Cider and Citrus Brine


Cider and Citrus Brine

An exceptional turkey brine consisting of both apple cider and citrus juices as well as herbs and spices with just the right amount of salt to ensure a tender, juicy roasted turkey.

1 (16 to 20-pound) fresh turkey, rinsed & patted dry, with neck & giblets reserved for stock

For the Apple Cider, Herb & Spice Infusion
¾ to 1 gallon (12 to 16 cups) apple cider
1¼ cups kosher salt 6 cloves garlic, minced
6 whole bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 sprigs fresh sage
4 sprigs fresh thyme
8 whole star anise pods
3 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon allspice berries
1 tablespoon juniper berries
1 or 2 4-inch cinnamon sticks
¾ to 1 gallon (12 to 16 cups) chilled water, preferably distilled

For the Citrus & Onion Infusion
3 medium to large oranges, cut into wedges with rind intact
2 large lemons, cut into wedges with rind intact
2 medium yellow onions, cut into wedges with skin intact

Special Equipment & Supplies
1 12-quart stockpot, with lid
1 large pitcher
1 large oval enamel roasting pan, without lid
1 large brining bag, such as Williams-Sonoma® brand
1 heavy duty clip (we use Firm Grip® clip from Home Depot) or strong cotton butcher’s twine


Prepare the Apple Cider, Herb & Spice Infusion: In a large 12-quart stock pot, bring ¾ gallon (12 cups) apple cider, salt, garlic, herbs and spices to a boil. Stir occasionally to dissolve salt. Remove from heat. Add ¾ gallon (12 cups) chilled water to cool liquid slightly. Meanwhile, reserve ¼ gallon (4 cups) apple cider and ¼ gallon (4 cups) chilled water in refrigerator should it be necessary to cover turkey completely with additional brine inside brining bag later. This, of course, depends on the size of your turkey.

Prepare the Brine with Citrus & Onion Infusion: After the Apple Cider, Herb & Spice Infusion has cooled somewhat (no longer very hot, but still very warm), squeeze citrus wedges into the liquid adding each rind after expelling juices. Next, add onion wedges and stir. Cover stockpot and allow the brine to steep. Cool to room temperature. (This will take a few hours.) If preparing brine the day before brining turkey, chill brine in refrigerator until ready to use.

Assemble the Turkey & Brine in Brining Bag: Open zip-top brining bag wide and insert into enamel roasting pan with high sides. Using a large liquid measure (I use my 2-cup glass measure), scoop some of the brine and place it into bottom of large brining bag. Insert the turkey over the brine breast side up. Using a slotted spoon, place some citrus and onion wedges into the cavity of the bird and continue to add the remaining brining liquid over the turkey in the brining bag. Carefully close zip-top and expel as much air as possible. (It helps to have two sets of hands at this point.) Gather top of brining bag and twist. Secure brining bag at the top so that brine covers entire turkey. (We used a Firm Grip clip, but you can use butcher’s twine to tie the bag closed.) If the brine needs more liquid to cover entire turkey, add enough of the remaining ¼ gallon (4 cups) each of the chilled cider and water in equal parts to brining bag before securing closed. (We start by adding 2 cups of each the cider and water and then go from there.) Transfer roasting pan, with turkey and brine in brining bag, to refrigerator. Soak turkey for at least 18 hours or up to 2 days.

Prepare the Turkey for Roasting the Night Before: The night before you plan to roast your turkey, remove it from brining solution; discard brine and brining bag. Rinse turkey inside and out with cold water, if desired, and pat the bird thoroughly with paper towels to dry completely inside and out.

Note for Roasting: Now that your turkey has been successfully brined, we recommend that you follow our recipe for Brandy & Tangerine-Glazed Roasted Turkey (coming soon to the blog) or your favorite recipe. At this point, our Brandy & Tangerine-Glazed Roasted Turkey recipe will guide you to butter and season your turkey with either butter or Herbed Compound Butter and refrigerate it overnight uncovered in the roasting pan. After refrigerating overnight, and resting for 1 hour at room temperature the next morning, the turkey will be ready to go directly into preheated oven to roast.

Kristen Flores