Apple and Herb Turkey Brine infuses wonderful flavor into the meat and helps keep it juicy while roasting. Plus, it’s easy to prep ahead!
Let’s talk about turkey. More specifically, dry turkey. The kind that crumbles when you slice it and would probably qualify as a choking hazard without copious pools of gravy to save the day.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I envy you!
So many of us have met a dry, overcooked turkey at least once in our lives, either as the cook behind the creation, or the guest eating it. (I can raise my hand for both of those!)
When cooking a large bird, it can be easy to fall into the dry meat trap. Like many others searching for a solution, I discovered brining years ago and have never looked back.
Soaking your holiday bird overnight in a seasoned salt solution such as this Apple and Herb Turkey Brine infuses wonderful flavor into the meat and helps keep it juicy while roasting. It’s also easy to make. We all need as much “easy” during the holidays as possible, right?
When brining first became the “It” thing in holiday home cooking a while back, I purchased pre-mixed brining blends from various gourmet stores. They were delicious, and my turkeys were consistently juicy and flavorful.
Once I got acquainted with my local spice shop, I realized that I could recreate my favorite commercial brines at home, with my own customizations.
This Apple and Herb Turkey Brine combines the best flavors of my favorite commercial mixes—dried apples, rosemary, thyme, peppercorns, star anise, onion, garlic, bay leaves, and juniper berries—with whole cloves and a touch of brown sugar. The blend has become a favorite at our holiday table.
I’ve utilized a lower salt-to-liquid ratio than many guidelines suggest, giving you the option of using some of the pan drippings in your gravy. (Many times, this isn’t possible with a brined bird because of the amount of salt in the drippings; nobody likes a too-salty gravy!)
I also love the delicate touch of sweetness that using apple cider adds to the roasted turkey, further softening the salt flavor while still tenderizing the meat.
As for the type of salt used for brining, most of the gourmet mixes use a coarse sea salt, but I find that it’s a luxury that isn’t totally necessary for a home blend. I use Kosher salt with great, and more economical, results.
Why not brine with fresh herbs, you might ask? Convenience. I make this brining mix ahead of time and keep it in an airtight container on my pantry shelf.
It also makes a nice seasonal gift, packaged in canning jars with a festive ribbon and brining instructions written on a decorative tag. How fun to surprise a fellow food nerd with a unique, homemade hostess gift!
Sealed, this dry mix will stay fresh at room temperature for several months, but I can guarantee that once you taste the fantastic turkey it produces, it won’t last that long!
Have turkey leftovers after the big dinner? Try my reader-favorite (creamy and not dry!) Turkey Tetrazzini recipe.
More Thanksgiving Recipes on Striped Spatula:
Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Praline Crust
Spiced Pumpkin Seeds (gluten-free, vegan)
Our Favorite Apple Pie
Delicata Squash Salad with Brown Butter Vinaigrette (gluten-free, vegetarian)
Sausage and Chestnut Stuffing
Apple-Orange Cranberry Sauce (gluten-free, vegetarian)
Maple-Bacon Sweet Potato Biscuits
Apple and Herb Turkey Brine
Inspired by my favorite commercial brine mixes.
To make the brine mix
- 1-½ cups Kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal)
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 6 dried bay leaves , broken into pieces
- 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
- 2 tablespoons dried thyme
- 2 tablespoons whole peppercorns (I use tri-color)*
- 1 tablespoon juniper berries
- 1 teaspoon minced dried garlic (not powder)
- 2 teaspoons minced dried onion (not powder)
- 6 star anise pods
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves or whole allspice
- ½ cup chopped dried apples or pears
To brine a 20 pound turkey
- 4 quarts sweet apple cider , divided
- 4 quarts cold water
Make the brine mix
- Combine salt, sugar, herbs, spices, and apples in a large bowl. Mix can be made ahead and stored at room temperature in an airtight container.
Brine the turkey
- Combine brine mix and 1 quart apple cider in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring until salt is fully dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until chilled.
- In a large stock pot, stir together cold cider mixture with remaining 3 quarts apple cider and all of the cold water. Submerge turkey in the pot, or pour brine over turkey in a large brining bag (see brining tips below). Cover and let soak 8-12 hours.
- Remove turkey from brine, rinse well inside and out, and dry with paper towels. Discard brining liquid. Follow your favorite roasting method, remembering to omit any salt added to the turkey.
Maria Williams says
i used this recipe tonight when making our turkey tonight. it turned out so well! it tastes AMAZING. thank you so much Regards Maria
Jessica Pinney says
I am loving all of the Fall flavors in this dish! I think I’m going to have to give this a try on my turkey this year.
Renee Gardner says
This combination sounds like a great brine! I think it would also work well for pork and chicken too! A great thing to have on hand all year round.
This is super scrumptious looking turkey! love your brine herb idea as well.
This is great! I am trying to convince hubby that we need to brine our turkey before we smoke it, this article is great! Thanks for sharing:)
prasanna hede says
Wow amazing recipe that is! Never got to taste something like this but hope someday I will try :)
Lois. O says
I don’t typically make a whole turkey for thanksgiving, but I make two or three whole chickens and flavor them differently. I may have to try this brine for one of them, Thanks for sharing.
Kathryn @ FoodieGirlChicago says
I’m not often in charge of the turkey for Thanksgiving but brining it is definitely the way to go for great flavor and taste!
Mallory @ Cheers Years says
I’ve got to try this brine mixture! I’ve definitely consumed a good bit of dry turkey in my day. I usually skip brining a turkey because I’m a pretty lazy chef in the kitchen, but I think I could do this one! I like that you use dry herbs – sometimes fresh are hard to find in my area this time of year and I like to keep an assortment of dried around for convenience myself. :) Your photos are incredible and the turkey has my mouth watering!
Veena Azmanov says
This sounds absolutely delicious..!! I love turkey but we are a small family so we never buy the whole bird. I’m going to use this method on a big chicken. I’m sure it will taste delish too.
Saima Zaidi says
This looks absolutely delicious and tempting and the pictures are great!
Once, I was invited to a friend’s house for a turkey dinner, but not at Thanksgiving. She proudly served me a combination of light and dark meat. I bit into the white meat and almost choked it was so dry. I’d never tasted anything so dry. She bit into the breast and said. Oh no! This is all wrong. The breast isn’t dry enough. Apparently, that was how she thought it was supposed to be. I assured her that it was VERY dry as I asked someone to please pass the gravy. I am just beginning to explore brining meats. I haven’t tried a turkey, yet. This combination sounds very good. Where do you find brining bags? I’ve never seen them at my grocery store.