Several years ago, my brother-in-law was in charge of cooking the Thanksgiving turkey and it was the best turkey any of us had ever eaten. We asked him for the secret behind his turkey and he pointed us to the below recipe. It’s a bit involved, but it’s oh, so worth it. If you make it, it will produce the most tender, tastiest turkey you’ve ever had. Your family will be asking YOU what your secret is.
You will need a LARGE pot for this brine recipe. In the past, I’ve divided the recipe among two smaller pots and then just combined the mixture at the last minute.
Note that the turkey is supposed to brine for three days. Here is a good timeline for you:
TUESDAY, WEDNESDAY, OR THURSDAY THE WEEK BEFORE THANKSGIVING:
If you buy a frozen turkey, buy it a week or so in advance and let it thaw in the fridge. We need this bird thawed by Monday!
SUNDAY BEFORE THANKSGIVING:
If you plan on buying a fresh turkey, buy it today.
Early in the day, make the brine recipe below and let cool on the counter. Refrigerate overnight.
Line a cooler or large box with a garbage bag. Place your turkey in the bag and cover with brine. Tie the top of the bag and refrigerate until Thursday.
THURSDAY (THANKSGIVING DAY):
Remove turkey from brine two hours before beginning cooking. Cook according to your favorite turkey recipe.
alice waters turkey brine*
¾ C plus 2 tb kosher salt
¾ C sugar
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 large onion, peeled diced
¼ C diced celery
1 leek, white light parts only, cleaned diced
2 bay leaves
1 tb peppercorns
1 tb coriander seeds
¼ t red pepper flakes
¼ t fennel seeds
2 star anise
2 or 3 sprig of thyme
1 12-14 lb free range naturally fed turkey
4 tb olive oil or butter
Fresh rosemary branches, optional
In a 16-quart or larger stockpot, bring 2 gallons of water to boil. Add salt, sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Turn off heat and add everything else besides the turkey and olive oil.
Remove giblets from turkey, reserve for another use. Add turkey to the cooled brine solution. Refrigerate the turkey for 72 hours, then remove from the brine and allow to come to room temperature. Baste the turkey with the olive oil and place the rosemary sprigs inside the cavity. Cook following your favorite turkey roasting recipe.
*If you live in the East Bay Area and do not already have some of these ingredients on hand, consider buying them at a bulk foods store such as Harvest House so that you can buy exactly what you need.