Saturday, November 3, 2012

Pre-Thanksgiving Experiment #1: Cider-Brined Maple-Glazed Turkey


Sunday dinner around here usually means sauce, pasta, and meatballs with my extended family, a random friend or two, and sometimes an occasional priest - our Italian roots run deep! But every now and then, we change it up and last weekend inspiration struck via Pinterest - specifically, this pin. As you might suspect, holiday traditions also run deep and I would never experiment with a turkey recipe on The Big Day. I declared last Sunday's dinner "Pre-Thanksgiving Experiment #1".

The main attraction was Cider-Brined Maple-Glazed Turkey. My brother-in-law joined in the fun by testing a new stuffing recipe (it was delicious!), and we rounded out the meal with mashed potatoes, peas, and pumpkin and apple pies for dessert. Everything was so good, we may not need a Pre-Thanksgiving Experiment #2.

The Process

First, I watched the pinned video. It's 14 minutes long, but very informative, especially if (like me) you've never brined a turkey. A printable recipe can be found here.

The process began on Saturday with brine preparation and making herbed butter. The actual brining began later in the evening. Unfortunately, I got so caught up in finding a proper container that I forgot to take a picture. I ended up using a strong garbage bag carefully positioned in a cooler.

Sunday morning, I removed the turkey from the brine solution, rinsed it, and left it in the refrigerator for a few hours. Just before roasting I prepared the glaze and rubbed the entire turkey with herbed butter, even under the skin. After basting with glaze, the turkey was finally ready for the oven.

A few hours later, we enjoyed the most delicious turkey - ever!


Lessons Learned

  • check the size of the brine container ahead of time
  • apples and cider burn on the bottom of a roasting pan --> line it with foil
  • 450 degrees seemed too hot (at least in my oven) for the first hour --> try 425 
  • herbed butter at room temp is much easier to spread
  • vanilla beans are expensive ($10 for two!) --> try pure vanilla extract next time
  • reserve 1cup of brine cider for roasting; replaced it with white wine
  • brining for 10 hours instead of 6 to 8 is fine


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40 comments:

  1. Your turkey looks delicious. We have brined our turkeys in years past and I agree, it makes for such a delicious, moist bird. I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving, it's my favorite holiday.

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    1. Diane - I love Thanksgiving, too! Brining always seemed like it would be too much work, but it really isn't. I'll definitely do it again.

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  2. I want to try this! We don't eat turkey on Thanksgiving, instead we go for ham but maybe I'll just cook both this year!

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    1. Vasilly - I was very pleased with the way this turned out. We have friends that serve both ham and turkey every Thanksgiving - you'd definitely need multiple ovens for that!

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  3. Wow. Awesome!! We've never brined our birds but we get ours fresh from the farm and they are always incredible. Your experiment may just put me over the edge to try brining.

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    1. Beth F - We get our Thanksgiving turkey from the farm, too, but this one was fresh from Wegmans! I'm sure you won't regret a brining experiment.

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  4. Ah, what a beautiful bird! I may just try brining this year.

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    1. Thank you, Rosaria. This was an exceptionally moist, flavorful turkey!

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  5. I've been thinking about this ever since you first mentioned it... \I tend to read a recipe, or just the title, and if it has flavors in it that I like (like cider and maple...and turkey) I'm hooked. I'm glad it worked so well - and does this mean you're having it TWICE this month?

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    1. Audrey - I'm definitely the same way with recipes and flavors/ingredients. Last Sunday was still October, so technically it's not twice in the same month ;-)

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  6. That looks delicious! I've never brined a whole bird before (only experimented with thighs before) but you've convinced me to give it a try.

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    1. Jackie - Let me know if you decide to try it! I may try brining just the breast for a special winter meal.

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  7. I'm so impressed that you did a pre-Thanksgiving experiment. I usually save the experiment for Thanksgiving morning! LOL!!!

    I'm bookmarking this, though, and might just follow your footsteps and advice for Thanksgiving morning. Thank you. :)

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    1. Christine - LOL! We all have our own approach to the holiday, don't we? ;-)

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  8. That turkey looks so succulent! Have a great week.

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    1. Carole - It was the best turkey I have ever had!

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  9. I know what you mean about not trying out new things on The Big Day - that's why I warm up with pie making throughout the fall. This. Looks. Delicious. YUM!

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    1. Cecelia - Our dessert experiments are coming up next week!

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  10. I've never brined a turkey but I have brined pork chops before. This sounds delicious!

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    1. Kathy - Hmm, now I'm going to have to google pork-brining recipes...

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  11. i have brined chickens, but never a turkey either. i agree..it sounds delicious..

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    1. Caite - The whole family was happy with this brining experiment.

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  12. I admire anyone who tries out a recipe in advance, just like the experienced cooks always tell you to do! What a beautiful turkey!

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    1. Laurie C - This is actually the first time I've ever experimented with a recipe ahead of time... think I'll be much more relaxed on Thanksgiving knowing that it's a good one!

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  13. This sounds not too hard and the end result is beaiutiful and tasty!! I will have to do this at some time. I'm not sure if I feel adventorous enough right now but you never know! :D

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    1. Staci - It's really an easy process, I just never knew how to do it. The video is excellent.

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  14. I think my biggest challenge would be to find the right size container. I've always wanted to brine a turkey. Yours came out a beautiful golden brown. Yum!

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    1. Jama - I thought it was going to fit in my giant bowl, but we ended up scrambling at the last minute when that didn't work out. Glad we had the cooler handy.

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  15. Something I'd like to try some day. Sounds delicious and well worth the prep.

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    1. Harvee - It was definitely worth the extra effort!

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  16. You are amazing in the kitchen, and it seems you have a natural talent for having even "experiments" turn out wonderfully. Can't wait for Thanksgiving.

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    1. Thanks, Diane. I can't wait for Thanksgiving, either... it will be so nice to have everyone home again!

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  17. That's one beautiful bird. So glad the experiment turned out well. I love the idea of cider and maple syrup with turkey. Such a lovely combination of fall themes.

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    1. Joy - I was surprised at how much flavor the turkey absorbed. It was delicious!

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  18. That turkey is so pretty!!! I started brining two years ago and found that my FAVORITE ingredient to add to my brine are juniper berries. It was so good.

    I haven't tried cider or maple glazing, so that will have to be something I try ASAP! :)

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    1. Becky - Juniper berries?? Never would have thought of that... I'm going to be brining turkeys from now on!

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  19. Brining is awesome, isn't it!? My husband might disagree AND agree with you about experimenting first - he just loves to cook and most holidays we usually do have the 'first time' on a recipe. I haven't been disappointed yet. :)

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    1. Care - I'm a brining convert for sure! I have experimented with recipes on holidays before, maybe a side or dessert, but the turkey was just too big to leave to chance ;-)

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  20. Thank you for posting this! I've just made it and it is the nicest turkey I've ever eaten. I think I'll be brining every turkey I cook from now on!

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    1. Jackie - Thank you so much for letting me know. Your comment made my day! I'm in the process of preparing out Thanksgiving turkey now... using this recipe again, of course. It's definitely a keeper!

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