Moist and delicious turkey infused with the flavors of fall… parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. 🙂 And don’t forget the apple! My Herb and Apple Brined Turkey requires an overnight soak in an aromatic brine, but the juicy results will convince you the extra step is worth the trouble!
Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme
Remember me to one who lives there
She once was a true love of mine
~~ Scarborough Fair/Canticle, Simon and Garfunkel
Ever wonder about the significance of these 4 herbs in the timeless song Scarborough Fair? The lyrics tell the story of a man trying to attain his true love. In Medieval times, the herbs mentioned in the song represented virtues that were important to the lyrics. Parsley was comfort, sage was strength, rosemary was love, and thyme was courage. I often think of the song when cooking with this lovely combination of herbs. They speak of fall – my favorite time of year.
Each year when planning a holiday menu, I build it around a theme – loosely. I like to have the majority of the dishes harmonize with one another; in other words, the flavors complement rather than match one another. My “theme” this year is apples and herbs. Thus far, my Thanksgiving menu includes this Herb and Apple Brined Turkey, and Roasted Delicata Squash With Crispy Sage Browned Butter and Apple Bourbon Sauce (next post). I have a few food blogger friends that will help me complete the menu. My menu should be published and available Monday of Thanksgiving week, so keep an eye out for it!
If you have not brined a turkey, you really ought to try it… unless of course you prefer dry turkey. 😉 I have heard skeptical souls remark that they prefer their turkey not “pickled.” Haha. There really is sound science behind this method. I won’t bore you with the science, but brining the turkey does result in a more moist and flavorful bird. For more on the science behind the method, see The Quick and Dirty Guide to Brining Chicken and Turkey.
Given my household of 2, we opted for a small 12 pound turkey. My husband Mark has the official role of briner at our house after years of smoking meats. The recipe we chose for the brine is Food and Wine Magazine’s Apple Brined Turkey. I have roasted a lot of turkeys with many flavor combinations and cooking methods, and this is one of our favorites. The breast meat was very moist – not spongy or watery – and full of flavor.
The turkey soaked in the brine about 12 hours. I try to not exceed 12 hours, but up to 18 is probably fine. To ensure a crisp skin, it must be completely dry! Pat the turkey dry, and place it on a rack over a baking sheet in your refrigerator. Let the turkey dry uncovered at least overnight.
I then filled the cavity of the bird with quartered apples and onions, and sprigs of fresh herbs. I rubbed the herb butter both beneath and on top of the skin. I place the turkey on a V-shaped rack atop a shallow sheet pan rather than a deep roaster. This allows more air to circulate around the bird, and results in more crispy skin. You want more crispy skin right?
If you have a tried and true method of cooking a turkey, feel free to use it. I start with a very hot oven – 500 degrees (475 convection roast) – and cook the turkey about 20 minutes. I then lower the heat to 325 degrees, and cook until the breast reaches 160 degrees internal temperature. It is important to tuck the wings under the breast, and cover them if they’re getting too brown. When the internal temperature of the breast is at 160 degrees, I remove the turkey from the oven, and completely tent it with foil and a towel. Do not be tempted to snitch for at least 30 minutes! Do you want a juicy turkey or not? The resting time keeps the juices inside the bird where you want them…
If you’re at all like me, pairing wine (or other adult beverages) with Thanksgiving dinner is challenging. We enjoy a dry gewurtztraminer or rosé, as the acidity plays well with the richness of the food. Pinot noir or sangiovese are good choices if you prefer a red wine. My choice in craft beers would be a Belgian dubbel or a Scotch ale. Lastly, you might consider a Thanksgiving cocktail with wonderful fall flavors… I’m working on a martini with pear and apple infused gin, fresh sage, and unfiltered apple cider. I hope to have the recipe live November 21!
In all the busy-ness of the season, take time to enjoy your loved ones, good conversation, and certainly good food!
Herb and Apple Brined Turkey
- 3 cups apple juice
- 1 green apple quartered
- 1/2 navel orange
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
- 4 tarragon sprigs
- 1 medium bunch of thyme
- 2 garlic cloves crushed
- 2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
- 8 sage leaves
- 1 tablespoon whole allspice berries
- 2 whole cloves
- 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
- 2 cups light brown sugar
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1 turkey
- 4 sticks unsalted butter 1 pound, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons chopped thyme
- 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
- 2 tablespoons chopped sage
Prior To Roasting
- sea salt
- fresh ground pepper
- 1 onion quartered
- 1 large apple cut in wedges
- 1 pear cut in wedges
- sprigs of rosemary and sage
Brine the Turkey
- In a pot, combine all of the ingredients except the turkey and add 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and add 12 cups of cold water. Let stand until cool. Add the turkey and refrigerate for 12 hours. Weight the turkey if not submerged.
- Set a V-shaped rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Remove the turkey from the brine and transfer it to the prepared rack; pat the turkey dry with paper towels and refrigerate it uncovered for 12 hours. You need to start roasting with a dry turkey!
- Mix the ingredients for the herb butter in a medium bowl - thoroughly.
- Gently separate the turkey skin from the breast meat. Rub half of the herb butter over the breast meat under the skin. Spread the remaining herb butter all over the skin of the breast and legs; season with salt and pepper. Set the turkey in a V-shaped roasting pan set in a rimmed baking sheet, and tuck the wings under it. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 500 degrees (475 convection roast).
- Cook turkey 20 minutes, then lower heat to 325 degrees.
- cook until the breast reaches 160 degrees internal temperature. It is important to tuck the wings under the breast, and cover them if they're getting too brown. When the internal temperature of the breast is at 160 degrees.
- Remove the turkey from the oven, and completely tent it with foil and a towel. Rest 30 minutes.
- Carve, and serve. Reserve pan drippings if desired.
Do use an instant read thermometer! Cooking time is not important, internal temperature is. You don't want a dried out bird!
Stuff the cavity if you must. I prefer to add aromatics to the cavity.