A bonus mid-week post in honor of Thanksgiving’s being exactly two weeks away – when did that happen?! Not like I am unprepared or anything. The combination of my type-A planner personality and my favorite holiday means that I’ve already had my Thanksgiving menu planned out for a few weeks now. I have high hopes for a stress-free cooking experience, though the more likely scenario will find me scrambling at the last minute to whip up a passable gravy. Let’s hope at least that there won’t be a repetition of last year when I slid out the oven rack to baste the turkey, and the roasting pan went flying out of the oven across the kitchen floor, turkey and all. I don’t think my heart can take the scare, not to mention mom’s disapproving looks. What are the holidays without a little drama, right? Don’t worry, the turkey was fine, and darned tasty at that. Maybe because of the cider brine and apple-herb butter? Or maybe because of the adorable pop-up turkey timer – thanks Hilary!
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Cider-Brined Turkey (adapted from Food & Wine)
What You’ll Need:
For the brine:
- One 15-pound turkey, neck and giblets removed
- 3 cups apple cider
- 1 c kosher salt
- 1 c dark brown sugar
- 2 T whole black peppercorns
- 6 bay leaves
- 16 c cold water
- 2 onions, peeled and quartered
- 2 green (Granny Smith apples), quartered
For the apple-herb butter:
- 3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 c apple butter
- 2 T chopped thyme
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
Putting It All Together:
In a pot, combine the cider, salt, sugar, peppercorns, bay leaves, and 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Remove the pot from the heat and let stand until cool. Combine the contents of the pot in a large brining bag (you can find one-time use brining bags in any grocery store this time of year) with the 12 remaining cups of cold water, the apples, and onions. Add the turkey, seal the bag, and refrigerate for 12 to 18 hours. (Hint: I’ve found that if you put the bag in the roasting pan, it will hold its shape much better and be that much easier to transport to and fit in the fridge, especially if you’re undertaking the task alone. All that water and cider plus 15 pounds of turkey is heavy stuff!)
Set a rack over the roasting pan. Remove turkey from brine and transfer it to the prepared rack, breast side up. Pat turkey dry with paper towels, inside and out. Sprinkle the main cavity with salt and pepper; fill with several of the apple and onion quarters from the brine (and several sprigs of thyme). Scatter the rest of the apple and onion quarters in the roasting pan. Add 2 cups of water to the pan.
In a small bowl, blend the butter with the chopped thyme and apple butter.
Gently separate the turkey skin from the breast meat. Rub 1/3 of the apple-herb butter over the breast meat under the skin. Spread 1/3 of the apple-herb butter all over skin of the turkey, season with salt and pepper. Tuck the wings under and tie the legs together with twine.
Set oven rack at lowest position; pre-heat to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Roast the turkey for 30 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, baste the turkey with the remaining apple-herb butter, and tent the turkey with foil. Continue basting the turkey every 45 minutes (and rotating the pan each time to ensure even cooking) until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Add water to the roasting pan as needed.
Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes.
Carve and serve!