Cider-Brined Roast Turkey

by Jenn on December 4, 2010

in Gluten Free,Meats


I offered to make one of the turkeys this Thanksgiving.  Well, one of the whole breasts of turkey – given that most of us were traveling to the sunny Floridian coast for the holiday, it was really key to not have a lot of leftovers, so for 16 of us we only had 2 whole breasts of turkey.  One cooked via deep frying (I think this is quickly becoming a family tradition – we’ve had one prepared this way ever since I have celebrated thanksgiving with my in-laws) and one to be cooked by yours truly.  To make sure it was totally different, I decided to do a brined roast with one of my favorite Autumn flavors – apples.

My parents recently discovered brining, and after being introduced to the concept of brining poultry, I instantly became a fan. For this one, I just played.  No stress, just throw stuff together that sounds good and see what comes out.  I can do this on a big holiday dinner because my in-laws are the most chill people I’ve ever met :)

Besides who could be stressed out renting a gorgeous house right on the water overlooking the ocean?


I like brining poultry because it keeps the meat so tender and moist.  When I was very young and my sister was just a little baby, I remember some rather unsavoury holiday dinners with over-cooked dried-out meat and it was torturous.  For the longest time I just thought I couldn’t stand turkey.  I went so far as to even avoid it in lunches or anything else during the year, because I was so convinced turkey was just awful.  Turkey salad or sandwich? eww no thank you, I’d rather go hungry (yes, I was an odd kid, between that and not liking mayonnaise, ketchup, or chocolate milk!).  Well, it turns out that it’s only badly roasted over-done dried-out turkey that is awful.  Once we started having Thanksgiving elsewhere and my parents were now in charge of roasting, I realized that turkey is in fact, quite delicious.  And then we all discovered brining, and were in love :)

If you’re not a huge turkey fan, look back into your memories – if you have similar ones as I about early childhood Thanksgivings, I highly suggest that you give turkey another shot, and try brining to give you an intensely moist and flavorful turkey that will instantly wipe away all those terrible dried-out turkeys that you had to endure!  Brining also works for a whole host of other meats besides poultry.  I just happen to really enjoy it as a method of cooking poultry roasts.

If brining is a new concept to you, I’ve compiled a few links that may be helpful:

How to Control Saltiness After Brining (Pioneer Woman)
My Favorite Turkey Brine (Pioneer Woman)
How to Brine a Chicken (Michael Ruhlman)
Brining Poultry (What’s Cooking America)
How to Brine a Turkey (Savory Sweet Life)

This post linked to – Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays


Note –  You may have to adjust accordingly depending on the size of your bird.
I like to use all apple cider/juice and then not add in any extra sugar.  It brings in more apple flavor this way I think.

Some sort of poultry you plan to roast, thawed and rinsed. Mine was a 6lb. whole turkey breast.  Make sure if it was frozen that it was not pre-injected with salt.
For the brine:

1 gallon apple cider or juice
1 cup salt
2 sticks cinnamon
2 star anise
3 cloves garlic
a couple sprigs rosemary and thyme
a tablespoon or so of peppercorns
For the glaze:
1 cup apple cider
1 stick cinnamon
1 star anise
1 tbs. peppercorns
1 stick butter, cubed
For the “stuffing”:
3 firm red apples, chopped
3 medium red onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced
few more sprigs of rosemary and thyme

1. The day before – Add the brining ingredients to a large pot, and bring to a boil, stirring until all the salt has dissolved.  Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature, then bring it into the fridge to chill for a good 2 hrs.  As I stated in the note above, you will want to adjust the volume /amounts accordingly depending on the size of your bird.  In the end you want to be able to completely cover the bird.
2. When chilled, add your poultry roast.  Because I had such a small roast, I could fit it right in my pot and keep the pot tightly in the fridge.  Otherwise you may need to find a larger vessel or brining bag to hold your bird.  Let sit in the brine completely covered, as much air removed as possible in the fridge for 6-8 hrs (though you will need to adjust this time depending on the size of your bird).  A large whole turkey make need closer to 24 hrs.
3. Once your turkey is brined, toss the brining liquid and rinse your turkey well with cold water.  Then fill your vessel with water, and return the turkey to soak in water about 2 more hours.  This is to make sure it’s not too salty.
4. Meanwhile, prepare the glaze.  Heat apple cider, cinnamon, anise and peppercorns in a medium pot until simmering.  Then let simmer uncovered until reduced to about 25% volume.  Once reduced, remove from heat and whisk in the butter.
4. Preheat your oven to 350F.  When the turkey is done soaking in water, remove it, rinse again (toss out the soaking liquid), and prepare for roasting.  Stuff the cavity with the chopped onions and apples and garlic and sprigs of herbs, even getting some under the skin if you can.  As it cooks they will leach out beautiful yummy juices to flavor the turkey.  Place the turkey in a roasting pan and pour the glaze over top.
5. Roast the turkey in a pan in the oven until internal temperature of the meat reaches 165F.  While roasting, every 7-10 minutes baste the turkey with the glaze/juices in the bottom of the pan to keep it moist.  The key to a good roast is good babysitting!  When it has come to temperature (meaning that it is fully cooked), remove the turkey out of the oven and let rest about 15 minutes before carving.  Serve and enjoy!



Rosa December 4, 2010 at 4:26 pm

That looks mighty scrumptious! The seagul shot is just stunning.



Jenn December 4, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Thank you! I love watching the seagulls fly over the water :)

Lisa December 4, 2010 at 4:50 pm

That seagull photo is gorgeous! It’s so crisp and clear. It feels like you’re there just looking at it. Lovely!

Jenn December 4, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Thanks Lisa!!

Joy December 4, 2010 at 6:26 pm

This such an incredible way of preparing a turkey! I the flavour infusion sounds great!

Jenn December 4, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Thanks so much!

fooddreamer December 4, 2010 at 8:51 pm

We didn’t brine our turkey this year but we’re big fans of brining chicken and pork before cooking. It really makes a difference! Your turkey breast looks delicious.

Jenn December 4, 2010 at 9:05 pm

Thank you – yes I also love brining pork – I think I will do that this week!

Tiffany Bateman December 4, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Looks absolutely delicious! I might have to try this for Christmas :)

Jenn December 5, 2010 at 12:07 am

Thanks! I think brining a roast would be a great way to make a Christmas meal – and you can really flavor it any way you want too!

InTolerantChef December 4, 2010 at 11:53 pm

I really love the idea of using apple in the brine. I think I might use that with a pork roast too. I’m glad you rediscovered turkey. Isn’t it amazing how cooking methods can change the character of the meat?

Jenn December 5, 2010 at 12:09 am

ha a food can be like night and day depending on how it’s prepared… I think apples would marry really well with a pork roast! I’ve baked pork tenderloin in the oven with apples and figs together and loved that combo, so I bet an apple brine would work nicely.

Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite December 7, 2010 at 12:48 pm

We brined our turkey this past Thanksgiving (in October) for the first time and will never ever NOT brine again. WOW. I love your brine recipe and just printed it out and filed it for next year. Cider, huh. Yum.

Jenn December 7, 2010 at 5:25 pm

The cider worked really well! Yeah, brining is totally the way to go when it comes to turkey!

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