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Cider-Brined Turkey with Apple Butter and Sage

Servings: 12 to 14

If you’ve ever wondered whether brining a whole turkey is really worth the effort, this beautiful bird will make you a believer, with the flavors of apple cider, whole-grain mustard, and apple butter in every single bite. Finishing the brine with ice cubes, in lieu of water, makes quicker work of cooling it down.


For the brine

  • 2 qt. apple cider
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup whole-grain mustard
  • 1 Tbs. whole black peppercorns
  • 1 Tbs. whole cloves
  • 6 fresh bay leaves
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 9 cups ice cubes

For the turkey

  • 1 13- to 14-lb. turkey, gizzards, neck, and organs removed and saved for another use
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup apple butter
  • 1 Tbs. very finely chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Nutritional Information

  • Calories (kcal) : 330
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 126
  • Fat (g): 14
  • Saturated Fat (g): 7
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 4
  • Cholesterol (mg): 163
  • Sodium (mg): 1007
  • Carbohydrates (g): 6
  • Fiber (g): 0
  • Sugar (g): 5
  • Protein (g): 45


Make the brine

  • In a large stockpot, combine cider, salt, mustard, peppercorns, cloves, bay leaves, and cinnamon, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat; stir in ice cubes. Cool to room temperature.

Prepare the turkey

  • Meanwhile, prepare the turkey for brining. Remove any excess fat and/or the tail (if you prefer), and loosen the skin over the breast, thighs, and legs. Place a large brining bag inside a large, stockpot or plastic bucket (that will fit in your refrigerator) and roll down the top. Place the turkey in the brining bag, and pour the brine into the bag. Seal and chill for 12 to 18 hours, turning the turkey if needed, to be sure it’s evenly submerged.

Roast the turkey

  • Place a rack in the bottom third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, use a fork to mix together butter, apple butter, sage, pepper, and salt until well combined.
  • Remove the turkey from the bag, discarding the brine. Rinse the turkey thoroughly, and pat very dry with paper towels. Gently massage about half of the butter mixture under the skin and inside the cavity, coating the underside as well. Tuck the wingtips, tie the legs together with cooking twine, then spread the remaining butter mixture over the entire turkey.
  • Place turkey, breast-side up, on a roasting rack set inside a large roasting pan. Roast until just golden and pan juices are collecting, about 1 hour. Baste the turkey with the pan juices, and tent with foil if the skin begins to get too dark. Rotate the pan, and continue to roast, basting every 30 minutes, until a meat thermometer inserted into the center of the thigh muscle (away from the bone), and into the thickest part of the breast, registers 165°F, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours more.
  • Let the turkey stand for 20 minutes, then carve and drizzle with pan drippings.


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