If you are going to go to the (admittedly little) trouble of brining your Thanksgiving turkey, be sure to set the bar higher than simply adding moisture. Granted, this is the primary goal of a brine. Soaking the bird in a salty solution prior to roasting, does help plump the meat and keep it moist during cooking.
But this also is a great opportunity to add plenty of flavor to the turkey. To make the most of that opportunity, we decided to brine our turkey in apple cider, brown sugar, sage and black pepper. The flavor ends up being at once subtly sweet, but also boldly savory. And that is a combination that makes the meat a perfect partner for all the classic Thanksgiving sides.
CIDER-BRINED TURKEY WITH SAGE GRAVY
Start to finish: 2 1/2 to 3 hours (plus brining)
Makes a 12- to 14-pound turkey with gravy
For the turkey:
12- to 14-pound turkey
1/2 gallon apple cider
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup minced fresh sage
1 tablespoon crushed black peppercorns
For the gravy:
1/4 cup white wine
2 cups low-sodium chicken or turkey broth
3 tablespoons instant flour, such as Wondra
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
Salt and ground black pepper
Place a 2 1/2 -gallon zip-close plastic bag upright in a large bowl. Place the turkey in the bowl, then pour in the cider, salt, brown sugar, sage and peppercorns. Seal the bag, squeezing out as much as possible as you do so. Massage the bag to mix the ingredients in the liquid. Refrigerate and let brine for a minimum of 8 hours, turning the turkey now and again.
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