Every Thanksgiving I pre-order a couple free-range, organic turkeys from the same local farm where I purchase my chickens. Because each growing season is different, the size of the birds will vary slightly. The first year I had a HUGE turkey to brine and slow-roast so I had to place the turkey in my big water bath canner in order to get it mostly covered in the brine. It was a quite a process juggling all my food and taking out shelves in the refrigerator so the turkey could soak. But it was so worth it! Everyone agreed it was the best tasting turkey they had ever eaten.
Soaking your turkey in a brine will make it very juicy and flavorful. I like to place it breast side down while soaking to make sure the brine is covering the white meat that naturally has a tendency to be a little dryer than the dark meat. (Some store-bought conventional turkeys may have already been soaked in a solution and using this recipe could result in a turkey that’s too salty.)
Since we’re slow roasting at a temperature that’s below 325°F, it’s best to not fill the cavity with stuffing. However, for added flavor, we place onions, celery and carrots in the cavity and then discard them after roasting.To begin this recipe, you need to determine what time of day you will be eating the turkey and then back into the hours needed to prepare and roast it. We eat our main meal around noon, so I begin early in the morning the day before. I wash the turkey, make the brine and have it soaking by 7:00 a.m. I let it soak about 12 hours. That night I remove it from the brine, rinse the turkey inside and out, drain and pat dry. I use a big electric roaster and start roasting around 9:00 p.m. and it cooks all night. It’s a heavenly smell to wake up to and you’re free to enjoy your morning preparing other food or relaxing before your company arrives!
1 (15 to 20 pound) turkey
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
8 cups water, plus more
1 cup salt
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 oranges, quartered
2 lemons, quartered
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons ground sage
1 teaspoon ground thyme
1 teaspoon ground rosemary
1 tablespoon peppercorns
In a large pot, bring 8 cups water to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in remaining brine ingredients. Place the turkey (breast side down) into a large pot and pour in the brine. Add more cold water so turkey is completely covered. Soak 10 to 12 hours in the refrigerator.
Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse inside and out under cold running water to remove all spices. Drain and pat dry. Place in a large roasting pan or stand-alone roaster.
1 large onion
1 stalk celery
1 bay leaf
Cut onion, orange, celery and carrots into 1 to 2 inch pieces. Stuff the cavity of the turkey. Rub butter on all sides of the turkey and sprinkle with salt. Roast at 200°F for 15 to 18 hours, basting occasionally. Remove and discard the cavity ingredients before serving.
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