Every Thanksgiving, this is the bird I make. And I always sigh a huge sigh of relief when the gravy comes out just right.
Apple Cider and Beer-Brined, Holiday Turkey with AppleJack Giblet Gravy
For the brine:
- 1/2 gallon apple cider
- 2 (12 oz) bottles pumpkin or other seasonal beer
- 1 1/2 gallons water
- 1 1/4 c kosher salt
- 1 c sugar
For the turkey:
- 1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
- 1 turkey, neck and giblets reserved for making stock
- fresh thyme sprigs and rosemary
- 1 bulb garlic, halved cross-wise
- 2 slices thick-sliced, applewood smoked bacon
- kosher salt
- fresh cracked pepper
For the gravy:
- 2 T unsalted butter
- 1 T chopped fresh thyme
- 5 T flour, divided
- reserved turkey giblets
- chicken broth
- 1 T Applejack liquor
- kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
Three days out from the big day, put the bird in the fridge to thaw. One day out, put the bird in the brine overnight in the fridge (I use a large dedicated bucket for this). If the bird is thawed enough that you can get the giblets out, keep them for the gravy!
On the big day, move the bird out of the brine onto a rack in a roasting pan. Dry the skin well all over with paper towels. Rub the bird down with butter all over; throw some in the cavity too. Season inside and out well with salt and pepper. Tuck the wing tips under breasts. Shove a bunch of thyme and rosemary sprigs in the cavity. Also shove in the halved garlic bulb. Tie the legs together. Roast at 325F, ~3-3 ½ hrs for a ~10 lb bird; 5-5 ½ hrs for a ~20 lb bird. Baste hourly. If it starts to get too browned, tent some foil over top. Bird is done when the internal thigh temperature is 180. Set the bird aside to rest while you make the gravy.
While the bird is cooking, make the stock. In a saucepan over med-high heat, add the giblets and cover with water (~4c). Simmer while the turkey cooks (the longer the better) to make a stock adding more water as necessary. Strain and add enough chicken broth to make 2 cups total liquid. Reserve the neck, liver, and heart giblets to add to the gravy (I discard the kidneys).
For the gravy, melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the thyme and 2 T flour. Let it bubble on medium heat 2 minutes. Separately, pour the pan drippings from the turkey into a small bowl. Spoon off and discard as much fat as possible from these drippings. In the turkey pan using a flat whisk or the back of a spoon, work 3 T flour into the browned yum-yums on the bottom of the pan. Transfer these from the roasting pan to the roux in the sauce pan (it’s fine not to get all of it especially any that’s particularly scorched). Then, slowly and whisking constantly, add the turkey stock to the saucepan with the roux. Add the Applejack and pan drippings as well. Bring to a gentle simmer, whisking frequently, and cook until thickened (~5-10 min). Add the meat, chopped, from the turkey giblets. Add more broth, as necessary, if it gets too thick. Taste and adjust for seasoning (I rarely need to add more salt; I always add some pepper).
On this occasion I ended up with about a cup and a half turkey stock, so I added another half cup Chicken Stock. And I’ve got the Applejack ready to go. I have had this one bottle for years – I only use it when I make this bird!