This is my traditional turkey recipe and the one my family insists on year after year. My Maple Bourbon Brined Turkey. Echoing those flavors, I finish, with a Maple Bourbon Gravy.
The brining process starts 24 hours before the bird goes into the oven. There are three parts, all of which are necessary, to have the most flavorful, juicy, and tender turkey you’ll ever have. It’s really all in the planning.
Before starting the whole brine process, the turkey must be completely thawed. My recipe is listed in 3 parts. Part 1 is the brine. Part 2 is the prep of the turkey for the oven. Part 3 is cooking the turkey and making the gravy.
Part 1. The Brine
Prep Time: 40 to 45 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 24 hours 15 minutes
Cook Time: 7 to 10 minutes
Equipment: 1 (8-quart) plastic container with a tight-fitting lid, 1 large stockpot
1 (12-pound) turkey
2 quarts water
2 orange peels
1 lemon peel
3 cloves of garlic, smashed
1/4 cup of Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups of bourbon
1 1/2 (12-ounce) bottles of pure maple syrup
15 sprigs of thyme (no need to strip leaves)
1 large sprig of Rosemary ( no need to strip leaves)
5 bay leaves (dried)
2 tablespoons of tricolor peppercorns
1 1/2 cups of organic apple juice
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
Prep all the ingredients for the brine including measuring out the water. Place all the ingredients listed above in a large stockpot. Turn stove on medium-high heat and bring everything up to a boil, 7 to 10 minutes. Immediately remove from the heat source. Let the brine cool down, then place it into the frig, uncovered to chill, for around 30 to 35 minutes or until completely cool.
Remove turkey from its packaging and remove the neck and innards from the cavities of the bird. The only part I keep is the neck to make turkey stock from. I’ll tell you about that in a minute. Completely pat dry the turkey really well. Place the bird into the brine container and back into the frig until the brine liquid has cooled.
Once the brine is ready and completely cooled, take the turkey in the brine container out and pour the liquid over the bird. The bird should be completely submerged in the liquid. Place the lid on and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Note: Take notice of what time you place the bird into the brine. This will give you an idea of when the bird will be going into the oven. Allow an extra 20 minutes for rinsing the brine off the bird and letting it soak in clean water for 15 minutes. This will remove any extra salt flavor still on the bird. Then once again you will need to dry the turkey completely before part 2.
Part 2. Prepping Turkey
Prep Time: 15 to 20 minutes
Total Time: approx. 2 hours 40 minutes
Total Time: approx. 3 hours
Equipment: Roasting pan with rack
1 stick of softened butter, unsalted
1 orange, zested
1 lemon, zested
2 cloves of garlic, freshly grated
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
2 teaspoons plus 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, skin on and quartered
1 head of garlic cut in half lengthwise
10 sprigs of fresh thyme
4 sprigs of rosemary
1/4 cup olive oil
2 quarts of chicken stock, unsalted (generally 2 cups (enough to fill the bottom of the roasting pan with liquid, the level of liquid about 1 inch high) 1 quart is used to make the turkey stock)
Preheat oven to 450-degrees F.
Once the bird has come out of the brine and well dried, it’s time to make a *compound butter for the turkey. In a medium-size mixing bowl prepare the *compound butter. Add softened butter, the zest of both the lemon and orange, freshly grated garlic, Kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper, mix to combine. Moving on, release the bird’s legs from their packaging position as you see in the pictures.
With my clean hands, lift up the skin on the breast area and slather as much of the butter underneath the skin as possible. Reaching as far around with breaking or tearing the skin. Next, I fill both cavities of the bird with flavorings.
Next, cut the same lemon and orange that have already been zested, in half, placing half of each one into each of the cavities. Same with the halved head of garlic, and the quartered onion in both cavities. Finally, divide the sprigs of herbs up and place them into both cavities.
Now I rub the compound butter underneath the skin, reaching as far as I can without breaking the skin. Next, rub the olive oil all over the outside of the bird. Then sprinkle the Kosher salt and black pepper all over the turkey. Finally, add the 2 cups of broth to the bottom of the roasting pan.
Part 3. Cooking Turkey:
Reduce oven temperature to 350-degrees F.
Place the turkey on the center rack in the oven. Every 30 to 45 minutes remove the turkey from the oven. Close the oven door to keep the heat in, and baste the turkey, using the juices from the bottom of the pan. About halfway through the cooking process, take the temperature of the turkey using a meat thermometer.
Place the thermometer between the thigh and the breast meat for the best reading. This allows you to see how fast the bird is cooking and to gauge the time better. If you see the top is browning too quickly, place a foil tent over the turkey for the time remaining. Keep in mind, you still need to baste the turkey every 30 to 45 minutes. Once the turkey’s temperature reaches 165-degrees F. around 2 hours 40 minutes, take the bird out of the oven.
While the turkey is in the oven, this is what I’m doing on top of the stove.
Equipment: 1 (6-quart) saucepot, fat separator
Ingredients For Turkey Stock:
1 quart plus 2 cups of chicken stock, unsalted
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
Ingredients For Maple Gravy:
1 turkey neck
3 tablespoons of bourbon
1/4 cup of pure maple syrup
12 sage leaves (reserve 4 leaves chopped for the finished gravy)
1 1/2 cups of homemade turkey stock
1 cup of chicken stock, unsalted
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) of butter, unsalted
3/4 cup of all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Part 3 Continues.
Directions For Turkey Stock:
In a large saucepot add the turkey neck and cover with 1 quart of unsalted chicken stock, Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, and 3 sprigs of thyme. Turn the heat up to med-high heat, bring this up to a boil. Reduce it to a simmer, cover, and cook, on medium-low heat, for 1 /1/2 hours.
Once finished, strain the liquid, using a mesh sieve, over a bowl to catch this delicious stock. Now I have a container of turkey stock along with a container with my leftover unsalted chicken stock (remember I only used 2 cups for the bottom of the roasting pan) to make my gravy.
At this point, remove the bird from the pan. I like to tilt the bird slightly over the roasting pan so that any juices that are in the cavities will fall to the bottom of the pan. Place the turkey on a large board and cover with foil until you’re ready to carve. Leave all the ingredients, in the cavities.
First, add 8 sage leaves while the juices are still really hot. Allow the sage to steep in the juices for a couple of minutes, then remove them. I use one of those gadgets that separate the fat from the juices that accumulated in the bottom of the roasting pan. I discard the fat and pour the juices into a bowl.
I return the empty roasting pan to the stove, over medium-high heat. Add 1/4 cup of the homemade turkey stock, I made earlier. Scraping the bits off the bottom (*deglazing) until they all release. I combined these juices with the pan juices in the bowl. Now my pan juices have no fat but the extra flavor from the bits that came off the bottom of the pan.
Start by making a *roux for the gravy.
Working with a clean roasting pan again, over medium heat. Add butter, let the butter melt before adding the flour. Whisking continuously until all the raw flour has cooked out. Next, add the pan juices (I reserved in the bowl) along with bourbon, maple syrup, chicken stock, and turkey stock. I turn the heat back up to medium-high, still whisking, and let all those ingredients come up to a bubble and thicken. I also add in the reserved chopped sage leaves for color and flavor in the gravy.
There you have it my Maple Bourbon Brined Turkey With Maple Bourbon Gravy.
*Compound Butter is a mixture of butter and other supplementary ingredients, such as herbs, seasonings, acid, or and another flavorful and aromatic ingredient. Used to enhance flavor.
*Deglazing is a cooking technique for removing and dissolving browned food residue from a pan to flavor sauces, soups, and gravies.
*Roux is a mixture of fat (especially butter) and flour using in making sauces.