We are just a day away from Thanksgiving 2021 and I am so looking forward to enjoying time with our families. We have two gatherings planned; one of which we are hosting, so it’s going to be a fun and very busy weekend!
Thanksgiving in the US revolves around everyone gathered at the table with a bountiful meal served up. We Americans love to eat and generally it’s done in excess.
While my own Pilgrim ancestors that survived that first year to celebrate in 1621 didn’t write about the details of the feast, others recorded that part of the meal consisted of wild fowl. Could this be the reason we have turkey today as the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving dinners?
This year I am brining our turkey before roasting. Brining helps the turkey absorb extra moisture which will help prevent the bird from drying out while roasting. The salt in your brine soaks deep into the meat adding layers of flavor. It also breaks down some of the tough membranes’ turkey is known for having, giving you a tender bird to serve up. The best part of using a brine is it is so easy! And who doesn’t like easy for the holidays?!
To brine the turkey I combine sea salt, brown sugar, juniper berries, star anise, lemon peel, orange peel, dried apple bits and other fresh herbs (I’ll post a link to print the full brine recipe below) with 2 1/2 gallons of water in a large non-reactive pan. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally, until the salt and sugar has dissolved. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate so that it is chilled. After the brining solution is chilled add your turkey, cover and refrigerate to soak for 24 hours.
After your bird has soaked in the brine, rinse and prepare to roast using any of your favorite roasting recipes.
I roasted our bird by stuffing it with chopped apples, oranges and fresh rosemary and thyme from the garden, and placing it on a bed of the same ingredients. Since I was really looking for an orange flavor, a few well-placed orange slices between the skin and breast worked magnificently. Tent your turkey with foil and pop into the oven at 350 until the temperature reaches 160 degrees.
I made a baste for our bird using 1 cup of turkey broth, 1 cup Riesling, and a stick of butter. By brining the turkey, I didn’t have to baste near as often.
After removing the turkey from the oven, I let it rest about 30 minutes. Using my baster, I removed the juices from the pan to make up a flavorful gravy. You really need about 5-6 cups, so if you don’t have that much from the turkey, add canned broth. It’s perfectly fine to do this as you’ll still have plenty of that fresh roasted flavor. To keep as much fat as possible from my gravy I love using my OXO fat separator. If you don’t have one, head off to Target right now (thank me for the excuse to shop later) and get you one! This is probably my most used kitchen accessory.
Everyone makes gravy differently, but I’ve found the easiest way is to divide your turkey broth/juices and while most of it simmers on the stove top, save a 1/2 cup of the juices to whisk with 1/4 cup of flour until smooth, then add to your simmering broth; whisk well. Stir in some salt and pepper to taste, maybe some fresh parsley. Cook until you it thickens, about a minute or so.
Plate your roasted turkey and enjoy all the oohs and ahhs you’ll get over your moist, tender and yummy turkey! If you would like a detailed recipe, check out my Autumn Spice Turkey Brine.