This year, have beer with the bird.
Beer should be considered the historically accurate beverage to serve at a Thanksgiving meal, after all, beer is America’s founding beverage. Turns out, to those aboard the Mayflower, beer had become an essential part of daily life. Even the children drank beer, although it was probably a weaker version of what we experience as beer today. “Ship’s beer” as it was known, did not have high alcohol content. Neither did the even weaker “small beer,” of which passengers drank a quart per day. The Pilgrims brought beer on their voyage, they did not bring wine! In fact, the Pilgrims landed in modern day New England (not Virginia as intended) not by choice, but because the ships were running low on beer.
So break out your favorite craft beers this Thanksgiving. But keep in mind that not every beer style complements turkey stuffing and cranberry sauce.
We suggest avoiding hop-heavy beers that have a bite. Those might go well with spicy foods, but they will overpower the mild-tasting turkey and gravy and will definitely clash with the sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce.
Medium-to-dark beers with a roasted malt and caramel flavors will complement everything from the turkey and stuffing to the sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce.
Beer has another decided advantage over wine at Thanksgiving. The carbon dioxide in beer has a “palate-scrubbing” quality that gets your mouth ready for the next bite of food. Wine tends to be heavy on the palate, whereas beer’s effervescent bubble lifts your palate and leaves you wanting more.
Besides serving beer at Thanksgiving, we suggest soaking the bird overnight in a brine made with a local stout or porter to add moisture and flavor.
During the roasting process, you can also glaze the turkey with a concentrated mixture of malt extract, malt vinegar, fresh herbs, and spices.
Beer Brined Turkey Recipe
Booze up your bird this Thanksgiving with a beer brine and malt extract glaze recipe. We’re fans of using local brews like Parkway Brewing’s Raven’s Roost Baltic Porter, Flying Mouse Brewery’s #8, Soaring Ridge Craft Brewers’ Twisted Stump, Chaos Mountain Brewing’s Squatch Ale or Cocoborealis, Starr Hill Brewery’s Little Red Roostar Coffee Cream Stout, Deschutes Brewery Black Butte Porter, Twin Creeks Brewing’s Slow Water Porter or Ballast Point Brewing’s Commodore in this recipe.
1-2 cups coarse kosher salt
4-6 22-ounce bottles of Porter or Stout beer (depending on turkey size)*
whole black pepper
2 peeled onions, quartered
2 celery stalks, cut into chunks
1 bunch fresh sage
1 bunch fresh thyme
10 garlic cloves, crushed
1 orange, quartered
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
*Less beer can be used and water and barley malt extract can be substituted – approximately 2 cups (or more) water depending on amount of beer used and 1 ½ cups barley malt extract
Use a new 5-gallon plastic bucket and add salt. Mix in beer slowly (or water and malt extract). If you want to cut down on the beer, use a plastic bag to reduce the volume and keep the turkey surrounded with the beer brine. Press out any air and seal bag. Chill turkey in beer brine for 16 to 24 hours. Make sure it stays cold.
If your bird is not covered all the way add a little more salted beer, you can place a heavy non-metallic bowl or something on it to keep it in the beer brine, cover bucket with the lid or wrap.
When finished brining, pat dry, inside and out, with paper towels. Sprinkle main cavity with pepper; fill with onions, celery, sage, thyme, and garlic and a quartered orange. Brush outside with oil and tuck wing tips under for roasting.
2/3 cup barley malt extract
1/4 cup malt vinegar
6 fresh sage sprigs
4 fresh thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Bring malt extract, vinegar, herbs, and pepper to boil in small saucepan, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer until glaze coats spoon, 4 to 5 minutes. Mix in butter.
Roast turkey as instructed.
Begin to brush with glaze when the turkey has 2 hours left to roast. Brush with glaze every 20-30 minutes. Tent with foil if browning too quickly. Roast until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 165°F. Brush with more glaze and transfer to a platter. Let rest 30 minutes (temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees). Enjoy!
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