Apple Cider Turkey Brine and Sweet Potato Casserole

This post doesn’t really fit this blog’s focus on academic libraries, but I’m putting it here for 2 reasons:

  1. I want to make sure I can find these recipes year after year, and searching for it online is certainly going to be easier than trying to find the piece of paper I stuck into one of my cookbooks
  2. The turkey recipe came to me via an old high school friend on Facebook, thus demonstrating yet another value of social media

When I put out a call for brining recipes on Facebook, here is what my friend sent to me, word for word:

From “The Thanksgiving Table” by Diane Morgan (Chronicle, 2001).
8C Apple Cider
2/3 C Kosher Salt
2/3 C Sugar
6 quarter sized slices unpeeled fresh ginger
2 bay leaves
6 whole cloves
1 tsp crushed black peppercorns
2 tsp crushed allspice berries

Combine in saucepan, heat over medium heat, stirring to dissolve salt and sugar, bring to boil. Boil 3 minutes remove from heat, add 4C cold water and let cool to room temperature.
I usually do this Tuesday, add brine back into the container the cider came in, refrigerate until Wednesday. Wednesday around noon I put my bird in a 5 gallon bucket (restaurants will give you their old 5G pickle buckets, or you can buy one from a hardware store. They last forever and are also useful for harvesting in the garden etc) and add enough water to cover, top off with a bunch of ice. I leave it covered in the garage for 24 hours before cooking. I don’t know what your weather is like, but you may want to skip the extra water and just cram the bucket with ice instead. Or if you have room put the whole thing in your fridge.
I remove the bird, dry and rub down with canola oil. Now this is essential ( I have cooked hundreds of turkeys, spent 14 years in the turkey business) many people fear stuffing b/c it is hard to get it to food safe temp in the bird’s cavity. True enough, but the worst part about stuffing is the fact that it acts as a sponge, wicking moisture away from the bird. Bad, bad, evil stuffing. Do not put dry stuffing in the bird. Alton Brown figured that you can reverse this and then some if you put wet stuffing in! It works, his suggestion, one I have been following for years:
Combine 1 quartered apple, 1 quartered onion, 1 cinnamon stick, 4 sprigs rosemary (or sub sage or whatever you have…) and 1C water in a covered microwave dish and nuke on high for 5 minutes. This will soften the heck out of everything and it will come out waterlogged and kind of mushy. Put this in the bird, it will give off moisture during the cooking process.
Put bird in 500 degree oven for 20-30 minutes to sauté skin (lower temp will allow the fat to melt away without achieving anything yummy, higher temp gets the fat boiling off, crisping the skin very nicely) remove, insert thermometer into breast meat, cover breast with double layer foil and put back into oven set at 350 and cook until thermometer says 161 degrees. Remove from oven, cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes before carving.

This was a remarkably easy recipe to follow, and the turkey was amazing. Everyone raved that it was the best turkey they ever had — moist, tender, delicious. I didn’t time things well, so had to leave the turkey in the oven after it was done so it wouldn’t be cold by the time everything else was done. So, I know it was overcooked, but this recipe is very forgiving.
I deviated from the recipe in 2 ways, one intentional, one not. I didn’t have whole cloves, so used ground cloves in the brine. I don’t think it had much effect, except that cloves don’t dissolve, so there was a sludgy mess of cloves at the bottom of the bucket when I took the turkey out. I also decided I wanted to baste the turkey while cooking (I don’t really know why, it just sounded like a good idea), so I poured some chicken broth in the bottom of the roasting pan and basted the bird 2-3 times during the roasting time.

My family has always made some version of sweet potato casserole with pecan topping every Thanksgiving, and it always gets rave reviews. This is the recipe I use:

SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE (adapted from Cooking with Class, 1982)
6-8 Yams, cooked and mashed (I prefer Yams to sweet potatoes because the color is better)
1 cup sugar (I’ve been decreasing this every year — used only 1/2 cup this year and it was still very sweet)
pinch of salt
2 tsps. vanilla
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/3 cup flour
1/3 stick butter, slightly softened
1 cup brown sugan
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Cook and mash the yams. Mix in all the rest of the ingredients (except topping) with mixer until smooth. Pour into greased casserole dish. Mix up topping ingredients and spoon on the yam mixture. I usually some whole pecans to the top as well. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

5 Responses to “Apple Cider Turkey Brine and Sweet Potato Casserole”

  1. 1 sophylou November 24, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    Ohhhh. I already have fixings for whipped maple sweet potatoes but might have to try this recipe instead. Or buy some more sweet potatoes when I can go to grocery store without the mob. It is a long weekend, after all.


  2. 3 Katie November 18, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    I feel like you’re just trying to taunt me.


  3. 5 Chris Bourg November 18, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    Reblogged this on Feral Librarian and commented:

    Re-posting these Thanksgiving day recipes from 3 years ago.


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