A recipe for honey-brined roasted turkey from our home grown chef
written by Thor Erickson | photography by Charlotte Dupont
Ah, honey—the sweet, viscous gold crafted by winged artisans. roughout history, this culinary treasure has been revered—used to anoint kings at birth, nurture them through life, and preserve their bodies when they died. Many civilizations have relied on honey not only for its sweetness, but also for its healing properties. As a child, I suffered from severe hayfever. After a few years of useless antihistamine shots, my mother heard from a local macramé maker (it was the ’70s, after all) that raw honey was a great natural cure for hay fever. After some searching, she found some local honey. My mom paid the hefty price of $15 a gallon and made me swear not to tell anyone about it. (Unlike the kings anointed with the stuff, it didn’t fit my family’s modest budget.) The honey was sequestered in a kitchen cabinet. Each morning I took two large spoonfuls of the gorgeous goo. As the middle child with a bunch of sisters, it was the first time in my life that I had something that was entirely mine. It was delightful.
A couple months later, my hay fever was noticeably better. Not gone, but better. As a side effect, I had not only become a honey addict, but a honey snob. The cute plastic-bear bottles full of clover honey were fine for other kids, but not for me. I needed the most local honey available. I feigned severe hay fever episodes so my mother would delve deeper into the amber market of the honey trade. Honeycombs, crystalized honey, aged honey—everything short of getting my own hive. After a year or so, my mother spilled the beans to my father about the honey and its cost. There was intervention. There would be no more raw honey for me. I had to quit cold turkey. Well, not entirely. My mom managed to get a weekend job for me with the “honey man,” washing honey jugs in exchange for my delicious, syrupy drug. Speaking of turkey, here is a great holiday recipe for a honey-brined turkey. This roasted bird will be juicy and impart a subtle sweetness that will have everyone at your table abuzz. Take it from me, the honey snob.
Honey-Brined Roasted Turkey
recipe by Thor Erickson
MAKES 1 TURKEY
1 turkey, approximately 12 pounds
7 quarts of cold water
2 quarts of vegetable stock
1 pound raw Oregon honey
1 cup Jacobsen sea salt
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 bunch fresh rosemary
1 bunch fresh sage
1 head of garlic cut in half horizontally
2 tablespoons whole peppercorns
Place 1 quart of water, the honey and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the salt is completely dissolved and remove from heat. Pour mixture into a container large enough to t the turkey and the brine. Add 6 quarts of cold water, the stock, herbs, garlic and peppercorns. Stir to combine. Place the turkey in the brine, adding some weight (I use a dinner plate) to keep it completely submerged, and place in the refrigerator for about 24 hours. Remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry with paper towels.
Place turkey on a rack over a rimmed baking sheet and allow to air-dry overnight in the refrigerator—this will result in crispy and delicious skin. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator, fold the wings under the body and tie the legs together. Brush turkey lightly with vegetable oil and allow the bird to come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the turkey until an instant-read thermometer reads 165 degrees in the thickest part of the breast, which should take about 2.5 to 3 hours. Remove the turkey from the oven and allow it to rest, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Carve and serve.