By planning ahead, this option will give more flavors as the sugar and salt crystals completely dissolve and the aromatics infuse (like a tea), creating a blanket for the turkey meat to play off.
In a large pot, add water, salt, sugar, honey, cloves, thyme, sage, bay leaves, cinnamon, onion, celery, carrots, citrus and leeks.
Place over a high heat and bring the mixture to a simmer for 10 minutes.
Turn off the heat and let the brine sit for 20 minutes, slightly cooling the mixture and allowing the flavors to meld together.
Add the ice or cold water, stirring to melt the ice and cool the brine some more, then add the cold beer of choice; this will help cool the brine solution to a safe working temperature of 38°F or below.
If the brine is above this temperature, refrigerate it until it reaches this temperature before continuing with the recipe.
Just Mix and Brine Option
In a large container or a cleaned ice cooler, add all the ingredients (water instead of ice) and mix well. Double check to see if all the sugar and salt have fully dissolved into the liquid.
Have ready either a large 3-4 gallon container, a extra-large plastic bag or a well-cleaned ice cooler.
Prepare the turkey by removing it from the bag, rinsing it well under cold running water. Remove the neck and gizzards, saving for stock (makes amazing gravy).
Place the cleaned bird into the container and top off with the brine (for the ice cooler, add a few gallon sized zip lock bags full of ice as not to dilute the brine).
Place the container in the refrigerator, kegerator or place the ice chest in the coldest part of the house/garage. Let the turkey brine between 24-48 hours depending on the size of the poultry being used. A chicken will take 24 hours while a 24 pound turkey will take a full 2 days to brine fully.
Check the ice bags and temperature of the brine periodically. It’s also a good to move/rotate the poultry every 12 hours to ensure an even brine.
Oven Cooking Instructions
Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.
After following either a cooked or raw brine, remove the turkey from the brine and dry well with paper towels.
Using new paper towels, dry the bird again, (repeating several times if needed) removing as much moisture as possible. This will help the browning of the skin, as moisture will steam instead of roast the turkey.
To aide in the flavor and secure the non-dry texture of the finished product, try placing smoked bacon and sage under the skin of the turkey. Start at the neck opening and using a finger, slide it between the meat and the skin. Being careful not to tear the skin, swing the finger across the meat to loosen the skin, gradually slide two fingers and three fingers, as the membrane is expanded. Do this on either side of the breasts. Then finishing at the cavity opening, repeat the same process and move to around the thigh and leg areas. Once the ‘pocket’ is created, place and arrange the bacon slices, 5 to each side, in a single layer. This will show through the skin when the turkey is finished. Take time to make sure they are even, covering the breasts and wrapping the thighs. Next, add in the sage leaves, again thinking about a design pattern.
Season the cavity with salt and pepper, then stuff with the cut tangerines.
Truss the bird with twine; to help hold its shape and to aid in cooking the turkey evenly.
Rub the skin with the butter, creating an even layer, and season well with salt and pepper.
Place the prepped bird onto a rack and into a roasting pan.
Let the turkey sit on the counter, or other out of the way space for 2 hours before placing into the oven. This will help the turkey cook more evenly and reduce the cooking time.
Plan ahead, calculate the cooking time for the bird (below) along with resting time before carving.
I highly recommend using a temperature probe that connects to a timer/display, to make sure the turkey is cooked to a certain temperature (160°F) instead of listing a length of time.
If you don’t have a probe, a 16-20 pound turkey should take between 3.5 and 4 hours to fully cook at this temperature. Check both the breast and the thigh temperature to make sure the turkey is evenly cooked.
Once removed from the oven there will be carryover temperature, adding another 4-5 degrees in temperature, bringing the turkey to a perfect 165°F.
Cover the turkey with foil. Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes before carving. This will help the keep a moist turkey by letting the muscle fibers relax and re-distribute its juices.
Instead of using an oven, use a smoker and set the temperature at 250°F until the internal temperature is 165°F.
For wood chips, I would recommend apple, pecan or cherry wood chips soaked for 30 minutes in the same beer you used in the brine.
Add these beer soaked chips every 30 minutes to the fire, while the turkey cooks. Also check the coals, making sure the smoking temperature stays a pretty consistent temperature.
The type of sugar will bring out complimentary flavors in the beer. One can use light or dark brown sugar to get more of a malty, rummy flavor, or use maple syrup to add a different twist. Molasses can be used or dark rock candi to add other dimensions to the finished bird.
If you aren't cooking for a crowd and this recipe sounds intriguing, one can half or quarter the ingredients, following the same steps and use either a chicken, Cornish game hen or chicken breasts to create a similar flavor on a smaller scale.