Inspired by the blazing lard incident we decided to smoke the turkey this year. It turns out turkey was meant to be smoked. The combination of brine and low cooking temperature ensures that even the most horrifically overcooked turkey will come out succulent and moist and fragrantly seasoned with an enticing smoky aroma. The fact that we used local honey and apple cider in the brine probably had something to do with the sweetness of the meat as well.
Sage and thyme are both low fuss herbs that weather our maritime winters well as long as they are in a spot with good drainage. You can keep the plants for several years before they get too woody. At that point you can divide them or replace them with nursery starts. We used our own herbs for this recipe and honey from Tahuya Aviary.
This recipe is based on this one.
Rockridge Orchard Apple Cider Smoked Turkey
2 tablespoons salt 1 1/2 tablespoons rubbed sage 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped thyme 1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
Mix all rub ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
1 gallon filtered water 2 cups sea or kosher salt 3 cups Rockridge Orchards apple cider 1 cup bourbon 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns 2/3 cup local honey 1 pastured turkey from Pastured Sensations Olive oil 4 cups hickory soaked wood chips, or enough to smoke for 4-6 hours depending on the size of your turkey.
Mix all the ingredients in a 5 gallon bucket or brew kettle lined with a large plastic bag until the sugar and salt are dissolved. We used the bathroom size one. This steps helps you conserve the amount of brine you need and ensures the turkey remains in the brine the whole time.
Place the bucket or pot in the refrigerator overnight to brine. Turn the turkey after 3 hours to be sure both sides get brined. We actually just put the turkey breast side down and didn’t worry about brining the back or drumsticks.
Smoke your turkey at 225 F according to the manufacturer’s directions until a probe thermometer reaches 160 F. Ours took about 5 hours for a 16 pound turkey.
One important thing about the smoked turkey – if you want gravy you need to place a rack with a bowl under the turkey in order to catch the drippings. I was afraid the smoke would be too strong to make a pleasant gravy but boy was I wrong! It made the most pleasantly memorable turkey gravy I’ve ever had.