Turkey brining has lost its luster

Like many home cooks, for years I performed a Thanksgiving ritual every November. I would scrub out an oversized bucket, (often a pickle bucket that I pleaded for at a fast food restaurant), fill it with a brine that always took longer to make than I remembered, and plunge an ungainly turkey into it, trying not to slosh salt water everywhere. Then I faced another obstacle - how could I make enough room in the refrigerator to store this gigantic bucket of wet turkey? The fridge looked like a food version of Tetris as I carefully balanced items on top of each other to squeeze the bucket inside. 

The Judy Bird

Taking said turkey out of the bucket was another experience in unwieldy maneuvering. After giving the bird a shower, I and most every horizontal surface within five feet was wet. Eventually the turkey got dried off and into the oven and everything was scrubbed clean, but it was a lot of work. All of this effort was geared toward achieving turkey nirvana: a gorgeous golden bird that had flavorful, juicy meat. And for the most part, brining - touted by television chefs and food writers alike - helped achieve that goal. Fast forward about 15 years, and wet brining is falling out of favor, even among chefs who previously embraced the method. Daniel Krieger, writing for The New York Times, explains why.

The logistical drawbacks to brining, as illustrated above, are one reason. Another is that all of that water, while keeping the bird moist, has a tendency to change the texture of the meat in an unpleasant manner. J. Kenji López-Alt was among the first to criticize the method, writing a column for Serious Eats and elaborating on it in his book The Food Lab. His conclusion was that brining resulted in the a texture that resembled processed luncheon meat. 

As wet brining reached its apex in the mid-2000s, a simpler yet equally as effective method was on the rise. Called dry-brining, the method kept the salt, but resulted in a more flavorful, less waterlogged turkey. It was first promoted by Russ Parsons, who wrote about "the Judy bird" in 2006. Since then, others have jumped on the dry brining bandwagon. It's much easier to do, and you can even salt a frozen turkey as it thaws, a boone for those who don't want to fuss with a turkey for several days before it's cooked.  

Others are foregoing the brining altogether and using new methods to cook the turkey, such as smoking or deep frying. A few are even taking the turkey off of their Thanksgiving menu completely, turning to other proteins. Still, whether just for sentimental reasons or out of a love of turkey sandwiches, millions of us will be roasting the big bird next Thursday, although fewer of us will be struggling with a wet brine. 

Photo of Dry-brined turkey (a.k.a.the Judy bird) [Russ Parsons] from Food52 Genius Recipes 

Gift Guide for Cookbook Lovers, Cooks and Bakers 2018

The season of giving is upon us. All year, I've been making notes for this gift guide to share with you books and products that I have bought, reviewed and love. My various gift guides from years' past can be found at the links below.

Any cookbooks on my Fall Cookbooks preview post, I whole-heartedly recommend especially Israeli SoulEveryday Dorie, and Estela. These titles are must-have for cooks and bakers (I will not repeat all the titles here). Books featured in our EYBD Program are great ideas for cookbook lovers because they also share the added benefit of digital access to the titles through EYB for your gift recipient. The EYBD book page shares links to previews, promotions (including giveaways with products I love), events and more.

Gifts for the Baker

Rose Levy Beranbaum has designed a wonderful collection of baking products that work! I covered a few of these products in our promotion for her latest book. Since that post, I have used two of these items religiously in my kitchen:  Rose's Magic Non-Stick Rolling Pin and Rose's Magic Dough Pastry Mat. This rolling pin really does the job without having to add flour and is super easy to clean up. The same can be said for the mat. If you are a baker or you know a baker - one of these items with Rose's book is a great gift.  

The KitchenAid Scale + Sifter attachment (UK link); is another genius product from KitchenAid. I treated myself to this attachment and have been having a great time using it. Other KitchenAid products, I love include, of course, the stand mixer itself, the vegetable sheeter, the ice cream maker, pasta attachments, spiralizer (curly fries!), and the mixer attachment pack

Every baker needs a good scale, the OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale with Pull-Out Display (UK linkCA link) is the stand alone type I recommend. One of the things that has helped me the most in the kitchen since I've been baking several times a week is being organized. I cannot say enough about OXO's Good Grips 10-Piece Airtight Food Storage POP Container (UK link; CA link). I have a set of these as well as four of the 4 quart size (UK link; CA link) for flours, sugars and more.

Another OXO product I have been enjoying is the OXO jelly roll pan (UK link; CA link) that we are featuring in our promotion for Pie Squared, Cathy Barrow's latest (and a part of our EYBD program). Bake up a recipe from this fantastic book in an OXO pan, wrap up the book, and you have the perfect hostess gift this season. 

Give someone you love a subscription to Bake from Scratch - my favorite baking magazine. This gift will provide a year's worth of inspiration as do any of their books on baking, cakes or breads

Mauviel is one of my absolute favorite things in the world. Their copper mixing bowl and stand or their new individual souffles set my heart aflutter. Every girl wants something shiny under the tree, and this girl wants Mauviel. For your holiday cooking and roasting, the Mauviel roaster is perfect. Look for a promotion soon for one of these gorgeous copper roasters.

Other ideas for the baker: 

Cookbooks for the Baker from 2018:


For the cook who has almost everything:



The Instant Pot multicooker is sweeping the world but did you know they make a Sous Vide, an incredibly priced sous vide that works just as well as models twice the price. I've used this product several times with great results. (UK link; CA link)

The latest from Instant Pot is their 8 Qt Aura Pro Multi-Use Programmable Multicooker with Sous Vide. I hope to be able to bring you a promotion soon on one of Instant Pot's sous vide products and will be providing a full review of the Aura Pro. (CA link)

Cookbooks for the Sous Vide from 2018:

Of course, an Instant Pot® (7-in-1) multi-cooker (UK link; CA link) is the tool every busy cook needs. Their newest products include the 6 quart 10-in-1 (with more functions) and the 8 quart 7-in-1 which is perfect for bigger jobs. For dorm rooms and smaller needs, the 3 quart, 7-in-1 mini duo is adorable and a perfect fit. My review on the mini pot can be found here. When deals for these products are available, we will be sure to let our members know and, of course, our Black Friday post will be available soon. Keep checking our Facebook page for updates. Next week, we'll have a promotion available for two of Ivy Manning's books and one of Instant Pot's multicookers! 

In January, I did a summary of our favorite Instant Pot books. This year there has been an influx of new exciting titles which include: 

Le Creuset is and will always be my first love. Every serious cook needs a piece of Le Creuset. This pot will last a lifetime, will be a workhorse in your kitchen and look great on top of it all. Check out our current promotion to find more information about Le Creuset and enter our giveaway to win a gorgeous Indigo Dutch Oven with Kate McDermott's Home Cooking.  Right now I'm obsessing over the Tartan design available at Williams Sonoma and hoping Santa has me on his nice list (I need to figure out how to hack that list).

Staub cast iron cookware is another wonderful option for gift giving. Staub comes in a variety of sizes and colors and they have the most adorable knobs that are as addictive as the cookware.

The fishsnailroostercowrabbit and pig knobs are whimiscal and would be a welcomed gift for those who already have Le Creuset or Staub (they are interchangeable) or as a stocking stuffer if Santa already has a dutch oven under the tree. Check out our current promotion for The Staub Cookbook and skillet and enter our giveaway. I am now infatuated with Staub's special holiday pot pictured to the left - it screams holidays. The Staub wood trivet is another great stocking stuffer and keeps your hot pot perfectly planted with no slipping.

My new favorite cutlery is Shun. The Shun premier chef's knife is the knife. I love the feel, weight and precision of Shun cutlery. We will be having a promotion very soon for this stunning knife. 

Emile Henry stoneware looks great on your table and produces perfect results for all your baking needs. Look for a promotion soon for a covered loaf pan! One of my favorite pieces is their potato pot. This stoneware delivers potatoes that are crispy all over - shake the pot instead of flippin (this piece can also be used for bread).

Besides cookware or a good knife, the item in my kitchen that gets the most use is my Zojirushi BB-PDC20BA Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus Breadmaker. I confess I only use the dough cycle on this machine but it is a lifesaver. I make a batch of bagels every week and many yeasted dough baked goods - and the dough cycle makes this portion of baking easy work. We will have a promotion for this beauty coupled with Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day: Sweet and Decadent Baking for Every Occasion

Cookbooks from 2018

Any cookbooks on my Fall Cookbooks preview post, I whole-heartedly recommend especially Israeli SoulEveryday Dorie, and Estela. These titles are must-have for cooks and bakers (I will not repeat all the titles here). Books featured in our EYBD Program are great ideas for cookbook lovers because they also share the added benefit of digital access to the titles through EYB for your gift recipient. The EYBD book page shares links to previews, promotions (including giveaways with products I love), events and more.

In addition, the following titles that would make any cookbook lover happy:

And of course, give the gift that keeps on giving a Gift Certificate to Eat Your Books. We are running a contest right now, buy a gift certificate and be entered to win one of three sets of five cookbooks from 2018. 

Also, please remember to link from EYB before making any purchase on Amazon.  We earn a small affiliate fee for every purchase made in the next 24 hours after you click through to the Amazon site from any 'Buy Book' link in the EYB Library. Our affiliate store links can be directly accessed here Amazon USAmazon CA  and Amazon UK  with the same result. Our home page also shares our affiliate links on the right sidebar.  Remember, the more income we make, the more books we can index!

First Annual EYB Holiday Cookie Contest

I love collecting cookie recipes - cherished family recipes and  newspaper contest compilations are my favorites. I'm always on the lookout for something new and exciting to try so every holiday season, I snatch up all the holiday baking magazines and make plans to make hundreds of cookies. 

 

This year, I thought it would be fun to share our original family recipes with each other. Here's how we will do it: 

  • From now until December 1st share an original recipe for a holiday cookie or bar.
  • Email your recipes to jenny@eatyourbooks.com. In the subject line, write Cookie Contest. 
  • Be sure to include the cookie/bar name, oven temperature, baking time, ingredients and instructions.
  • If you have a photo, share that as well. 
  • Optional: If you would like to share a line or two about the recipe, please do so.

I will compile the recipes into one post so that all our members can try a few new recipes this year. I'll have the compilation post up and ready by December 5th - in plenty of time for baking a new treat or two. (I may even have a prize to share for the most unique recipes.)

Please remember they must be adapted or original recipes, we cannot share recipes from published sources.

Bringing back a "forgotten" vegetable

A spate of recent books like The Cooking Gene by Michael Twitty and Victuals by Ronni Lundy point to a renewed interest in traditional foods and foodways. This includes "rediscovering" heirloom plants and other ingredients that have fallen out of favor over the decades and centuries. Most of the "rediscovering" happens in home gardens or local markets that can take the risk of growing small quantities of heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables. 

Now a bigger name is getting in on the action. Grocery chain Waitrose has recently announced that it will be selling salsify in 100 of its stores. A root vegetable that was popular in 19th century Victorian England, salsify's flavor is difficult to describe. The packaging states that it tastes "a little like a mild artichoke, perhaps with a trace of liquorice or, when cooked, some even claim to detect a hint of oysters."

glazed salsify

The vegetable isn't much to look at and will therefore probably not become an Instagram sensation. Salsify resembles parsnip, its distant relative, and comes in both white and black varieties, both of which will be available in select stores.

Waitrose notes that consumer demand for more traditionals foods is growing, which is spurring them into finding foods that fit the bill. The supermarket chain is also bringing back Fenland celery, once popular in Victorian Christmas markets. Fenland celery is whiter than traditional celery and features a sweet, nutty flavor. 

Photo of Glazed salsify and carrots from V is for Vegetables by Michael Anthony.

Pink gin is in - but is it any good?

It's well known that millenials like all things pink: pink clothing, pink wine (rosé is all the current darling in that demographic), and all kinds of pink foods. Now another item is joining the fray in taking on a blushing hue to appeal to millenials - pink gin. 

pink gin

Unlike the neon vodkas and liqueurs that dominated in the early 2000s, pink gin is much more than low-grade alcohol tinted with food coloring. Esteemed distilleries like Beefeater are introducing subtly flavored and colored versions that offer hints of strawberry, rhubarb, and bitters. Beefeater's master distiller Desmond Payne took a cue from the company's founder, James Burrough, who tinkered with items like raspberry gin and cherry brandy.

As that example illustrates, pink gin, while pleasing to behold, isn't exactly new. A cocktail called the Pink Gin, which combined gin and Angostura bitters, dates back over 150 years and was a favorite of the British Royal Navy. Distillery Gin Lane 1751 used that drink as the inspiration for its upgraded spirit called Victoria Pink Gin, which derives its hue from spiced bitters. 

Tiny craft distilleries and mega producers alike are now selling pink gins, which produce Instagram-worthy cocktails that are actually worth drinking. If you're wondering what to make the new crop of rose-hued gins, most of them can be used in any cocktail calling for a dry gin. "Pink gin can be consumed the same way London Dry is consumed,"  says Gin Lane 1751 founder Geoff Curley.

Photo of Pink gin & tonic from Delicious Magazine (Aus)

Are we really cooking everything wrong?

No doubt you have seen this phrase, or a variation of it, in your social media news feed: "You've been cooking [insert food name] wrong the whole time!" When I type"you've been cooking" into the Google search bar, the first five items that pop up are all about being wrong - apparently you've been cooking pasta wrong, along with potatoes, rice, and bacon. 

Not only are you and I cooking things wrong, we are using our tools wrong too. The most recent "wrong" task in my news feed involved grating cheese. Although I was fairly certain that I have not been grating cheese wrong my entire life (after all, I didn't start grating until I was a teenager), I clicked on link to see if I could improve my grating game. 

grating cheese

According to the article, "If the grater is on its side, you can move the block of cheese horizontally. The shredded cheese then falls into body of the grater, allowing you to simply dump it in a bowl when you're done. This method avoids having to steady the upright cheese grater on a plate or in a bowl, giving you more control." It's allegedly less messy and supposedly safer, too, because your knuckles don't get as near the grating surface. 

I am still scratching my head trying to determine how holding a grater sideways gives you more control than resting it squarely upright on your counter or cutting board, or how a side-to-side motion is an improvement upon an up-and-down one.  Your fingers are just as close to the grating surface in either case. It's also not very difficult or even inconvenient to sweep whatever you've grated into a bowl.

You can use a piece of wax paper or a clean kitchen towel underneath the grater if you are really concerned about mess (and use the same to easily transport the grated material to its intended vessel). Since graters usually have a grating surface on both sides, using it on its side means you could damage the opposite side and/or your countertop as those surfaces rub against each other. Most of the "you're using this tool wrong" articles are cast in the same mold - trying to convince you that this new method is the cat's pajamas, when in fact it's rarely an improvement and often a more cumbersome way of accomplishing the same task.

The "you're cooking this food wrong" articles generally offer a bit more useful advice. One piece I found about how you are cooking rice wrong went into details about why rinsing and soaking rice depended on the type of rice and its use, and gave some tips about when to steam or boil it. It did not, however, explain how the way I did it was incorrect.

Most of the time the "wrong" way you've been cooking something just means a different technique that works just fine but may not be the most efficient method. This holds true for the "you've been cooking pasta wrong" article that touts advice from Harold McGee. He recommends using a frying pan and a cold water start, explaining the science behind his process. This method works, but so does throwing pasta into a large pot of salted, boiling water. That is not wrong, just different. 

The advice can also be contradictory. I also found an article that claimed I was cooking pasta wrong because my pot wasn't big enough - the opposite of what McGee promoted. I was also "cooking it wrong" if I only served pasta during cold weather (seriously, who writes this stuff?). 

Yes, I know, the "doing it wrong" headlines are clickbait, but the name "bait" is accurate because they can be difficult to resist. I think that all of us (especially women) have been programmed to doubt ourselves and our abilities, especially when advised by an (alleged) expert. These chastising titles work as we wonder, if only for a moment, if we've been mucking up the process this whole time. In most cases, we haven't. So the next time you see a "you're doing it wrong" article, relax, take a deep breath, and repeat after me: "I'm not cooking everything wrong, I'm not using my tools wrong, and doggone it, people like me!" Then click on the link, grab some popcorn, and settle in to read the comments. 

Photo of the not wrong method of How to grate cheese from indexed blog Great British Chefs

North Carolina chefs contribute to flood relief efforts

When Hurricane Florence battered the Carolinas in the southeastern US, videos and news reports depicted the devastation that the storm wrought on the coastal communities directly in the path of the hurricane. Inland areas were also affected by the flooding that resulted from the record amounts of rain that poured down nonstop for days following the storm, but they did not receive as much attention from the press. What's worse, many of the inland residents did not have flood insurance, because they lived in areas that were not usually affected to this extent by hurricanes. Many people lost everything in the floods. 

As Country As Cornbread cookbook

That's where North Carolina chefs, including Vivian Howard, come into the picture. Howard raised funds for the relief and rebuilding effort by selling a limited edition tee shirt on her site. The tee shirt reads "As Country as Cornbread." Building on the success of that fundraiser, Jamie Holcomb, Lynn Wells, and Jenni Field of the North Carolina Chapter of  Les Dames d'Escoffier International teamed up with additional chefs, restaurateurs, and food writers around the Carolinas for another project - an eCookbook also called As Country As Cornbread.

Contributors include respected southern chefs like Nathalie Dupree, who provided  a recipe for Lacy Corn Fritters, and Sandra Gutierrez, who gave the project her spin on Frijoles Borrachos. In all, 19 people provided 21 different recipes for the eCookbook, which can be purchased for $14.95. Proceeds from the book will go to the North Carolina Community Foundationa statewide community foundation begun in 1988.

Celebrating a classic baking book

Some cookbooks become icons that are passed down from generation to generation. One such tome is the Australian Women's Weekly Children's Birthday Cake Book, first published in 1990 and reissued in 2011 as a collector's edition. The book has inspired countless people to attempt baking a birthday cake for their child, eventually passing the book down to their grown children who use it to make the perfect cake for their kids too. 

Children's Birthday Cake Book

In an utterly charming video produced by ABC as part of a series entitled "Throwback", author and baker extraordinaire Pamela Clark takes us back to the AWW test kitchen where it all began. She recounts the struggles she and her team had to go through to get the book published, as her bosses were not convinced that a book dedicated to such whimsical creations was worth pursuing. Clark and her colleagues would make the cakes, drawing inspiration from various childhood toys and stories, during their off time at the magazine. Many of the original images in the book were shots of the first attempts, which often included many mistakes. 

Clark regales us with behind-the-scenes stories, and shares with us her favorite cake from the book, the Dolly Varden cake. She likes it because it is easy to make and it can be modified to suit current themes - she's even done a tattoed, goth version. There is one cake that Clark advises you to skip, however: the tip truck cake. "Bitch of a cake," she says. "Don't go there. Glue the pages together - forget it." 

Black Friday deals without the wait

Halloween is over so that means we can turn our full attention to the remainder of the holidays to celebrate until year's end. For us in the US, that means Thanksgiving in addition to the December special events. In the windup to those dates, there will be plenty of cooking, baking, and of course shopping. Most of us wait (im)patiently for the special deals that start the day after Thanksgiving, aka Black Friday. However, we don't have to pine away for weeks to get special prices, as Amazon has announced several amazing deals that are available right now

kitchenaid mixers

First up is everyone's favorite mixer: KitchenAid. There are a few models available for just under $200. The device of the moment, the Instant Pot DUO60, is only $69.95. If you are in the market for a new coffee maker, the Zojirushi Fresh Brew Plus Coffee Maker is more than half price. There's also a feature-laden NutraTrack digital scale (you need this for all of those baking books that we've encouraged you to buy). There are also deals on a few refurbished products like Vitamix and Ninja blenders, a couple of immersion blenders are on sale, and you'll also find an assortment of gadgets

The deals won't last very long, but more will likely be added between now and Black Friday. We will continue to update the post if we find other deals. You can preview all of the early Black Friday deals on Amazon's website (don't forget to navigate to Amazon through our link on the EYB home page). In addition to these great offers, Jenny has updated the Kindle deals post with the latest sale prices so you can add more books to your cart while you are shopping for the other great deals. Don't forget about food magazine deals too!

Alexa now talks turkey

Since 1981, turkey producer Butterball has manned a call-in help line for people who have questions about cooking their Thanksgiving bird. The service, called the Turkey Talk-Line has helped countless harried cooks avoid potential turkey disasters. This year the Talk-Line is getting an upgrade as users can now use their Alexa-enabled device to ask for assistance

roast turkey

For the first time, users can request turkey-making tips by saying "Alexa, ask Butterball…" This is extremely useful when you are up to your elbows in giblets. If you have an Alexa-enabled device with a screen (such as Fire TV), the help includes how-to videos. For voice-only devices, Butterball's experts have prerecorded responses to dozens of frequently asked questions.

"The app is filled with our most frequently asked questions and those are based on 37 years of call data. Some of those questions include thawing, how to prep your turkey for roasting, how much turkey you're going to need to buy, things like that," says Butterball expert Beth Somers. If you don't have an Alexa-enabled device or if you just prefer talking to an actual human being, you can still call the Turkey Talk-Line at 1-800-BUTTERBALL starting today and continuing through Christmas Eve. Help is also available via text (844-877-3456), email, or live chat on  Butterball.com

Photo of Clementine-and-garlic roast turkey from Food & Wine Magazine 

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