Cider Brined Turkey with rich kettle gravy

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With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, I figured it was time to share my recipe for a perfectly roasted, juicy turkey.  Since we will be spending it at my mother in law’s house and I will be released from turkey duty, my family was overjoyed that we’d be having a turkey dinner early.  Along with the turkey we had an amazing sage sausage stuffing with dried cranberries, celery root and potato mash, and cranberry/bing cherry sauce; all of which will be posted soon.

Turkey can be rather dull unless you add flavor in some way.  Some heavily season and deep fry it(I’ve also cooked one this way for Christmas dinner), some are purists who believe very little needs to be done while others, such as myself prefer to inject flavor by brining the bird overnight.  Brining allows the bird to absorb all the flavors of the liquid and also ensures moist breast meat.  This recipe also makes the best gravy ever, according to my son.  Enjoy!

In a large pot I combined 2 quarts apple cider, 2 quarts water, 1 cup kosher salt, 1 cup low sodium soy sauce, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns, 1 teaspoon whole allspice berries, 1 cinnamon stick, 4 thick slices of fresh ginger, 1/2 sliced onion, 4 garlic cloves smashed and 4 dried japone chiles slit with a knife (you can sub chile de arbol).  I brought the whole thing to a boil to dissolve the salt and sugar then removed it from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.  When it had cooled, I poured it into a 5 gallon bucket and added 1 gallon of heavily iced water to it.

I removed the neck and giblets from the turkey then rinsed it inside and out.  I placed the bird neck first with the breast facing down into the brine making sure it was completely submerged.  This allows the cavity to fill with the brine and keeps it submerged without having to weight it down.  I put the lid on and placed it in the coolest spot I could find.  Since it was 8:00 pm, that was outside on my concrete patio.  I left it in the brine for 16 hours checking the next morning and adding ice as needed.

After 16 hours I removed the turkey and rinsed it inside and out, patted it down with paper towels and let it sit on a rack in a roasting pan for at least 1 hour before roasting it.  I patted it down with paper towels again, then seasoned inside and out with a little kosher salt.  I placed a handful of fresh sage, 1 unpeeled head of garlic cut crosswise in half, 1 granny smith apple sliced, 1/2 onion sliced and 1 jalapeno seeded/chopped into the cavity and tied the legs together with twine.  I brushed the breast and legs with melted butter then flipped the bird over breast side down.  I added 1 cup water, 1/2 cup chicken stock and 1/2 cup tawny port to the roasting pan then placed it in a 375 degree oven for 1 hour basting twice.

After 1 hour I removed the turkey from the oven (look at the color).

I brushed the bird with butter then using paper towels, flipped the bird breast side up and brushed it with butter again.  I placed it back in the oven again for about 1 1/2 hours longer, basting periodically, until my probe thermometer read 165 degrees at the thickest part of the thigh.  I covered the breast and the legs loosely with foil the last 20 minutes to prevent the skin from getting too dark.  I removed rack with the turkey to another pan and tented with foil letting it rest 20 minutes while I finished the gravy.

I poured off the fat from the roasting pan the turkey cooked in and added 2 cups of water, 1 cup of chicken stock and 1/2 cup of tawny port to the pan.  I placed it over medium high heat scraping the bottom of the pan to release any drippings stuck.  I let it boil for about 10 minutes.

I whisked 3 tablespoons Wondra flour with 1/2 cup cold water then whisked this into the gravy stirring constantly while it boiled until nicely thickened about 5 minutes longer.

I’m such a dork. I forgot to get a shot of the finished turkey until I had started carving it.

Here’s a picture of a breast after I removed it from the bird to slice.  Enjoy!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Cider Brined Turkey with rich kettle gravy
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This succulent turkey will be a hit at your Holiday table. The brine not only adds incredible flavor and moistness to the turkey but also leaves fantastic drippings for a rich gravy.
  • 1 12-14 pound turkey with neck and giblets removed
  • 2 quarts apple cider
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 thick slices fresh ginger
  • ½ onion sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves smashed
  • 4 japones chiles or chile de arbol slit with a knife
  • 1 gallon heavily iced water
For the turkey
  • kosher salt for seasoning
  • 1 handful fresh sage
  • 1 head unpeeled garlic cut in half crosswise
  • 1 granny smith apple sliced
  • 1 jalapeno seeded and chopped
  • melted butter
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • ½ cup port wine
Kettle gravy
  • Turkey drippings with fat poured off
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup chicken or turkey stock
  • ½ cup port wine
  • 3 tablespoons Wondra flour mixed with ½ cup cold water
  1. Combine the first 12 brine ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Add the gallon of iced water and the cooled brine to a five gallon bucket. Rinse the turkey inside and out and place it into the brine neck first with the breast facing down so the cavity will fill up making sure it stays completely submerged. Cover and place in a cold place for 16-24 hours adding ice as necessary.
  2. Remove the turkey from the brine (discard the brine) and rinse it inside out out with cold water. Place it on a rack set in a roasting pan and pat dry with paper towels letting it sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour. Pat it dry with towels again then season inside and out with a little kosher salt. Place the sage, head of garlic, apple and jalapeno in the cavity and tie the legs together with twine. Tuck the wings under and brush melted butter over the bird. Flip the turkey breast side down on the rack and brush again with butter. Add 1 cup water, ½ cup chicken stock and ½ cup port wine to the roasting pan.
  3. Cook the turkey breast side down at 375 degrees for 1 hour basting a few times. Remove from the oven and using paper towels, flip the bird over breast side up. Cook it for another 1 - 1½ hours depending on the size of your bird until a probe thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165 degrees. Remove the rack with the turkey to another pan and tent with foil letting it rest at least 20 minutes before carving.
  4. Separate the fat from the pan drippings. Place the pan over medium high heat and add 2 cups water, 1 cup stock and ½ cup port wine. Stir to release the drippings from the pan and cook for about 10 minutes. Whisk in the Wondra flour mixed with ½ cup cold water and let it boil for about 5 minutes until thickened stirring constantly.






Cider Brined Turkey with rich kettle gravy — 3 Comments

  1. I highly recommend this recipe! Soo tasty and so moist. While brining is a bit of extra effort, it is well worth it! The cider brine is what drew me to this recipe for a Thanksgiving Turkey. While I love to cook, I had never had personal responsibility for a Thanksgiving Turkey! This was well received by all! The leftovers were even better!! Thanks, Ken! If I have to do it again, this is my “go to” recipe. I would think this brine would work well with pork or chicken as well.

  2. Looks Fabulous Ken! Made Mickdee look like an old Pro! I usually buy the bird already brined but would like to try your brine on pork or chicken too. Or buy cooler and stuff it with ice bags. Hope your day was great. Thanks Ken!

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