Day 1: Thawing the turkey
We butchered our turkeys in July because they grew so darn fast we could let them get bigger or they wouldn't fit in the oven (or smoker in this case). Which meant we had to freeze them post butchering. (Note to self - if we want fresh turkey for Thanksgiving next year, don't get the baby turkeys until mid-summer.) And that means thawing the turkey.
As anyone who has ever made Thanksgiving dinner can attest, you have to be prepared and start early. Turkeys have to be thawed in the refrigerator. Thawing anything a in a cold environment takes days. I put the turkey in the fridge on Tuesday.
Day 5: Brining
It's now Saturday morning and the bird still not completely thawed. But never to fear! I'm brining it :-) Water thaws like 80 times faster than air. (I made that up, but still.) Even cold water in the fridge is faster than no water. So, the turkey will be thawed before smoking.
My brine consists of 1 cup salt and 1 cup sugar per gallon of water. Keep in mind as you pour the salt, sugar and water into the very large pot (or 5 gallon bucket) that the turkey will displace a lot of the liquid. I only used about two gallons of water. Once the ingredients are in the pot, stir, stir, stir. Make sure all the salt and sugar are dissolved so that you get even taste in the bird. Then I added four sprigs of fresh rosemary and a bunch of fresh sage. My thyme didn't make it so I had to use a tablespoon for dried thyme. Really, you can add any spices that sound good.
Unwrap the turkey. Remove the bag of giblets and give her a little wash with cold water. Then set her into the pot. The pot has to be big enough that you can tip the bird to get air out of its cavity and brine in. You will also need to flip the turkey once or twice to get even flavor. I'm using one of my huge canning pots.
Technically, the whole pot and bird are suppose to go in the refrigerator. Keeping the bird cold is important to prevent disease. I don't know about you but my fridge is full of other food. I can't exactly put the milk, yogurt, butter, etc. on the counter for 24 hours. Thankfully, it's October and the weather is nice a cool outside. Plus my back deck is north-facing and gets no sun. So the pot (covered) is on the deck for the next 24 hours.
Day 6: Smoking
The directions say 30 - 40 minutes per pound in the smoker. But also, when the internal temperature is 165 F. Well, our turkey is 14 pounds, so that'd be like 7 hours. But we knew from smoking a store bought turkey last spring that the internal temp will be reach in more like 3 hours. So, we put the bird in at 11am. At 2:30pm it hit 165 F and we took her out.
Look at that bird!!
We let her sit for another 30 minutes so the juices can set. Then Jeremy sliced her just like on Thanksgiving. I couldn't wait for it to hit the table - I snuck in and grabbed a piece of white meat. Oh my delicious! But then I tried the dark meat. Holy crap! The oils in the dark meet took all the flavor and smoky goodness in. I only ate dark meat the rest of the night :-)
Day 7: Picking the Bird
This afternoon I sat and picked every last bit of meat off the carcass. It was messy and took forever, but it will make really yummy soup later this winter. I froze the meat for now.