Jo-Anne van den Berg-Ohms
John Scheepers * Bantam, CT

This is the best turkey that I've ever made.

Our Fragrant, Brined, Roasted Turkey
Brine
  • 4 cups apple cider
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup coarse kosher salt
  • 4 slices crystallized ginger
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons whole rainbow peppercorns
  • 3 oranges, peeled into large strips (avoid bitter white pith)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 teaspoons whole allspice
  • 6 whole cardamom pods, hulls discarded
  • 2 whole vanilla bean pods, split
  • 15 cups cold water

  • 14 to 16 pound fresh turkey

    Aromatics
  • 2 peeled halved shallots
  • 2 slices crystallized ginger
  • 1 whole garlic head, cut around the waist
  • 1 whole orange, cut in half
  • Sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons Sage-Thyme Compound Butter**
  • Canola oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly cracked rainbow peppercorns
  • Sage-Thyme Compound Butter

  • Optional: 4 strips bacon
  • 1/4 cup good organic maple syrup

    Gravy
  • Pan drippings
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 8 cups chicken stock, warm
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: Gravy Master

    Two nights before roasting the turkey, make the brining liquid. In a large soup pot*, bring the apple cider to a boil and immediately reduce the heat to low. Add the brown sugars and kosher salt, stirring until dissolved. Add the crystallized ginger and muddle to release flavor. Add the bay leaves, peppercorns, orange zest strips, cinnamon sticks, whole allspice, hulled cardamom seeds and split vanilla bean pods. Simmer for ten minutes and remove from the heat. Let the mixture steep for 30 minutes. Add the cold water. Cover and chill overnight.

    On the day before your holiday feast, wash and pat dry a 14 to 16 pound fresh turkey. (It is only good to brine fresh turkeys that have not been injected with sodium and frozen.) Carefully submerge the turkey in the prepared brine in the huge pot, breast side down. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

    The morning before a late afternoon or early evening dinner, remove the turkey from the brining solution. Discard the brining solution. Rinse the turkey well and pat dry, inside and out. Make sure that there are no brining spice remnants hiding within the turkey.

    Place the turkey in a good-size roasting pan with the wing tips folded under the turkey. Take a couple tablespoons of room temperature Sage-Thyme Compound Butter and tuck it under the turkey skin, massaging it in. Stuff the large turkey cavity with the aromatics and 2 tablespoons of Sage-Thyme Compound Butter. Bind the drumstick tips together tightly with silicon cooking bands (easier than twine). Pour some canola oil on your hands and massage it all over the turkey skin. Generously season the turkey with kosher salt and freshly cracked rainbow peppercorns. Allow the turkey to sit on the counter and get to room temperature for one hour before roasting (this includes the time it takes you to remove it from the brine, stuff it with aromatics and oil it). Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and set the top rack in the lowest third of the oven.

    Roast the turkey uncovered on a rack in the lowest third of the 425 degree F oven for 30 minutes. Insert a digital probe thermometer into the most meaty, thickest part of the breast: don’t let it touch bone: false temperature reading. Set the alarm to 162 degrees F. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees F. (Optional: at this time, you can also, if you like it, place 4 strips of bacon over the top of the turkey and/or pour 1/4 cup good organic maple syrup over the top of the turkey). Roast for an additional 1 3/4 hours or so until the turkey reaches 162 degrees F (9 to 11 minutes per pound). During this time, baste the turkey with its juices every now and again. Cover any areas browning too quickly with aluminum foil.

    Once the turkey reaches 162 degrees F, remove the turkey from the oven. Transfer it to a cutting board (remove the bacon strips if you used them) and tent the turkey with aluminum foil. Let it rest for 15 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute through the turkey.

    If you are going to make gravy, put the roasting pan on the stove. Over medium heat, heat about 1/2 cup+ pan drippings until hot. Sprinkle 1/2 cup sifted flour over pan drippings and stir constantly with wooden spoon until it is a smooth paste. Cook for 3 minutes until slightly browned, stirring constantly, to remove taste of flour. Slowly add warm chicken stock, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Simmer for 10 minutes, while whisking, until thickened, smooth and bubbling hot. Add Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper to taste. (Add a drop of Gravy Master if you like.)

    We like to present the whole turkey to the table for show and tell, and then bring it back to the kitchen where we carve it. Wait until you taste the moist, subtle spicy-fruit flavor of the turkey. It is our favorite.

    *We make our brine in a huge lobster pot that gives us enough room to submerge an 15-pound turkey once the brining liquid is cold. **Periodically over the late summer and fall, we harvest our herbs, mince them and mix them into sweet butter. These ‘compound’ butters freeze well and are an excellent way to preserve tender herbs and use them easily, as needed, over the winter. You can make up any combination that suits you: here, we feature one of our favorites, sage and thyme. (You can also add a little lemon zest to it or tiny bit of minced garlic if you like.)

  • Recipe Seeds: Garlic, Rosemary, Sage, Shallots, Thyme

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