Cider Brined Turkey

Adapted from Linda Schiffer

2 quarts (8 cups) of fresh apple cider
1 cup brown sugar
¾ cup to 1 cup kosher salt
3 sprigs of thyme
1 20 to 22 pound turkey
1 apple, quartered
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus extra to grease the pan
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon paprika
2 large onions
2 celery sticks with leaves, roughly chopped
3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
A few sprigs of rosemary and sage
1 cup white wine or water

1. Put 4 cups of apple cider in a pot over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow the cider to simmer for about 25 minutes, until the cider is reduced to about 1½ cups. Filter the reduced cider in a fine sieve lined with a coffee filter. The resulting cider has a rich, fully concentrated apple flavor. Set aside for later.

2. Pour the remaining apple cider with 6 quarts (24 cups) of water, the brown sugar, the kosher salt, and 2 sprigs of the thyme in a pot large enough to hold the turkey and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Remove the resulting brine from the heat and cool. This is very important. Do not put the turkey in a hot or warm solution.

3. Clean the turkey, remove the gizzards, and set them aside. Submerge the turkey in the cold brine and put in the refrigerator. If your pot is not large enough to hold the turkey and the brine, you can use a large picnic cooler. In that case, fill a white or clear garbage bag with ice and place it in the bottom of the cooler, spreading the ice out. Put the turkey in the cooler and pour the brining solution around it. Continue to add fresh bags of ice to keep the mixture cool. Place a weight on the turkey if necessary to keep it submerged. Brine overnight or up to 24 hours.

4. Remove the turkey from the brine and dry it thoroughly with paper towels. Allow the turkey to air dry an hour or so before preparing for cooking.

5. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and grease a roasting pan.

6. Put the quartered apple in the cavity of the turkey and tie its legs together. Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in the roasting pan. Brush 2 tablespoons oil over the turkey and sprinkle the black pepper and paprika on the bird for color.

7. Cut the onions into eighths and scatter them with the celery, carrots, saved giblets, and fresh rosemary, sage and the remaining thyme around the turkey. Pour 1 cup of water over the vegetables.

8. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Then drop the temperature to 325 degrees, basting with the juices from the bird and vegetables about every hour, adding water if necessary. Make sure the turkey isn’t browning too quickly. If it seems to be, tent the turkey loosely with aluminum foil. You should figure 15 minutes per pound of turkey.

9. Remove the tent for the last half hour of cooking. Approximately 30 minutes before the turkey is done, baste it, every 10 minutes, with the reduced apple cider. You will know the turkey is done when a thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 160 degrees.

10. Remove the turkey from the oven and put on a serving platter. Baste again with the set aside reduced cider. Rest for at least 20 minutes and up to an hour.

11. Meanwhile, put the vegetables in a serving dish and put the pan on top of the stove and heat, stirring up the browned bits at the bottom, adding wine or water to deglaze as necessary. Stir until the mixture thickens. Pour gravy into a tall vessel that allows the fat to rise to the top and remove as much of the fat as you deem necessary.

Yield: 20 to 22 servings

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