Well you already heard the story of acquiring the turkey this year. Let’s follow the turkey through the rest of it’s journey from the store to our bellies. We decided to put the turkey in a brine overnight to develop some great flavor. So as soon as we had the turkey in hand, we set it up in a cooler and prepared the brine. In the morning, I rinsed it off, patted it dry, put it in the roasting pan and heaved it into the oven. It took a little longer than we had expected to finish cooking, but we had plenty of appetizers to keep us occupied. We let the turkey rest for about thirty minutes before carving.
Roasted Turkey in Brine
Adapted from this recipe in the San Francisco Chronicle
Brine time: 12-24 hours
Active time: 40 minutes
Cook time: 2-2 3/4 hours
1 turkey, about 12 pounds (ours was about 24 pounds!)
For the Brine:
(We doubled this brine recipe for our big ass turkey)
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups kosher salt
2 1/2 gallons cold water
2 bay leaves, torn into pieces
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 head of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
5 whole allspice berries, crushed
4 juniper berries, smashed (We omitted these)
2 tablespoons softened butter + butter for basting
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chicken stock plus more as needed
Remove giblet bag from turkey, along with any extra internal fat and pin feathers. Rinse well under cold tap water. Combine sugar, salt and 3-4 quarts of water in a large bowl. Stir until sugar and salt dissolve. Add remaining brine ingredients except for the remaining 1 1/2-1 3/4 gallons water. Double-bag two heavy-duty, unscented trash bags (not made of recycled materials), then put them in an ice chest that is large enough to hold the turkey. Place turkey in bags, pour in brine and remaining 1 1/2-1 3/4 gallons water — there should be enough liquid to completely cover the bird. Press out air in bags; tightly close each bag separately. Keep turkey cold by piling bags of ice over and around the closed bags which will also help keep the turkey submerged. Brine for 12-24 hours.
Preheat oven to 400°. Remove turkey from brine, rinse and dry well. Spread 2 tablespoons softened butter over skin. Sprinkle pepper over skin (NO MORE SALT!) and in cavity. Tuck wing tips under, loosely truss legs and place turkey on a V-shaped rack in a roasting pan. Tent breast with foil (We did not tent the foil in the beginning. We waited until it was brown to tent it).
Put turkey in oven. To assure that the bird cooks evenly, rotate roasting pan 180° every 30 minutes while turkey is roasting. Roast for about 1 hour, remove foil and baste turkey with 1/2 cup stock. Return to oven and roast, basting with pan drippings every 20 minutes, using more stock as needed. Start checking internal temperature after about 1 hour of roasting time. If legs begin to get too brown, cover loosely with foil. Roast turkey until internal thigh temperature reaches 165°. Total roasting time should be about 2-2 3/4 hours. (Ours was done in four hours)Let bird rest for at least 20-30 minutes before carving.
Note: If a brine seems like a daunting task or just a pain in the ass, the article from the San Francisco Chronicle (link above) also has instructions for roasting a turkey without the brine.