Why should you brine feathered fowl? Because plump, moist meat is hard to beat. Seriously, one of the best ways to get the most out of a wild bird breast is to start off any recipe with a brined bird—especially if you are feeding people who claim they don’t like wild game.
Pheasant, quail, grouse, chukar, wild turkey, and wild game birds are prone to becoming dry, flavorless, and tough when cooked improperly. Brining prior to cooking does three things: it imparts flavor by the addition of aromatics and spices, tenderizes by breaking down muscle proteins, and, perhaps most importantly, it allows the softened tissue to retain moisture during the cooking process.
Here’s a wonderful brine that celebrates the fall harvests, and is sure to yield flavorful juicy meat. The only thing you might not have handy is the juniper. Stay tuned for next week, when we’ll use this brine on crows.
Apple Hard Cider Brine
Enough for approx ½ – ¾ pounds of meat
1½ cups hard cider-approx 12 fluid ounces
½ cup water
1 orange (outer peel and juice)
1 half head of garlic
1 tablespoon juniper berries
½ tablespoon black peppercorns
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
3 small bay leaves, or 1 large-crushed
1 small bunch thyme
1 small bunch fresh flat leaf parsley
1½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1½ cups ice (reserved)
1. Add the sugars, salt, juniper berries, peppercorns and crushed bay leaves to a saucepan. Tear the fresh herbs to release the natural oils, then add to the saucepan.
2. Add orange peel. Halve the oranges and squeeze in the juice. Discard the orange after juicing.
3. Next, cut the head of garlic in half and toss in the pan. The cinnamon stick can go in, too. Finally, add the hard cider and water.
4. Heat to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes to steep the flavors.
5. Remove from stovetop and add reserved ice to hasten the cooling process.
6. Once the brine reaches room temperature, place breasts in a plastic bag or plastic container, and pour in the brine. Chill for 4-12 hours. Remove and prepare as you like, and stay tuned for a crow recipe next Wednesday.