Kefir-Brined Chicken

I was looking for another way to cook a soup hen. We usually stew them, to end up with a very richly-flavoured soup. As many people know, they make the best chicken soup, no question about it. They require a longer cooking time than the chicken that most people are used to, because they are older birds and therefore the meat is less tender (unless slowly simmered). I came across this method of brining chicken in buttermilk (or kefir). The idea is that it tenderizes the chicken, so I decided to try it with a soup hen. It worked very well! I brined it overnight, then roasted it for a couple hours, and it turned out to be more tender than expected. It was not quite as tender as a young "meat chicken", but we liked it better this way anyways, since the meat had more texture.

I sprinkled paprika and sea salt over the chicken before I roasted it, and loved the resulting sweet and crispy skin. This method would also work for cooking chicken pieces, a whole "meat chicken", and I also know someone who swears by this method for cooking rabbit.

kefir brined chicken

METHOD:

  1. Soak a soup hen (3 - 4 pounds) in buttermilk or kefir overnight or for up to 36 hours. I used a large ziploc bag because it keeps the chicken well-coated while requiring less kefir. Alternately, soak the soup hen in a large bowl or saucepan, turning it every once in a while to keep it coated with kefir.
  2. Set the soup hen into a roasting pan, and pour the remaining brine over it.
  3. Sprinkle with generous portions of paprika and sea salt. If desired, add a pinch of a dried green herb, such as sage, thyme or rosemary.
  4. Add about 1/2 - 1 inch of water to the pan. If using a stone pan, it works well to roast it uncovered. If using a metal pan, cover it with a lid to roast the chicken, and uncover it for the last half hour or so of cooking time (to brown and crisp the skin, if needed).
  5. Roast at 325 for 2.5 hours (or, another half hour for a larger soup hen).
  6. During the last half hour, add your choice of vegetables around the bird. In the photo, I had used thick slices of potato and sweet potato, and then added frozen peas to the mixture for the last 2 minutes in the oven.
  7. Remove from the oven, and let it sit (preferably covered) for a few minutes before carving it.

The water in the bottom of the pan has turned into a rich broth - use every drop! If it's too much for the current meal, save it to add to the next day's cooked veggies or meat dish.