Say no to dry pork and poultry! This easy apple cider brine can be made ahead of time for a stress-free, worry free holiday dinner. Make this easy brine mix for yourself or for the hostess in your life!
This post was originally published on November 21, 2017. It was updated on October 20, 2020 with new pictures but its still the same great recipe!
As a food blogger, I try to be ahead of the curve. Often this means making recipes a month or more before they’re seasonal. It’s not quite Thanksgiving and I’ve nearly had my fill of turkey. Nearly because our first turkey was a flop. But read on to see how I turned things around.
Turkey brine mix
Back in early October we grilled a turkey to test a recipe spiced with maple butter. Unfortunately, it ended up dry and disappointing despite basting it with tons of butter! Now maybe it was because that turkey had been in the freezer since the last time turkeys were on sale (lesson learned, :-) or maybe it just needed a little more love.
My in-laws always brine their turkey and it turns out super moist and flavorful. Since the turkeys I roast are rarely served to guests, most of the time I’m too lazy for this brining step. I’d rather just use a tasty glaze like I did with this Brown Sugar Date Roast Turkey recipe and hope for the best. And it almost always works out.
But that recent turkey debacle got my feathers ruffled. So, I set out to find a brine. Turns out that store bought brines are quite pricey. Especially considering that the two main ingredients are salt and sugar. Long story short, I decided to make my own instead.
After making Caramel Apple Marshmallows last month, I was inspired to make more apple cider recipes. Apple pairs perfectly with pork and turkey, so I decided an apple cider brine would be fab for the holidays.
It needed to be full of sweet and savory elements but also be shelf-stable. The holidays are so busy. No need to make them harder! So, the thought was to make a brine mix as convenient as the store bought varieties.
Thanksgiving hostess gift
Then it dawned on me that this mix could also be a thoughtful hostess gift. If your family is like mine, either pork or turkey is on the holiday menu, be it Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years. So, it’s a gift that will be appreciated.
But it won’t be just because of your thoughtfulness. This brine mix has all the flavor! Seriously! Rosemary, orange, apple, allspice, thyme, garlic… which in turn gives the roast all the juicy flavors too!
Everything in this brine mix is dried or candied, so you can make this recipe before the holiday season gets crazy busy. And all you need to add to this mix is apple cider and water. Super easy!
Make one jar for yourself and make another jar for your favorite party hostess. The brine mix is so pretty thanks to the colorful spices and fruits, with little pops of red, green and orange. Put the mix in a nice jar with a gift tag labeled with the recipe URL and you’ll make your host smile.
How to brine a turkey
There are a few easy steps to brining a turkey. First, make the brine. The brine mix needs to be heated with the apple cider so the salt and sugar melt.
After cooking, let the brine come to room temperature so the brine doesn’t cook the turkey prematurely. I speed up this process by adding cold water to the brine after cooking. Then I check the temperature with an instant read thermometer.
The second step is to combine the turkey with the brine. If your turkey is small, a large soup pot is ideal. For larger birds, use a brining bag. Place the turkey in the pot or bag and cover with cooled brine.
The last step is chilling the turkey for 12-24 hours. The best option is to refrigerate the turkey while it brines. But sometimes that’s not possible when your fridge is stuffed with holiday side dishes!
Another option is to place the turkey in a large cooler and cover it with ice. We did this recently and used 30 pounds of ice. To be sure the temperature was in the safe zone (below 40F) we attached an oven thermometer with an air probe. It worked like a charm, staying in the 35 degree zone for over 24 hours.
Remove the turkey from the brine, pat dry and you’re ready to cook! We love to pair this brine with our grilled spatchcock turkey recipe. It’s always a hit with it’s smoky flavor and juicy meat.
Thanks to this brine, our second turkey of the season was on point! Moist, delicious, and totally worth the effort. I don’t think there will be any unloved turkeys in my freezer when this holiday season is over!
Apple Cider Brine Recipe
- 2 cups coarse salt
- 1 cup turbinado sugar
- 1/4 cup candied orange zest, chopped
- 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
- 6 bay leaves, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon pink peppercorns
- 2 tablespoonsa dried allspice berries
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried minced garlic
- 1/4 cup dried apple or pear, diced or chopped
- 8 cups apple cider
- 20 cups water
- Combine all of the dry ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine.
- The dry mix will equal 4 cups which is enough for 2 small -medium turkeys or pork roasts or one very large turkey.
Making the brine
- In a large soup pot, combine the apple cider and brine mix.
- Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the salt and sugar melt.
- Add the water (preferably cold water) and let brine cool to room temperature.
- Place poultry or pork in a large bag (or soup pot) and fill with brine.
- Refrigerate for 6-24 hours, depending on the size of the roast.
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