When I was in the seventh grade, I met my first science teacher. I'm sure there were attempts at science prior to the seventh grade, but I sure as heck can't remember them. She was a young nun, probably about 26 - 30 years old and her first lesson challenged us to think of an occupation that didn't involve science. Of course, no one in the class was able to think of such an occupation...it wasn't for lack of trying, however. The class, being the wonderful young group of over-acheiving Catholics that we were, offered occupation after occupation that we felt had nothing to do with science. Sr. Mary thwarted offering after offering by discussing the many different ways that science influenced the jobs we mentioned.
Clearly, that day affected me. Mostly obviously since it happened 28 years ago, and I still remember the conversation and her very satisfied look as she contradicted each and every prepubescent in the room. After Sr. Mary's class, I continued my interest in science and am now a science teacher myself. One of my favorite things to do in the classroom is relate the concepts I'm teaching to everyday things, much in the same way Sr. Mary did in my seventh grade science class so long ago. I'll most likely use this blog in the same way from time to time...like now:
Today's everyday science subject? Brining the Thanksgiving turkey. Brining works because of the principals of osmosis and diffusion. What actually is diffusing or osmosizing is up to a fair bit of debate. It depends on where you look for your info. I defer to the masters of cooking science who - interestingly enough - agree on what is diffusing when for my explanation. Here's how it's explained by Cook's Illustrated and Alton Brown. It's a fairly simple process. A turkey is placed in a very salty solution. The cells of the meat have more water than the water surrounding the meat. Therefore, the water leaves the cells of the meat and enter the solution surrounding the meat. After all the water has left the meat, there is a higher concentration of water surrounding the meat. The now flavored water enters the cells and the turkey is ready to cook. The entire process takes about 12 hours to complete and you need to flip the turkey once about halfway through the process.
The brine basically needs to consist of water and salt. I add brown sugar and some spices to the mix as well. The flavors of the brine stay in the skin and permeate the flavor of the gravy you can make from the drippings of the cooking turkey. At this point, my turkey is in the brine and tomorrow, I'll do the rest of the cooking. Pies are made and I successfully did took the pumpkin pie out of the oven with enough residual heat left to finish the cooking and not cause the pie to crack. The house is clean and everything's good to go at my place for tomorrow...hope you're all finding yourself in the same position...