by Sandra Lewis    Tue, Nov 22, 2005, 12:13 PM

For the past five years I have hosted Thanksgiving dinner for my family.

Each year I’ve experimented with different turkey recipes; this year will be the exception.

Last year I tried a brining recipe that produced an incredibly tender, moist, and tasty turkey. And that’s what I’ll do again this year.

Even though brining involves an extra step in the turkey-cooking process (at least a day ahead of Thanksgiving) it is so worth it.

The brine fills my house with such a wonderful fragrance that it’s like a sneak preview to Thanksgiving day itself.

8 quarts cold water
2 cups coarse kosher salt
8 large fresh or dried bay leaves
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons whole allspice
1 16-17 pound turkey; giblets and neck removed

Brining Directions
Line extra-large pot or bowl with two 13-gallon (or larger) plastic bags, one inside the other. Combine 1 quart of water, salt, bay leaves, and peppercorns, and allspice in large saucepan. Stir over medium heat until salt dissolves. Remove from heat. Add 1 quart cold water and cool to lukewarm. Pour into plastic bags; mix in remaining 6 quarts water. Submerge turkey in brine to cover completely, gathering bags tightly to eliminate any air; tie the bags closed. Refrigerate turkey in brine at least 18 hours and up to 20 hours.

3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley
3 tablespoons fresh thyme
3 tablespoons fresh sage
3 tablespoons fresh marjoram
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large Granny Smith apples, quartered and cored
2 large onions, quartered

Roasting Directions
Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

Mix parsley, thyme, sage, marjoram, rosemary, and nutmeg in small bowl; mix in butter. Melt herb butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Brush bottom of roasting pan with some of herb butter.

Remove turkey from brine; drain any accumulated juices from main cavity. Place turkey on roasting pan. Tuck wing tips under; tie legs loosely together to hold shape. Place some apple and onion quarters in main cavity. Brush remaining herb butter over turkey. Sprinkle with pepper. Scatter remaining apples and onions around turkey in pan.

Cook turkey until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 180 degrees.

Sandra’s Kitchen Notes

  • I’ve taken to buying fresh, all-natural turkeys from Whole Foods.
  • As the turkey is roasting, I like to pour apple juice into the roasting pan maybe three or four times (maybe more!).  I’m not really sure how much I pour – maybe a ¼ of a cup at a time.  I don't measure :).
  • The drippings make an excellent gravy base.
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