Photo of Nathalie Dupree's Apple Cider-Brine Turkey
Photo of Nathalie Dupree's Apple Cider-Brine Turkey

Nathalie Dupree’s Apple Cider-Brined Turkey and Thanksgiving Gravy

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September 19, 2017

  • Yields: Serves eight to ten.


Apple Cider-Brined Turkey

1 (12 to 14 pound) turkey, fresh or thawed

1 qt. apple cider


1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup melted butter

3 onions, quartered, divided

3 carrots, divided

3 red cooking apples, cut in quarters

chopped fresh herbs to taste, such as rosemary, sage, thyme, optional

Thanksgiving Gravy

4 tbsp. fat from the pan juices, divided

giblets, cut up, optional

2-3 cups turkey or chicken stock or broth, fresh or commercial

apples from the roasted turkey

4 tbsp. flour

1 cup heavy cream, optional, divided


freshly ground black pepper


Apple Cider-Brined Turkey

1Preheat oven to 450°F. Remove any parts that are in the interior of the turkey.

2Bring apple cider, one tablespoon of salt per pound of turkey and brown sugar to boil in large pot.

3Add 1 qt. water. Cool to room temperature.

4Add turkey to the liquid in the pot, making sure it is submerged.

5Cover and refrigerate overnight. (The next day, remove from brine and pat dry with paper towels.)

6For crisp skin, remove from brine and place in refrigerator for several hours.

7Oil a large roasting pan and rack, set aside.

8Add half the onions, carrots and apples, with the herbs, to turkey cavity. If using a rack, put the remaining apples and vegetables underneath in the roasting pan. If not, put the carrots in the center of the pan, with the onions surrounding them.

9Truss bird or tie its legs together and move to the rack or on top of the vegetables. Brush the turkey with butter or oil, particularly the breast.

10Add enough stock to come 1-2 inches up the sides of the bird.

11Turn turkey breast side down and roast for 1 hour.

12When removing the turkey from oven, open door carefully, watching out for steam. If stock has boiled down to less than 1 inch up the sides, add more to bring it up to 2 inches.

13Flip the turkey, breast side up and return it to oven and roast for another hour. (Cover with foil if browning too much).

14Check for doneness with an instant-read thermometer—it should read 170°F inserted in the thigh—or remove when juices run clear when a knife is inserted in the flesh of the thigh.

Thanksgiving Gravy

1There will be some wonderful pan juices after the turkey is cooked. If the juices seem fatty, skim off the fat with a paper towel or in a fat separator. Add any remaining stock to the pan.

2Move the pan to a burner and bring the juices to the boil over high heat, stirring constantly, and boil down to reduce until rich and flavorful.

3Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4Use the juices alone as a light sauce, or make traditional gravy. If you want a richer sauce, add the cream and boil until thick.

5Heat three tablespoons of the fat in a 2 quart saucepan over high heat. Add the giblets if using and brown.

6Add the flour, stirring until a light brown.

7Stir in the defatted stock, and continue to stir or whisk until boiling and thickened. Meanwhile puree the apples until smooth and add to the mixture. If it is lumpy, puree any solids in the liquid again, add to the pan. If still lumpy, strain it and return to the pan. Taste.

8Bring to the boil and cook for ten minutes. (If it is salty you MUST use the cream.) If using the cream, add half the cream to the hot pan and whisk over heat until thickened and reduced. (It is okay to boil the cream, providing the pan is sufficient to hold stock and cream.) Taste.

9Add more cream if desired, return to the boil, and boil until reduced slightly.

10Season to taste with salt and pepper.

I make my gravy the night before Thanksgiving from the juices of the extra turkey. I keep it refrigerated, covered, and reheat in the microwave. If there are enough juices, it's possible just to boil up some of those extra turkey bones to make additional stock. Making gravy at the last minute is maddening and unnecessary. This recipe is adapted from Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart.

South Carolinian Nathalie Dupree is a best-selling author with 13 hardback and two softback cookbooks and more than 300 television shows for The Food Network, PBS, and The Learning Channel. nationally on PBS, The Learning Channel, and The Food Network. She lives in Charleston, South Carolina and writes for the Charleston Post and Courier and does short videos for them, as well as occasionally for Charleston Magazine and The Local Palate.

Don't miss Nathalie Dupree's Apple, Sausage, Greens and Biscuit or Cornbread Dressing recipe.