The flock of turkeys that live in the canyon below our house is growing, probably over 25 birds now, including two toms that fan out impressive tail feathers as they strut along the hillside. These are probably descendents of some domestic creatures turned loose, epitomizing "free range." They have no predators and without hormones, captivity and a ready supply of food, might have regained some of the instincts of wild turkeys, the kind that Benjamin Franklin called "respectable" as a truly native American beast. Or they could be the kind my mother declared "stupid and vicious" based on her experiences working on a turkey farm as a girl. Having flushed a hen and chicks from the underbrush one morning when I was out hiking, I can categorically tell Arthur Carlson of WKRP that turkeys can fly.
Regardless, I look at that turkey on the fence, now joined by two companions busily depositing bird stuff on the wrought iron, and I see Thanksgiving on two legs. Which recalls our tried and true turkey brining recipe we use several times a year, even in summer when the hankering for turkey and all the fixings is too much:
2.5 gallons cold water or vegetable stock
2 cups kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar
2 bay leaves, torn
4 tablespoons dried thyme
5 cloves garlic, smashed
5 allspice berries, crushed
4 juniper berries, crushed
½ tablespoon candied ginger root
A number of cooking web sites cover the steps for brining turkey safely. The concoction above is a blend of Chez Panisse and Alton Brown brines. The ironic observation here is that just as the turkey has been dumbed down by domestication, so has the human being, as I’m fairly certain that one reason the flock thrives is that no one in the vicinity knows how to pluck one.