Tea and Apple Cider Brine

Peter Frank Edwards

No amount of fixings can overcome a dry bird. So this year, we asked another Southern chef, Joe Clarke of American Grocery in Greenville, South Carolina, for his secret to the perfect turkey. “I have cooked my turkey every way possible,” Clarke says. But his favorite method is to use a brine—basically a mix of herbs, sugar, and salt—augmented with brewed tea and apple cider. After soaking the turkey overnight (or about an hour per pound), Clarke likes to take his bird to the smoker. But the method works great with a roast turkey too, helping to evenly distribute flavor and moisture.

Check out Clarke’s brine recipe below, and click here to see our collection of Southern Thanksgiving recipes.

Chef Joe Clarke’s Tea and Apple Cider Brine

2 gallons water
4 cups sugar
4 cups salt
½ cup coriander seeds
½ cup mustard seeds
1 cup dried chiles de arbol (crushed)
1 cup dried bay leaves (crushed)
¼ cup black peppercorns
1 bunch fresh sage
2 bunches fresh thyme
20 cloves garlic
2 gallons unsweetened tea
1 gallon apple cider

Bring water to a boil in a large pot and add the sugar and the salt, stirring to dissolve.

Toast coriander, mustard, chiles, and bay leaves until fragrant, being careful not to burn. Add toasted spices and peppercorns to hot water. Bruise herbs and crush garlic, and add to hot water mixture.

You will need a large cooler or container big enough to hold five gallons of liquid plus the turkey and a refrigerated space large enough to hold it.

Combine the tea, apple cider, and water mixture, and allow to cool to room temperature before adding the bird. Rinse the turkey and place in brine overnight (or about an hour per pound).

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