanilla extract is to help bring out the chocolate notes. You don't want to add so much that it turns into a vanilla peppermint chocolate stout, so I'm going to start off with 1 teaspoon and go from there.

Update 12/4/2013
I kegged this last weekend. I ended up going with 2 teaspoons of Watkins pure vanilla into about 4.8 gallons of beer. That amount seemed to enhance the chocolate notes without standing out. The peppermint was noticeable in the flavor and aroma. Looking forward to trying it after it's carbed.

Update 1/6/2014
This has been in the keg for a little while now. It's not my favorite beer, but it's not horrible. The peppermint is a bit strong. It definitely benefits from warmer serving temps as the chocolate notes have a tendency to disappear when it's too cold. Unfortunately the weather is pretty cold right now and so is my garage (where the kegerator is located). I think I'll probably end up bottling a lot of this and cellar it.

Update 4/21/14
I found out over the weekend that this beer placed first in the first round of the NHC (Denver) for category 21. I'm crossing my fingers that it does well in the finals. I think this really turned into a great beer after it got a little bit of age on it. As I mentioned before, the peppermint was a little strong when it was young but it developed nicely. This isn't a style I can drink pint after pint, but it's pretty delicious as a dessert beer.


Smoked Robust Porter 2013

>> Sunday, November 03, 2013

Between some projects around the house and GABF, it feels like I haven't been able to brew is much as I'd like. I have five taps on the keezer now but almost none of them are the darker more flavorful types of beer that I associate with fall and winter weather. Porters are one of my favorite styles as are smoked beers, so today I'm brewing up a smoked robust porter. There's just something I love about the roasty character blended with a bit of smokey goodness.

I made a smoked porter last year that was supposed to be a clone of Alaskan Brewing Co.'s Smoked Porter. I home-smoked all the malt for that one and it turned out really well. This one is not quite as big of a beer, but it still fits within the style guidelines for a robust porter. This time I'm also using Briess Cherrywood Smoked Malt instead of home-smoked malt.  Here's the recipe as I'm making it:

3.5# Rarh Pale Malt
3.5# Crisp Maris Otter
1.5# Briess Cherrywood Smoked Malt
0.75# Briess Crystal 40L
0.75# Briess Crystal 80L
0.75# Briess Chocolate
0.75# Weyermann Munich II (Dark)
0.31# Briess Black Patent
28.3g Chinook (60 min)
28.3g Willamette (20 min)
1/2t Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
1/2 Whirlfloc
WLP001 California Ale Yeast in 1.2L starter

Mash at 155F for 60 minutes. 90 boil. Ferment at 62F