Toi Degree: Apple cider is the key

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 17, 2015

By Toi Degree

Rowan Cooperative Extension

With Thanksgiving upon us, Danelle Cutting and I decided to, yet again, experiment with preparing the perfect turkey. This time, we both brined our holiday bird, and hence, “The Battle of the Brine” was conceived. To ensure that my turkey came out on top I selected the highest rated recipe on Food

Brined Herb-Crusted Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy called for a wide variety of herbs, vegetables and apple cider. I thought the apple cider was the one ingredient that was going to set my turkey apart.

I started by selecting my turkey and shopping for the ingredients needed to prepare my turkey. Thawing the turkey correctly is always the tricky part. Before brining, the turkey must be completely thawed.

Next was brining day. As I prepped and put my turkey into the brining solution, I was so excited. This was my first time brining a turkey, so I couldn’t wait to see how it turned out.

“David,” as I affectionately named my turkey, brined from Tuesday to early Thursday morning. Then, I removed him from the brining solution, patted him dry, and placed him in the oven with more cider and chicken stock. About three hours later, he had reached the proper internal temperature of 165 degrees.

I removed the lid and allowed him to bronze up a little bit. Then, I pulled him out to unveil my masterpiece.  It was a beautifully browned turkey that I hoped tasted as good as it looked.

Brined Herb-Crusted Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy


7 quarts water

1 quart apple cider

3/4 cup kosher salt

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 large onion

1 large or 2 small carrots

3 ribs celery

1 head garlic

1/2 bunch fresh rosemary

1/2 bunch fresh sage

6 bay leaves

1 (12 to 14 pound) turkey

Herb crust:

1 bunch fresh rosemary

1 bunch fresh sage

3 sticks butter

Kosher salt


1 large onion

1 large or 2 small carrots

2 ribs celery

4 cloves garlic

2 Granny Smith apples

5 bay leaves

1 cinnamon stick

1 bunch thyme

Kosher salt

1 quart chicken stock

2 cups apple cider

1/2 to 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

Brine: Combine all of the ingredients for the brine in a large container. Add the turkey and let it brine in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.

To prep for cooking: Remove the turkey from the brine the night before roasting and pat it thoroughly dry with paper towels. Combine the rosemary, sage, and butter for the herb crust in a small bowl. Season to taste, next work the butter on and under the skin of the turkey and massage it into the breasts and legs. Tie the legs together over the breast to protect it during cooking to keep it moist and juicy.

Gravy: Put all the veggies and spices in a roasting pan; season with salt. Arrange the turkey on top of the veggies and refrigerate overnight uncovered.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Put 2 cups chicken stock and 1 cup apple cider in the bottom of the roasting pan. Roast the turkey in the preheated oven until the skin gets nice and brown, about 40 minutes. Lower the oven heat to 350 degrees for the remainder of the cooking time. Baste the turkey every 30 minutes; add more stock to pan if needed.

Remove the turkey from the oven, test temperature with an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the turkey. When 165 degrees is reached, transfer from roasting pan to cutting board; let it rest for at least 30 minutes.

Strain and discard all the veggies; skim off the fat and whisk in the flour. Cook until the mixture looks like wet sand, about 4 to 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in 1 cup apple cider and remaining chicken stock. Cook until the mixture has thickened and reached a gravy consistency. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

The recipe can be found here:

Toi N. Degree, family and consumer education agent, Rowan County Cooperative Extension Service, 704-216-8970 or e-mail:

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