There are lots of different ways to prepare a turkey, but our family chooses to cook our Thanksgiving bird in the same manner year after year. We love a brined turkey, because the meat stays moist, and the flavors of the herbs and spices in the mix really shine through in every bite.
Our pasture raised turkeys tend to take on brine especially well, because they have not been injected with a saline solution like those sold by some of the major brands (a practice referred to as “plumping”). They also have more well developed muscles from the months they have spent running around outdoors, so the meat retains its texture and doesn’t become mushy when brined.
To Make Brine:
- Slice one whole orange and one whole lemon into wheels. Peel and smash 6 cloves of garlic. Place orange, lemon, and garlic in a large pot.
- Add 1/2 gallon of water, 2 1/2 cups of kosher salt, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 4 sprigs of rosemary, 4 sprigs of sage, 4 dried bay leaves, and 1 tablespoon of whole black peppercorns to the pot. Stir to combine and bring to a boil.
- Once the brine is boiling, reduce heat and allow it to cook until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from heat and add another 1 1/2 gallons of water. Allow the brine to cool completely before pouring it over the turkey. If more brine is needed in order to completely submerge the turkey, stir together one part salt and eight parts water until the desired amount is reached and add this to the existing brine.
- Allow the turkey to soak in the brine overnight, being sure to keep it cool. (We usually put ours in a cooler outside, because the temperature in November is generally in the 30s or low 40s where we live.)
- Before roasting the turkey, rinse it thoroughly and pat it dry.
Don’t forget to baste the bird occasionally as it cooks! Try to avoid overcooking, although a brined bird can be a bit more forgiving if it’s overdone. For best results, we recommend using a food thermometer to bring the meat up to 165 degrees (measured in the thickest part of the breast).