Result: Amazingness! Consensus around the table was that it was the most moist and flavorful bird any of us have ever had.
I believe the secret to the deliciousness is to use similar spices in the brining and cooking to layer the flavor profile. You can use this recipe whether you are smoking as we did or cooking your bird in the oven.
- 2 gallons warm water
- 4 cups apple cider
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons whole peppercorns
- 6 whole fresh (not dried) bay leaves
- 6 cloves minced garlic
- 4 springs of rosemary, needles removed from stems
- Peels from 3 oranges, left in large pieces (Save the fruit and squeeze for juice or as an ingredient in the rub as shown below. I also used it in fresh cranberry sauce.)
- 12 to 20 lb turkey (ours was 14 lbs)
- Combine all ingredients except turkey in a large pot. (I made it in two batches, dividing the ingredients.)
- Bring to boil, stirring to ensure all ingredients are dissolved and combined.
- Take off heat, cover and allow to cool completely, then refrigerate for minimum of two hours.
- Remove any giblets and place fully defrosted or fresh turkey in a large container (we used a clean cooler) or a brining bag that can be tightly sealed.
- Pour cooled brine on top. Place in refrigerator or put sealed bags of ice on top of bird and seal with lid.
- Allow turkey to sit in brine for 18 to 24 hours, rotating bird every few hours and stirring up brine.
- Remove from brine, pat dry with paper towels, season with herbs and cook.
—————————————————————–Herb Mixture Ingredients for Smoked Turkey
- 1 large orange, quartered
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 multi-sprig fresh sage
- 2 multi-sprigs fresh thyme
- 6 cloves peeled and smashed garlic
Sprinkle orange pieces with brown sugar. Place all ingredients in turkey cavity.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 tablespoon each, chopped finely: fresh rosemary, sage, thyme
- 4 cloves finely chopped garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Combine all ingredients and shake vigorously in a sealed container. Loosen skin over breast and brush about 1/4 of mixture underneath. Brush remainder over bird.
Cook as desired in smoker or oven. Ours was smoked/cooked on a Traeger barbecue for about 6 hours and came out perfectly! Note that smoked dark turkey meat is pink. Don’t be tempted to continue cooking; when the thermometer hits 165 degrees, remove from heat and allow to sit for 30 minutes, tented with aluminum foil. The juices will run clear and it will be done and ready to eat! Yum!!!