Trust me here - you will never again complain, nor hear complaints, about dry breast meat if you take this easy first step in the preparation of your holiday bird. After nearly twenty years of cooking a Thanksgiving turkey, I am convinced that brining produces the most moist and flavorful turkey I have ever tasted. Brining requires nothing more than boiling water with salt, sugar, and spices; cooling the mixture; then soaking the turkey in the brine for 12 to 24 hours.
- 2/3 cup kosher salt
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 6 quarter-size slices fresh ginger
- 2 bayleaves
- 6 whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed (see Cook's Note)
- 2 teaspoons whole allspice berries, crushed (see Cook's Note)
- 8 cups unsweetened apple cider or juice
In a 3-to-4 quart saucepan, put the salt, sugar, ginger, bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns, and allspice. Add 8 cups of apple cider or juice and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Boil for 3 minutes,then remove from the heat. Add 4 cups of ice-cold water, stir, and set aside to cool.
Have ready a heavy roasting pan large enough to hold the turkey. Place a plastic oven bag inside a second one to create a double thickness (see Cook's Note); then place these bags, open wide, in the roasting pan. Remove the turkey from its wrapping. Remove the neck and bag of giblets from the main and neck cavities of the bird. Store separately in the refrigerator for making gravy. Stuff the main cavity of the turkey with the orange quarters at this point.
Fold back the top third of the bags, making a collar (this helps to keep the top of the bag open). Place the turkey inside the double-thick bags, stand it upright, unfold the top of the bag, and pour the Apple Cider Brine over the bird. Add an additional 2 cups of cold water. Draw up the top of the inner bag, squeezing out as much air as possible; then secure it closed with a twist tie. Do the same for the outer bag. Place the turkey, breast-side down, in the roasting pan and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours. Turn the turkey 3 or 4 times while it is brining.
Just prior to roasting, remove the turkey from the brine. Discard the bags, brine, and any cured herbs or spices remaining on the bird. Discard the oranges and ginger. Rinse the turkey under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. The turkey is now ready to be roasted.
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