I have only roasted a turkey a few times, it not one of my favorite foul to cook. I always find it okay, roasted other fouls are always much more interesting. But I do have to say that a fresh wild turkey was really good and has an earthy flavor but there is not a lot of white meat and it can be a bit gamey, so there is a trade off. The farm raised turkeys, even the "Happy" free range ones, just are always, just, well, dry, even with all the tricks to keep them moist. My chef friend said it has to do with the breeding, and even when you let the bird rest the juices really do not go back into the meat, for the most part.
When I do have turkey on Thanksgiving I do a sort of an Asian/American inspired fare, there is a theme of spices and flavors through out the dishes. It also makes the house smell like the holidays with the notes of apples, cinnamon and orange, writing about this is making me hunger. Okay, back to the story, I got the idea for the brine when I was at my local farm stand and I saw all these wonderful local apples, fresh off the trees, no wax on them, and they had just pressed fresh apple cinder, it was so good. While I was talking to the owner Dave, i asked him what did he do with the mash after the cider has been presses and he said his wife usually, sorts out the mash, then finely puree the mash and adds it to a butter to baste what ever meats she is serving. He said it was great on ribs, and the idea was born for my roast turkey. I did not use mash but I used the concept for my roasted Turkey.
Now I like making two smaller birds verses one big one. One, they are easier to handle and Two, they cook faster: I know about the oven space, but I have double ovens and the birds are on the top racks and the bottoms are for everything else, but if you plan it will not an issue.
The Stuff you will need:
1. You are going to need 1 or 2 five gallon buckets with the lids from Lowes or another home store.
2. Clear heavy duty plastic bags, to line the buckets and seal off the bird(s)
3. Large roasting pans, I made the investment in a Allclad roasting pans but - If you are using the throw-away ones, you will need 3 for each bird (trust me i have learned the hard way, a single pan does not have the structure you will need to hold the contents even with a baking sheet underneath)
4. Very large stock pot
2 6 to 10 lb turkeys or 1 24lb Turkey
2 gallons of fresh apple cider
12 to 18 large apples, I use a mix macintosh and granny smiths , cored and half chopped and half sectioned
12 shallots, minced
16 oz of apple butter
4 sticks of unsalted butter
1 cup salt
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup raw sugar
2 heads of garlic, skinned and smashed
2 heads of garlic, separated skins still on
4 inches of ginger, sliced thinly
4 sticks of cinnamon
6 star anise pods
6 cardamon pods
4 sprigs of cilantro
3 clove buds
1/2 teaspoon of fresh grated nutmeg
salt and pepper
The day before roasting
Place plastic bag in the 5 gallon bucket and set aside.
In the large stock pot place 1 gallon of cider, the chopped apples, half the shallots, 1 cup of salt, soy sauce and sugar, 1 head of the smashed garlic, the ginger, cinnamon, star anise, peppercorns, cardamon, cilantro, cloves and nutmeg, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let cool to room temp. Then add a gallon of water, stir.
Place turkeys in their buckets, cavity up, then pour brine into buckets with in an inch from the rim. Take the ends of the bag and squeeze out the air pushing the bird down, and tie to close. You want to keep the bird in the brine, and completely submersed and covered, thus the bag. Put the lid on tight, now it is cold usually at our cabin in PA so i hang the buckets from the rafters in the garage (to keep out of reach of the critters) but it needs to be around 40 degrees to place them there , or place in the fridge overnight.
Next Day - Thanksgiving
Preheat oven(s) to 375 degrees
Place 3 sticks butter, half the remaining shallots, the apple butter and the balance of the smashed garlic in the CuisianArt and puree until smooth, set a side.
In a large bowl place the remaining shallots, the sliced apples, garlic (skins on).
Take the remaining stick of butter, melt and pour over apples, shallots and garlic , season with salt and pepper, toss to coat, set aside.
Place racks in bottom of roast pans.
Remove turkeys from their brine baths, discard brine, pat turkeys dry.
Place turkeys on a cutting board, and separate the skin from the breast, next place spoon-full of the apple butter mixture under the skin.
Now stuff the cavity with the apples, garlic, shallots mixture along with some of the apple butter, tie up the bird, and place in roast pan and scatter some of the apples, garlic, shallots mixture around bird. Next add 2 cups of cider and 2 cups of water in pan.
Repeat if doing two turkeys.
You should have some of the apple butter left over. I use this to baste the turkey in the early part of the roasting process then turn to the pan drippings. Cover some areas in tin foil if they start to burn. I have tried the cheese cloth on top of the bird but it ended up fusing with the bird, it was not pretty. I also did the 1 hour roasting breast down, then flip, you can do this, but I end up wearing a lot of the drippings and made a real mess trying to turn the HOT birds over. So i just go with basting more often and leaving the birds breast side up.
The desired internal temp you want is 165 degrees, remove from oven and let sit, tented for 20 minutes, then carve.
Strain pan drippings into sauce pan, skim some of the fat off the top, and reduce by a third.
Now separate some of the roasted garlic and apples out for garnish on the plate. The roasted garlic is wonderful on spread on bread
Note: the bird will be very dark when done, its the sugars in the cider, but the skins taste really good.