Cider-brined turkey.

Cider-brined turkey. Credit: Doug Young


1 (20-pound) turkey

1 cup salt 2 tablespoons whole peppercorns

2 sprigs rosemary

6 to 8 sprigs thyme

Peel of 1 lemon

Peel of 3 clementines

½ cup brown sugar

3 (22-ounce) bottles hard cider (2 quarts)

1 to 2 cups each coarsely chopped onion, carrot and celery

6 tablespoons (¾ stick) butter, room temperature

½ teaspoon ground pepper

1 teaspoon ground coriander


1. To brine a turkey, you'll need an extra-large resealable plastic bag (both Reynolds and Ziploc make them) and a vessel that can accommodate the bagged bird -- a large stockpot or even one of the drawers from your refrigerator. Remove neck and giblets from turkey; cut off (and reserve) yellow tail fat.

2. In a saucepan, combine 1 quart (4 cups) water with the salt, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme, lemon and clementine peel and sugar. Bring to a simmer, stirring, until salt and sugar are completely dissolved. Add another quart of water to cool down contents of saucepan. Drape the plastic bag inside your chosen vessel and pour in the brining liquid, then add the hard cider and a gallon of cold water. Place turkey carefully into brine, then squeeze as much air as possible out of the plastic bag before sealing it. Refrigerate for 24 hours.

3. Position a rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Remove turkey from brine; drain and pat dry. Loosely fill neck and body cavities with half the chopped vegetables. Tuck the ends of the drumsticks under the flap of skin or the plastic or metal "hock lock." (If none exists, tie ends together with kitchen twine.) Place turkey on a roasting rack set in a roasting pan. Smear with melted butter and sprinkle with pepper and coriander. Place remaining chopped vegetables in pan along with ½ cup water.

4. To ensure that turkey breast doesn't burn, make a "breast shield" by taking a piece of foil larger than the breast and placing it flush on the breast. Fold edges of the foil so the shield exactly conforms to the breast while leaving legs and wings exposed.

5. Roast turkey, basting after 1 hour and every 45 minutes thereafter (including area under foil), until an instant-read thermometer inserted in meaty part of the thigh (not touching a bone) registers 175 degrees, about 5 hours. During the last hour of roasting, remove and discard the foil. If the pan drippings start to scorch, add more water.

6. Transfer turkey to a platter, reserving the pan drippings for gravy. Let the turkey stand, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes (and up to 1 hour) before carving.

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