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Sweet Tea Brined Cornish Game Hens Recipe

Jan 2017

Sinkology is proud to present Emily Schuermann, our food-loving guest blogger who runs Food for a Year. Emily is here to share some recipes she has created exclusively for the Sinkology blog that reflect her view of a copper sink: simple, timeless, affordable, and beautifully rustic.

Cornish game hen is a special meal in my home and is only served once a year. Every New Year’s Day, every dinner plate gets its own bird. We started this tradition when the kids were little and even the little one year old got a Cornish hen all to herself. I don’t think there has ever been a more pleased look on a tiny person’s face than when they are met with the realization that they have their very own roasted hen.

Even as the years have overflowed into a decade, this is still the most satisfying and enjoyable family meal of the year. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get away with leaving this tradition behind! Thankfully, Cornish game hens are easy to prepare & inexpensive — making it a simple tradition to continue.

Additionally, these birds can be very tasty if prepared properly. After many years of keeping this tradition, I have learned a few tricks that dependably result in a juicy flavorful oven-roasted Cornish hen with perfectly crisped  skin.

The key is brining. Brining usually involves soaking some type of fresh poultry in a solution of sugar & salt water. Various spices and herbs can be added depending on taste preferences. For this recipe, the brine consists of sweet tea, kosher salt, peppercorns and lemon slices. Stir to dissolve salt and sugar completely.

Once the brine has been prepared, it’s important to chill the liquid before combining it with the hens. ((Just a little food safety detail))

After the brine has chilled, simply pour it into a large zip top plastic bag and cover the Cornish hens. Just enough liquid to cover the hens is perfect. If needed to completely cover, add cold water for additional liquid.

Allow the birds to brine for 4 to 6 hours. Once brining time is complete, remove and pat the hens dry. Tressing the hens allows for more even roasting, so take an extra few minutes and tie the legs together and tie the wings securely underneath.

Place them in a baking rack lined roasting pan and coat with a mixture of butter, salt, pepper and cornstarch. You may be wondering, “why the cornstarch?”. Cornstarch is essential to creating extra crispy skin and it also helps quickly transform pan juices into a delicious skillet gravy!

Once the birds have been seasoned, make sure they are evenly spaced (not touching each other) on the baking rack and place them into a 400° oven for approximately 1 hour to 1.25 hours, depending on the size of the bird. Once the juices run clear, roasting time is complete.

Thanks to the sweet tea brine, these Cornish hens have a gorgeous warm brown color. The cornstarch and butter has formed a delicious crispy coating. We could stop right here and a delicious meal could be served to a slew of salivating guests, but those pan drippings are just begging to be put to good use!

So take an extra step and pour them into a skillet, add a splash (or four) of heavy cream mixed with a little dash of cornstarch and you’ll be well on your way to the best (and simplest) gravy you’ve ever tasted! And as quick as the gravy can be whipped up, dinner is served!

Thanks to the brining, the hen is juicy and flavorful – with just a hint of sweet tea in every bite! The subtle sweet tea flavors pair perfectly with the salty crisp skin and creamy pan gravy. With a meal like this, it’s no surprise that everyone is pleased to have their very own bird!

Sweet Tea Brined Cornish Game Hens
Serves 4
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Prep Time
6 hr
Cook Time
1 hr 15 min
Prep Time
6 hr
Cook Time
1 hr 15 min
  1. 4 Cornish game hens (fresh/thawed)
For Brine
  1. 4 quart-sized iced tea bags
  2. boiling water
  3. 1 c cane sugar
  4. ½ c kosher salt (scant)
  5. 4 T peppercorns
  6. 1 large lemon, sliced
  7. ice
For Roasting
  1. ½ c salted butter, softened
  2. ¼ c cornstarch
  3. 1 t kosher salt
  4. ½t pepper
Pan Gravy
  1. roasting juices
  2. ½ c water
  3. 1 c cream
  4. 2 t cornstarch
  1. Prepare brine 6 to 8 hours prior to service time by steeping tea bags in 10 cups very hot water. Stir in sugar, salt and peppercorns, continue stirring until dissolved. Add lemons to the hot tea water. Once tea steeped, creating a strong tea, add 4 to 6 c ice cubes to chill the brine quickly. Divide the sweet tea brining liquid in half by pouring equal portions into large gallon-sized zip top bags. Place two Cornish hens in each zip top bag and add additional water just to cover the birds. Press bags to remove air and seal bags closed.
  2. Refrigerate 4 to 7 hours allowing the birds to brine.
  3. Once brining is completed, preheat oven to 400°. Remove Cornish hens from brine and pat dry with a paper towel. Tress each hen by tying wings behind and legs together. Place a cooling rack inside a deep cake pan (approximate 11" x 17") and place hens, evenly spaced - not touching, on cooling rack. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch, salt and pepper. Sprinkle cornstarch mixture over birds. Evenly spread 2 T softened buttered over each bird, blending the butter into the cornstarch mixture.
  4. Place Cornish hens in preheated oven, roasting 1 to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until juices run clear.
  5. Once cooking time is complete and juices are running clear, remove from oven and allow the birds to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
  6. *To make a quick pan gravy* Add pan juices and drippings to a medium skillet and place over medium flame. Combine cream and cornstarch, stirring to remove any lumps. Add the cream/cornstarch mixture and salt and pepper to taste. Add ½ c hot water (more if necessary to reach desired thickness) to the roasting pan, scraping up extra bits up from the bottom of the roasting pan. Add remaining drippings to the skillet, stirring gravy until thickened (skim any fat off of the top and discard).
  7. Serve by pouring a few tablespoons of gravy over each Cornish hen.
  8. Serves 4
Adapted from Food for a Year blog

This recipe was written by Emily Schuermann, food blogger at Food for a Year. You may be wondering what a food blogger and a copper sink company have in common. Well, it all started with building a home and loving a sink. To meet the gorgeous farmhouse copper sink that started it all, check out this post.

For more recipes from our copper-loving foodie, check out our blog. If you have any questions about copper or copper sinks, our Sinkologists are here to help. Contact us or follow us on FacebookTwitterHouzzPinterest, or Instagram for helpful tips, recipes, and design ideas.