Monday, November 21, 2011

Recipes: Uncle Jack’s Whiskey Brined Turkey

Since this week is International-Eat-Until-Our-Underpants-Don't-Fit-Week, I have decided to share some of my favorite holiday recipes.  Because this turkey recipe can take a few days (thawing and brining take awhile), I am releasing it first so if anyone does decide to replicate it they will have plenty of time to do so.  

A Turkey Breast Roulade prepared using the bringing recipe below

Uncle Jack’s Whiskey Brined Turkey
BY: Samuel Parks
(November 2011)

After 5 years of trial, error, and a lot of tryptophan, I have finally perfected my recipe!  Thanks to all of my friends and family who have been “willing” volunteers.  This recipe may take some prep work, but believe me it’s totally worth it.


·         1 cup Kosher salt
·         ½ cup white sugar
·         ½ cup molasses
·         ¼ cup clover honey
·         ½ gallon fresh apple cider
·         1 gallon chicken stock
·         ½ Tbs. dried thyme
·         4-6 fresh sage leaves
·         2 sprigs fresh rosemary
·         1 stick whole cinnamon
·         2 bay leaves
·         1 Tbs. whole peppercorns (slightly crushed)
·         1 Tbs. whole allspice berries (slightly crushed)
·         1 Tbs. candied ginger
·         1 cup Tennessee Whiskey (Jack Daniels)
·         Ice water

Select a medium sized 14-16 lbs. whole turkey.  Fresh or frozen, it really won’t matter in the end.  Size does matter when it comes to turkeys…but bigger isn’t exactly better.  If you do require some additional servings, try brining a turkey breast (or two) in the same brining solution at the same time. 

IMPORTANT- Do not use a self basting/ pre-treated turkey for this recipe.  Self-basting/ pre-treated birds already contain a sodium/ saline solution and letting it rest in a salt water bath for 24 hours will turn your beautiful bird into the aviary equivalent of Lot’s wife. 

·         1 red apple (quartered)
·         1 red onion (quartered)
·         1 stick whole cinnamon
·         1-2 whole stems of sage, depending on flavor (not leaves but actual stems with leaves, 5-6 leaves/ stem)
·         3 sprigs fresh rosemary
·         3 celery stalks

·         Large plastic bucket with a sealable lid (I use a large painters bucket that I purchased from a local hardware store…it is only used for brining)
·         Canola oil
·         Large roasting pan
·         Aluminum foil

1.      Combine salt, sugar, molasses, honey, thyme, rosemary,4-6  sage leaves, 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, 1 stick of whole cinnamon, bay leaves, peppercorns, and allspice berries with 2 cups of the apple cider in a 2 qt. stock pot and bring to lazy simmer.  Stir constantly, until the sugar and salt have dissolved.  Cool to room temperature before proceeding.
2.      Combine the salt/ sugar solution with the remaining apple cider and chicken stock in the large plastic bucket.  ADD THE 1 CUP JD WHISKEY (do not add during the initial heating process; if you do all the Jack Daniel’s magic will be lost and the whiskey gods will take your soul)
3.      Place the thawed turkey breast on the counter.  Stare it down, giving it your best impression of Clint Eastwood.  Then take your hand and stick it straight up the gapping whole where the turkey’s keister should be and give her a good “feeling up.”  There should be one or two bags hidden in this cavity; one containing the internal organs/ neck and possible one more with pre-made gravy.  Remove any bags inside this cavity.
4.      Place the turkey, breast side down (meaning the half of the turkey with the breasts should be on the bottom of the bucket with the brine) into the brining bucket with the salt/ sugar solution.
5.      Cover the turkey with ice and water.  Seal the bucket and store in a cool place for 12 hours (check on the ice as needed and add more if necessary).
6.      After 12 hours, open the bucket and flip the turkey so the breast section is now at the top of the bucket.  Cover with additional ice if necessary, and continue to brine for 12 more hours.
7.      At the conclusion of 24 hours, remove the turkey from the brine and place it directly into the kitchen sink.  Rinse it well with cool water, paying close attention to all of the allspice berries, peppercorns, and other large spices that may have been lodged under the skin. 
8.      Create a small thermal-nuclear reaction in your oven.  If your kitchen does not come equipped with its own illegal Iranian heavy water reactor, simply crank up the oven temp as hot as it will go (typically 500 degrees Fahrenheit) and make sure the fire extinguisher is standing-by. 
9.      Place all of the aromatics into a small microwave safe dish with 1 cup of water and heat for 4-5 minutes. 
10.  Drain all excess liquid from the turkey, and pat the entire surface dry with paper towels.  The drier the skin, the better it will brown in the oven. 
11.  Place the turkey on a rack in a large roasting pan.  Take the wings, and fold the tip backwards from its normal range of motion, and tuck the tip under the backside of the turkey.  When doing this, the wing joint may snap… don’t worry about it. 
12.  Stuff the now empty internal cavity with the previously microwaved aromatics.
13.  Dry the skin one final time and rub the entire exterior of the turkey with a liberal amount of canola oil.
14.  Place the turkey into center of the preheated oven and cook for 30 minutes. 
15.  After 30 minutes remove the turkey from the oven and cover the breast portion with aluminum foil.  Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and return the bird to the oven.  Continue to cook, until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees.  Remove from the oven and cover loosely with aluminum foil.  Let the turkey stand for at least 20 minutes before carving.

Yields 6-8 servings + some leftovers for turkey sandwiches.


  1. when do you add the candied ginger?

    1. Sam: put it into the stock as you heat it.

    2. I noticed that as well and threw it in while it was simmering! I couldnt find candied ginger so i just chopped up a bit of crystalized ginger.! Really psyched about this recipe. Ive been stalking it all week! Really well written and enjoyable to read. I'll be smoking my turkey though! Happy Turkey Day!

  2. Any other options for oil besides canola oil?

    1. Vegetable oil, peanut oil, or sunflower oil (preferably in that order) will work. You just need a less flavorful oil, so as not to mask the delicious (but subtle) flavors of the brine.

  3. Any thoughts on using an oved bag for baking?
    Pros and cons?

    1. when using a brine, it should keep the turkey very moist without the need for an oven bag. I personally don't like to use them in the oven as there's no telling what sort of things leech out of the plastic during the baking process. that said, they do make clean up a snap.


Thanks for your comments!