Upland hunters know that pheasant, quail, grouse, chukar, wild turkey and other feathered fowl are prone to becoming dry, flavorless and tough if prepared in haste. Brining, however, does three things: 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 crisp and fruity notes of hard apple cider, and is sure to yield flavorful juicy meat:
Apple Hard Cider Brine:
(Enough for approximately ¾ – 1 pound of breast 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)
Into a saucepan (below) add the sugars, salt, juniper berries, peppercorns and crushed bay leaves. Tear the fresh herbs to release the natural oils and aromatics, then add to the saucepan.
Add orange peel, halve the oranges and squeeze in the juice. (Discard the orange after juicing.)
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 (below) and the water.
Heat to a simmer and then simmer for 10 minutes to steep the flavors.
Remove from stovetop and add reserved ice to hasten the cooling process.
Once the brine reaches room temperature, place breasts in a plastic bag or plastic container, then pour in the hard cider brine including all the aromatics. Chill for 4-12 hours.
Remove and prepare in a Wild Gamebird Meat Pie (below). Be sure to check out OutdoorHub.com next week for this amazing recipe!
About the Author: Raised a Minnesota farm-girl in a hunting family, Krissie Mason (below) is an outdoorswoman, food enthusiast, and has been reconnecting with her culinary country roots and family hunting traditions of late. She is the brains and brawn behind Scratch + Holler media, and a regular contributor to several outdoor websites. Krissie fully supports a field-to-fork wild food chain, and especially enjoys expanding pantries and stretching wild game palates with her ambitious and delicious wild game recipes.
Images by Krissie Mason