Gluten Free Alsatian Brined Roast Turkey Recipe
Let me know if this sounds familiar: after working your fingers to the bone to create the perfect Thanksgiving, you slice into the centerpiece of the meal – the turkey – to find it is dry as a bone, flavorless, and only edible when doused with copious amounts of gravy and even then, the turkey ends up being moved around the plate, hidden under the spinach gratin or surreptitiously fed to the dog.
What’s the secret to a moist, succulent turkey? Brining!
If you didn’t fall asleep in science class, you probably learned about osmosis. Very simply put what that means is that water flows from something with a lower concentration of something into something else with a higher concentration through some sort of membrane or covering.
What this has to do with your turkey (because let’s face it that’s all we really care about here) is when you place your turkey in a brine which contains a higher concentration of salt than the turkey, the water from the turkey cells flows out and the salt flows in. The salt then breaks down some of the fiber proteins in those turkey cells and now those cells are higher in concentration so the water is drawn back in. Along with the water comes flavor from the brine. The result is a juicy, moist turkey that is flavored through and through, not just on the skin.
OK, science class is now over, let’s get on with it and make a great turkey!
First of all it is important to start with a fresh turkey, not a frozen one that has been injected with sodium solution – you don’t want one of those turkeys anyway as they often have gluten injected into them.
The basic elements of brine are salt, sugar, flavorings, and of course, water. The flavoring for this brine is from the Alsatian region of France which is famous for their Riesling wine. It also contains fresh herbs, some onion, and garlic. For the salt, I recommend you use kosher salt. In place of regular sugar for this brine I chose Coconut Palm Sugar from Wholesome Sweeteners – it added a much richer level of flavor than regular sugar and also made the turkey refined sugar free but you could also use organic brown sugar.
You need to plan ahead when brining a turkey, start the day before you plan to roast the turkey so you can let the turkey hang out in the brine for about 24 hours. If you can’t find a brining or turkey roasting bag at the supermarket, use a clean, unscented plastic garbage bag, but let’s just keep that to ourselves. Also if you don’t happen to have enough refrigerator space to fit a big turkey in a pot you can put the turkey and brine into an ice chest and cover it with ice, freeing up fridge space for other things like cranberry sauce and dessert!
I hope that this year you can count among your many blessings a really lovely Thanksgiving turkey!
- 6 quarts water
- 1½ cups kosher salt
- 1 cup coconut palm sugar or brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
- 6 bay leaves
- 6 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 4 sprigs fresh sage
- 6 cloves garlic smashed
- 1 medium onion halved
- 1 organic lemon
- 1 bottle Riesling 750 ml plus 1 cup dry divided use
- 1 14 pound fresh turkey
- ¾ cup unsalted butter or dairy free butter substitute at room temperature, divided use
- Additional kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Combine 4 cups water, the salt, coconut sugar, peppercorns, herbs, garlic, and onion in a saucepan. Peel the lemon with a vegetable peeler, add the peel to the pan and squeeze in the juice. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring, until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Let cool. Add the wine to the mixture.
Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey and rinse with cold water. Line a large stock pot or bucket with a brining or oven roasting bag. Place the turkey inside, pour in the brining mixture and add 5 quarts of cold water (or enough water to cover the turkey. Press out as much air as possible and seal the bag. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
The day of roasting the turkey, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse with cold water inside and out. Discard the brine. Pat the turkey dry, place in a roasting pan, and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Season the inside of the turkey with salt and pepper. Tuck the wings under, stuff the turkey if desired, not forgetting the neck cavity. Secure the flap at the neck cavity with a toothpick and tie the legs together. Rub ¼ cup of softened butter all over the turkey skin and season generously with salt and pepper. Place in the oven for 30 minutes.
In a saucepan, heat the remaining 1 cup of wine with the remaining ½ cup butter until the butter melts. After 30 minutes of roasting the turkey, reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to roast, basting with the wine butter mixture every 30 minutes, for 2 – 2 ½ more hours or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165 degrees. If the turkey starts to brown too much, cover loosely with foil. Remove the turkey from the oven, cover with foil and let sit for 30 minutes before carving.
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