Sunday, November 16, 2014

Thanksgiving Part One: Purchasing, Brining, Roasting the Turkey and Making the Gravy

Making your Masterpiece

I think the most difficult part of this post, is giving you all the steps before the big day. I don't know about you guys but, I definitely only brine and roast a turkey once a year. In fact it has been two years since this beautiful bird. I will include the recipes I used, and any useful information that I remember. I am sure there were little tweaks I made here and there, and I will not be able to update them, of course until Thanksgiving Day. 
This will be a two part blog. Part One, will be about the turkey. Part two will include the expected story and narration, as well as my favorite and best in the world Cranberry Ginger-Tangerine Relish. It has been pleasing crowds for the past 12 years. 

Purchasing Your Bird

In my family we have 4-5 adults and 1 child who eat the turkey. Some of those adults are more modest eaters, and others, well they enjoy the Thanksgiving stuffing and nap on the couch afterwards. I also like to have plenty of leftovers for sandwiches and Turkey Pot Pie. This being said I buy a bird between 12-15 pounds, aiming for the 15. I purchase my turkey through Rosemont Market and Bakery . It isn't cheap, but it is so worth it. I believe the price is $4.99/lb. But again it is worth it. This bird is from Serendipity Acres in North Yarmouth, Maine. It is pasture raised, and basically a happy bird. Rosemont offers a cheaper option, from Maine-ly Poultry at .50 less per pound. Last year I bought a bird from Trader Joes and it just wasn't the same. No flavor, and much drier. I swear by the local happy bird. 

Brining the Bird

This was a daunting task the first time I brined a bird 3 years ago. I have kind of figured it out now, and don't worry so much about something going wrong, as I did the first year I brined. I think it definitely makes for a more flavorful and moist bird and those who have eaten the turkey since I, the ex-vegetarian (yup, for 15 years) took over, strongly agree.  I have to give credit to Martha Stewart for the roasting recipe. 

Getting Started
What you will need for the brine

An oven roasting bag 
You can get these in your local supermarket, 2 to a box and they only cost a couple bucks
(double them up so they won't break, this happened to me and I had to start over)

5 gallon container
I use my cooler, scrubbed out clean. The turkey fits perfectly and is easy to maneuver 
especially since I travel 2 hours by car with the brining bird


7 quarts (28 cups) water
1 1/2 cups coarse salt
6 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried juniper berries
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon yellow or brown mustard seeds

3 anise pods (this is a strong flavor, but a couple more could be good) 
1 tsp. celery seeds
1 fresh whole turkey (12 to 20 pounds), patted dry
(set aside neck and giblets for the roasting recipe below, which you can then use the drippings for your gravy)
1 bottle Sauvignon Blanc
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 bunch fresh thyme
5-7 stems of fresh rosemary 
1 bunch fresh sage
1 lemon
(zested, then peeled and sliced)
1 orange 
(zested, then peeled and sliced)
zest of the lemon and orange
What's Next?
 Making the Brine 
A day before roasting bird, bring 1 quart water, the salt, bay leaves, and spices (garlic, onion,  sage, lemon and orange zest and slices do not get added here) to a simmer, stirring until salt has dissolved. 
Let cool for 5 minutes. 
You can Brine the bird for up to 36 hours before roasting. 

The Long Soak
Line a 5-gallon container (or your cooler) with a large brining/ oven-roasting bag. 

Put the turkey in the bag. 

Add cooled salt and spice mixture, along with remaining ingredients and 6 quarts water. 

Tie the bag closed.  If turkey is not submerged, weight it with a plate. 

Refrigerate for 24-32 hours, flipping turkey once.

If there isn't room in your refrigerator, place the bagged bird inside a cooler, and surround it with ice, replenishing as necessary to keep it at 40 degrees.

Ready to Roast
Remove turkey from brine 1 hour before you're ready to roast it. Pat dry inside and out. 

Let stand for up to 1 hour before roasting, it is perfect time to prepare for roasting it. 

Preparing and Roasting the Brined Bird  

While your turkey is standing for an hour, follow these instructions for making this fabulous turkey.

Brown Sugar Glazed Roast Turkey 


  • 1 whole turkey (about 12-15 pounds), thawed if frozen, rinsed, and patted dry 
  • (neck and giblets chopped into 2-inch pieces; liver discarded)
  • 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • Non stick cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • Salt and ground pepper
  • 2/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest, plus 2 tablespoons orange juice
Kitchen twine 
  • (the guys in the butcher department at my grocery store are always happy to just give me some) 
  • Meat Thermometer


Step 1:  Your brined turkey should already be relaxing for an hour. In the mean time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees, placing the oven racks in upper and lower thirds of the oven. Place neck, giblets, carrots, celery, and onion in a heavy-bottomed metal roasting pan. I have used a disposable pan, but it almost always has torn or sprung a leak. Place a roasting rack over the veggies and coat the rack with cooking spray. If you don't have a roasting rack, I have rigged up a cookie cooling wire rack to use. 

Step 2:  Tuck wing tips underneath body of turkey. Tie legs together with kitchen twine. Rub turkey all over with 2 tablespoons butter; season with salt and pepper. Place turkey on rack in pan; roast on bottom oven rack until golden brown, 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees. Add 2 cups water to pan; roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of a thigh reads 125 degrees, about 1 hour. 

Step 3:  Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring vinegar, brown sugar, and orange juice to a boil over high, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture is syrupy, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in 2 tablespoons butter and orange zest. 

Step 4:  When thermometer reads 125 degrees, brush turkey with glaze. Rotate pan and roast, brushing turkey with remaining glaze every 15 minutes, until thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a thigh reads 165 degrees, 30 to 45 minutes. It may be slightly longer if using a larger bird. (tent turkey with foil if browning too quickly). Transfer turkey to a platter. Loosely tent with foil and let rest 30 minutes before carving. Letting the bird rest, really allows the juices to distribute and the bones relax, making a juicier more cooperative turkey. Reserve pan with drippings for gravy

Making the Gravy


2 Tablespoons of flour for every 1 cup of water
pan drippings from roasted turkey

Step 1: Separate the carrots, celery, and onions from the liquid. (Those veggies are really tasty). Pour the liquid into a glass measuring cup. Allow the liquid to sit for a few moments so that you may skim off any excess fat.  Separate the neck meat from the bone, and include it with the drippings liquid. 

Step 2: In a jar, mix together flour and water. Shake well and try to eliminate any lumps. 

Step 3: Poor the drippings into a heavy sauce pan. Slowly add the flour water mixture and whisk constantly to avoid lumps. When the mixture is the desired consistency, remove from heat and sieve if desired. 

The Grin of Satisfaction

You will be so pleased with this perfectly browned turkey. The skin will be crispy and flavorful, and the meat, juicy and savory. To really jazz up your bird, have some fruit and herbs to garnish it with. I found some tangerines with the leaves still attached, used a pomegranate and some rosemary and sage. 

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