Days before Thanksgiving I prepare Apple Cider Turkey Brine, and the scent of it while it's simmering on the stove creates a wonderful potpourri of scent that fills our home - a blend of apple cider, brown sugar, fresh sage, thyme, bay leaves and juniper berries, with a handful of fresh cranberries and ribbons of fresh orange peel - it is so colorful, so flavorful - the scent of Thanksgiving!
Looking back, I can't remember a time when I didn't brine my turkeys. All I know is that after the first time I brined our Thanksgiving turkey, it was such a game changer that I've never looked back. Over the year's I've perfected the recipe that I use, and this Apple Cider Turkey Brine is the combination that never fails me - the moistest, most flavorful roasted turkey every time!
This recipe works equally well with both fresh and frozen turkeys, but I've discovered that fresh turkeys tend to be more juicy and tender. If you can't get your hands on a fresh turkey, no worries - Apple Cider Turkey Brine will take your frozen turkeys to the next level as well - just be sure to get a natural frozen turkey that hasn't been injected with additives, and make sure to safely thaw it according to the package directions.
You can make Apple Cider Turkey Brine a day before you'll need it - you'll want it to chill before you start the brining process.
I recommend using a Turkey Brining Bag - they are HUGE and have a large opening that will allow you to get a large turkey into the bag and zipper-sealed easily. I've brined up to a 26 pound turkey, but the sweet spot for us is usually a bird around 18 to 20 pounds. Find a large, clean container that will hold your turkey - a large deep plastic tub or cooler work well - and Home Depot buckets are perfect for the job as well. You'll just want something that will hold your bird and allow the brine to completely cover the bird, and allow you to easily rotate it every 4 to 6 hours.
Chill for 16 to 24 hours - experience shows the longer, the better! When you're ready to roast your turkey, remove the turkey from the brine, rinse in fresh, cold water for 15 minutes to remove excess salt. Drain and pat dry, and you're ready to roast your turkey. It's the nicest thing you can do for your turkey and your taste buds!
So simple and easy, and with guaranteed results - the moistest, most flavorful and perfect roast turkey every.single.time. Even the sliced turkey breast leftovers remain moist and flavorful until the last bite is enjoyed!
1 gallon apple cider
4 sprigs fresh rosemary (stems removed)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, crushed
1 tablespoon fresh sage, crushed
5 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 cups kosher salt
2 cups light brown sugar (packed)
3 tablespoons peppercorns
5 whole bay leaves
½ cup craisins or fresh cranberries
1 tablespoon juniper berries
Peel from 3 large oranges (remove from oranges in large strips)
1 gallon cold water
HOW I MAKE THIS:
1. If you are using a frozen turkey, defrost according to directions. For fresh turkey, no need to defrost!
2. In a large stock pot, combine all ingredients EXCEPT WATER and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until the salt and sugar dissolve. Turn off heat and cover.
3. Allow to cool completely, then chill for at least 2 hours.
4. Remove turkey from packaging and remove turkey neck and interior bag of tail and giblets (throw them away, or chill in refrigerator if you plan on using them to make giblet gravy). Rinse turkey in cold water.
5. Place uncooked turkey in brining bag or very large stock pot; pour brine over turkey, then add up to a gallon of water so that brine fills the cavity of the turkey and completely covers the turkey. Squeeze excess air out of brining bag and seal, or cover pot with a tight lid. Chill for 16 to 24 hours (the longer the better), turning the turkey every four hours or so.
6. When ready to roast turkey, remove turkey from brine. Submerge turkey in a pot or sink of fresh, cold water. Allow to sit in clean water for 15 minutes to remove excess salt. Discard brine.
7. Remove turkey from clean water and pat dry.
8. Cook according to your normal roasting or smoking method.
YIELD: enough brine for up to an 18 pound turkey
NOTE: Add 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon or allspice for a delicious twist.
Originally posted November 2018, revised and reposted November 2019.
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