Orange brined cornish hens

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SecondHandSmoker

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Brined a couple of cornish hens Saturday evening for Sunday afternoon supper.
Brought a basic one gallon brine recipe to a low boil, then added in a few aromatics like sprigs of fresh thyme, rosemary, chopped garlic cloves, a handful of black peppercorns, and wedges from half an onion.
Removed brine from the heat and added in orange and lemon wedges, a 1/4 cup thawed OJ concentrate, and one bottle of beer.
Let everything steep in there while the brine cooled down to room temp.
Once cooled, I carved out some space in one of the freezers and placed the stainless steel brine pot in there to chill down to 38° F.
Added the hens to the brine, weighted them down with a glass lid, and placed the whole concoction in the fridge for six hours.
After six hours, I rinsed the hens with running water then patted them dry with paper towels.
Next, the hens were placed on a rack with a cookie sheet underneath.
They sat in the fridge overnight to form the pellicle.
Late Sunday morning, I worked some fresh sqeezed OJ under the breast skin and into the cavity of each bird.
Then stuffed the cavities with one sprig of fresh rosemary, three sprigs of fresh thyme, onion wedges, and of course, the left over orange wedges.
Next up, the wings and drums were trussed, the outside of the birds were rubbed down with a splash of EVO, drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing,
followed by a light dusting of herbs de provence.

Here is what they looked like when they were first placed on the grill at 325° F with a mix of pecan and cherry chips in the smoker boxes.
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Here they are again after about 45 minutes or so.
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At 180° F in the thigh.
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A quick shot before a loose tin foil tenting and resting.
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Plated with a side garden salad and a wildrice mix topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
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The verdict:
Nice and juicy. Excellent flavor. Savory with a very slight hint of orange. But a tad salty.
Maybe I left them in brine too long?
Maybe I did not rinse them as throughly as I thought? Afterall, it was going on midnight when I pulled the hens from the brine.
Or maybe I am just so used to this damn low sodium diet?
I am going with the third "maybe"!

Thanks for looking.
Bon appetit.

Stu
 

SmokinEdge

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Those birds look excellent!
My normal chicken and pork brine is orange, grapefruit and lime juice. Last night I cooked some whole wings that were brined that citrus is just excellent. It’s the base flavor for a good carne asada or pollo asado.
 
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thirdeye

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I really like Cornish hens, yours look good to me.

On your saltiness issue it's all trial and error.... I like longer brine times and lower salt percentages. The old rule of thumb of 1 cup of Morton Kosher to 1 gallon of water is too hot of a brine for me, I shoot for 5/8 cup to 3/4 cup of salt per gallon, then lengthen my brine times. I also will inject some of the brine into the breasts. The Patio Daddio brine is a good one for all poultry if you like citrus, and his salt ratio is closer to my liking (I still reduce it a bit).

All that said I do buy Oakridge Game Changer and like it a LOT. It's a brine or an injection and you can mix different strengths.
 
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SecondHandSmoker

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Those birds look excellent!
My normal chicken and pork brine is orange, grapefruit and lime juice. Last night I cooked some whole wings that were brined that citrus is just excellent. It’s the base flavor for a good carne asada or pollo asado.

Thank you.
The next time, I will definitely add a lot more citrus sans the OJ concentrate and beer.
Especially the beer since I don't think it really added anything other than wasting a perfectly good beer.
As for a good carne asada and pollo asado, I haven't had any of the good stuff since moving from the Phoenix area. You'd think moving further south, there would be some excellent carnicerias down here. Nope!

Thanks for the like too.
 
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SecondHandSmoker

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I really like Cornish hens, yours look good to me.

On your saltiness issue it's all trial and error.... I like longer brine times and lower salt percentages. The old rule of thumb of 1 cup of Morton Kosher to 1 gallon of water is too hot of a brine for me, I shoot for 5/8 cup to 3/4 cup of salt per gallon, then lengthen my brine times. I also will inject some of the brine into the breasts. The Patio Daddio brine is a good one for all poultry if you like citrus, and his salt ratio is closer to my liking (I still reduce it a bit).

All that said I do buy Oakridge Game Changer and like it a LOT. It's a brine or an injection and you can mix different strengths.


Thank you.
Yes, the tad of saltiness really threw me for a loop since the basic brine is what I have always used in the past for a base.
You are probably right that the good ol' cup of Morton's kosher to a gallon of water is now too hot for me as well.
This was the fist time I have brined anything after being put on a super low sodium diet 6 mos ago. So, I certainly do appreciate your advice on the salt ratios because I do not want to give up brining.
 

jcam222

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They look fantastic. I’d like to find a reasonable deal on some for a daily gathering sometime. They are usually very over priced at Kroger.
 
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SmokinEdge

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Thank you.
The next time, I will definitely add a lot more citrus sans the OJ concentrate and beer.
Especially the beer since I don't think it really added anything other than wasting a perfectly good beer.
As for a good carne asada and pollo asado, I haven't had any of the good stuff since moving from the Phoenix area. You'd think moving further south, there would be some excellent carnicerias down here. Nope!

Thanks for the like too.
No need for the water either. Just straight juice and spices. Save the water to wash the dishes and the beer to drink proper.
 
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Sowsage

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Those are some fine-looking hens!! I love to use herb de Provence! I usually make some type of glaze from a berry.... I have not tried it with any type of citrus.... I sure would be happy to sit down to a plate like that! Salty or not im sure it was good! And as others have stated...just have to adjust your recipe until it gets to your liking!
Nice work!!
 

sawhorseray

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Beautiful looking birds there Stuart, came out looking absolutely perfect! Been thinking about grabbing some hens for awhile now, seeing yours will make it happen. I can just imagine how juicy they turned out smoked on that rotisserie, big Like Stu! RAY
 

SecondHandSmoker

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They look fantastic. I’d like to find a reasonable deal on some for a daily gathering sometime. They are usually very over priced at Kroger.

Thank you, Jeff.
Yep, the price of meat just keeps climbing.
My local Safeway would occasionally have a deal on cornish hens...$5 bucks for a pair.
I haven't seen that deal in a long time.

Stu
 

SecondHandSmoker

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Looks good. I am super interested in your brine recipe. (Like quantities) If you could please send me it!

Thank you.

Here you go:
One cup Morton's Kosher salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
One gallon of water
4 whole sprigs of fresh rosemary
5-6 whole sprigs fresh thyme
5 garlic cloves roughy chopped into chunks
10-12 black peppercorns
Half of one large navel orange cut into wedges
One large lemon cut into wedges
Half of one medium white onion cut into wedges
1/4 cup thawed OJ concentrate
One 12 oz bottle of beer - optional. IMHO, it really didn't add anything special

Be advised, as thirdeye thirdeye pointed out, the salt ratio maybe too hot.
I certainly agree. Especially when considering the hens only weighed a little over a pound each. Obviously, I messed up somewhere in the process by either brining too long or neglected to rinse the birds thoroughly.

Stu
 

SecondHandSmoker

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Those are some fine-looking hens!! I love to use herb de Provence! I usually make some type of glaze from a berry.... I have not tried it with any type of citrus.... I sure would be happy to sit down to a plate like that! Salty or not im sure it was good! And as others have stated...just have to adjust your recipe until it gets to your liking!
Nice work!!

Thanks!
They were still delicious despite being a tad too salty.

Stu
 

Winterrider

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Awesome looking hens. They kinda use to be a hidden secret and could get for dirt cheap. Then the word got out, price jumped up with everything else now. Love those little birds. . .
 
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