Herb-Brined Turkey with Make-Ahead Gravy
  • 1cup plain (noniodized) table salt
  • 1cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2tbsp. dried rosemary
  • 2tbsp. dried thyme
  • 2tsp. dried sage
  • 1tbsp. dried marjoram
  • 1tbsp. celery seed
  • 1tbsp. whole black peppercorns
  • 6quarts iced water
  • 114 to 18 lb turkey, neck and giblets reserved for another use, and fat at tail area discarded
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 celery, chopped
  • 6tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 4 Head Start Gravy
  1. To make the brine, in a large stockpot, mix 2 quarts tap water with the salt, sugar, rosemary, thyme, sage, marjoram, celery seed, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Remove from the heat. Stir for a few minutes to cool slightly. Add the iced water and stir until the ice melts and the brine is very cold.
  2. Place the turkey in a roasting bag, then slip the bagged turkey into the second bag to make a double-thickness. Place the turkey in the ice chest. Pour the brine into the bag. Close the bag, being sure that the turkey is completely covered with brine, and secure the bag closed with a rubber band. Surround the bagged turkey with ice cubes or blue ice packs. Close the chest and let the turkey stand for at 10 to 16 hours. Do not brine the bird for longer than 16 hours, or the flavor and texture will be compromised.
  3. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 325° F. In a small bowl, mix the onion, carrot, and celery.
  4. Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse well, inside and out, under cold running water. Pat the skin and body cavities dry with paper towels. Turn the turkey on its breast. Loosely fill the neck cavity with the onion mixture. Using a wooden or metal skewer, pin the turkey’s neck skin to the back. Fold the turkey’s wings akimbo behind the back or tie to the body with kitchen string. Loosely fill the large body cavity with the remaining onion mixture. Place the drumsticks in the hock lock or tie together with kitchen string.
  5. Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in the roasting pan. Rub all over with the butter. Pour 2 cups of water into the bottom of the pan.
  6. Roast the turkey, basting all over every 45 minutes with the juices on the bottom of the pan, until a meat thermometer inserted in the meaty part of the thigh (but not touching a bone) reads 180° F degrees and the stuffing is at least 160° F, about 4 1/2 hours. Whenever the drippings evaporate, add more water, about 1 cup at a time).
  7. Transfer the turkey to a large serving platter and let it stand for at least 20 minutes before carving. Pour the pan drippings into a separating cup, leaving the browned bits in the pan. Let stand for 5 minutes, then pour off and reserve the drippings and discard the fat. Place the roasting pan on two burners over medium-high heat. Add the gravy and bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits in the pan with a wooden spatula. Gradually add the dark, degreased pan drippings until the gravy is salted and colored to taste. Simmer until the gravy thickens. Strain, and transfer to a warmed gravy boat.
  8. Carve the turkey and serve the gravy alongside.
Recipe Notes

Special equipment
2 jumbo (turkey-sized) oven-roasting bags
A large ice chest, to comfortably hold the brined turkey
About 10 pounds ice cubes or 2 “blue ice” packs, frozen