A new feature that we're going to have at the beginning of each month is a special guest column by Jimmy DiTraglia of the Primally Wild Blog. His blog is dedicated to DIY cooking with wild game and is must read for the full DIY outdoorsman that we try to represent at Public Land Archery Allies. Be sure to check out more of his writing and recipes at www.primallywild.com, Enjoy!!
There is just nothing like Spring turkey hunting. Sitting against a tree listening to thunderous gobbles as it starts to get light is truly a special experience. Calling to and interacting with these magnificent, and highly intelligent birds is such a rush. Until you've seen one within 20 yards strutting and gobbling and you're ready to take the shot, you just don't know the adrenaline rush it induces. There's also nothing like smoked wild turkey breast as a reward for accomplishing a kill against the sharpest eyes in the woods.
Another great thing about Spring is that it coincides with great grilling weather. Well, here in Minnesota you never know. It's not uncommon to see snow in April and even May. But, for the most part, it is good time to head out and fire up the grill. This smoked turkey breast was actually my first attempt at smoking a piece of wild game meat and I was nervous. I was pretty confident in my abilities and just accepted that I was going to eat it no matter how badly I ruined it. Luckily, it turned out great. I smoke them using a Weber kettle grill because I believe in keeping things simple. No need for WiFi controlled electric smokers. They're nice and all, but you don't have to spend that kind of money to get perfectly smoked game meats.
1 wild turkey breast
8 Cups of water
1/2 Cup sea salt
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp honey
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 onion, quartered
1 Tsp whole juniper berries
1 Tsp whole peppercorns
Apple wood chips
Pour water and all the spices into a pot and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and let it simmer for 5 minutes, stirring to make sure all the salt is dissolved.
Set aside to cool. Once it's cooled off a bit I like to put it in the fridge to cool it faster.
Place breast into the brine pot and refrigerate overnight. I like more than 16 hours for this and usually wind up around the 20 hour mark. 24 hours or more wouldn't hurt anything but isn't necessary.
I will forewarn you, don't start this unless you have 3-4+ hours when you'll be available to maintain your grill. You will often have to add more coals to maintain temperature and add wood chips to keep the smoke going.
Rinse the breast off in cold water, pat dry, and cover thoroughly with fresh cracked pepper. Let it sit for about 20 minutes. The pepper isn't necessary but I do highly recommend it.
Wood chips need to be soaked in water for about 15-30 minutes before adding to the hot coals. Do this while you're waiting for the coals. I've had great results with both hickory and apple wood.
Fire up some charcoal or hardwood briquettes, enough to get your grill around 250 degrees F. Keep them all to one side of the grill and add the breast on the other side. You do not want it in direct contact with the heat.
Drop a handful of soaked wood chips on the coals, cover the grill, and watch the smoke pour out.
You will need to check every 15-20 minutes to either add more wood chips to keep the smoke going or add more coals to keep the temperature up. Contrary to what you may read, it is not necessary to keep some magical temperature number for the duration of your smoking. That would be ideal, but mine will always range between 225-300 deg F as I add coals and I never worry about that.
Keep checking the internal temperature at the thickest part of the breast until you get 165 deg F.
Slice thin and enjoy!