If you show up at the Skagit River Ranch’s Ballard Farmers Market booth at 9:45 a.m. on the Sunday morning before Thanksgiving, you’ll be late for your turkey. Judging by the line, which snakes almost a block down the street, the eggs you wanted to include in your stuffing are long since claimed. But when you finally reach the front of the remarkably patient line, well after the market actually opens at 10 a.m., there’s Eiko Vojkovich, smiling as big as ever, and handing over the 18-pound turkey she promised you two months ago when Thanksgiving still seemed like a mirage. And she wants to know what you’ll do with it.
You’ll look to one side of her booth, where herbs are already bursting out of someone’s basket, and to the other side, where Rockridge Orchards’ Honeycrisp apple cider beckons, and you’ll know just what to do.
While the cider brine cools, or before that, if you’re smart, figure out what container is big and clean enough to hold both the brine and your turkey but also small enough to fit in your refrigerator. In Seattle, it’s typically about 40°F at night around Thanksgiving, which means the entire porch becomes my refrigerator — convenient for me, but not helpful, perhaps, if you’re not a Seattleite.
Look for nifty (but pricey) turkey brining bags, or brine the turkey in garbage bags in a clean, lined garbage can with enough ice at the bottom to keep the bird cold. I’d put it in the garage if I were you, but you didn’t hear that from me.
Special equipment: a clean container, cooler, trash can, or other container suitable for submerging turkey in brine (that can be kept cold); kitchen twine
Makes 14 servings, plus leftovers
For the Cider Brine
1 gallon high-quality apple cider
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
3 (6-inch sprigs) fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
6 (4-inch sprigs) fresh thyme, roughly chopped
2 gallons cold water
For the Turkey
1 (16–18 pound) fresh turkey, giblets removed, patted dry
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups high-quality apple cider
1 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1. Make the brine: Combine the cider, salt, brown sugar, garlic cloves, rosemary, and thyme in a large pot; bring to a simmer; and stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved completely. Add the cold water. (If the pot isn’t big enough to hold it all, divide the cider mixture into two pots and add half the water to each.) Let cool to room temperature or set aside overnight in a cold (but not freezing) spot to chill. (Let’s not kid ourselves; it won’t fit in your refrigerator if you’re cooking this for a holiday meal.)
2. Make the turkey: Combine the turkey and the brine in a large, clean vessel, making sure the bird is fully submerged, and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.
3. Remove the turkey from the brine, discard the brine, and pat the turkey dry. Let the turkey sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
4. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Season the turkey inside and out with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine. Place the turkey breast down on a rack in a large roasting pan, and pour the cider and water into the bottom of the pan. Brush the bottom of the turkey with some of the melted butter, sprinkle with about one-third of the rosemary and thyme, and roast for 1 hour.
5. Carefully flip the turkey over using washable oven mitts or a clean kitchen towel. Cover the wing tips with foil if they’re looking too brown. Brush the turkey all over with the remaining butter, sprinkle with the remaining rosemary and thyme, and roast another 1½ to 2 hours, basting every 30 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165°F. (If the turkey is brown enough but the meat hasn’t finished cooking, slide a large baking sheet onto a rack set at the very top of the oven or cover the turkey with foil.)
6. Carefully transfer the turkey to a platter, and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes before slicing and serving with the juices. (If desired, you can use the juices to make apple cider gravy.)
Pair with a crisp, dry hard apple cider, such as Tieton Cider Works’ Harmony Reserve.