We welcome you to support local farmers and enjoy a heritage Turkey this season! These old fashion birds are raised on pasture, with plenty of grass and sunshine. Their juicy, rich flavor is outstanding but, they do need to be cooked differently than their modern, mega-farmed counterparts. You are probably familiar with the standard large-breasted turkeys of industrial agriculture. Heritage turkeys have smaller, natural sized breasts and delectable turkey flavor. Heritage turkeys are also leaner and smaller than sedentary commercial birds. This means that fast cooking at high temperatures is a better method than slow roasting. Due to the fact that heritage turkeys are not pumped full of water and other flavoring solutions, we advise you brine your turkey using the following instructions to give a more familiar flavor, texture, and moisture to your good ol’ fashion heritage turkey.
The purpose of brining is to tenderize the meat while adding flavor. The basic formula for brine is ½ cup to 1 ½ cups sea salt for every gallon of liquid (water, juice, stock, or beer). You can also add any other seasoning to taste; try herbs, garlic, or peppercorns. Brining saturates the meat with the flavor of these seasonings. Unlike marinating, which flavors the outside, brining gives you deeper flavor and increases moisture.
The larger the bird, the longer it should brine; a whole turkey takes approximately 6 to 8 hours. Add ice to the Brine in a cooler if you do not have room in your refrigerator.
For the Brine:
1 cup sea salt
2 oranges, quartered
2 lemons, quartered
6 sprigs thyme
4 sprigs rosemary
To make the brining solutions, dissolve sea salt in 2 gallons of cold water in a non-reactive container (such as clean bucket or large stock pot, or a large cooler). Add the oranges, lemons, thyme, and rosemary. Remove the neck, giblet, and liver from cavity of the turkey and reserve for gravy. Rinse the turkey inside and out under cold running water. Soak the turkey in the brine, covered and refrigerated, for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse well under cold running water, pat dry. Place turkey, breast side up, in a large, heavy roasting pan. Rub breast side with orange segments and rub on all sides with butter and rosemary, stuffing some under the skin. Season lightly inside and out with sea salt and pepper. Stuff the turkey with onion, remaining orange, celery, carrot, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, sage, and parsley. Loosely tie the drumsticks together with kitchen twine. Roast turkey, uncovered, breast side down for 1 hour.
Remove from oven, turn, and baste with ½ cup stock. Continue roasting with breast side up until instant-read thermometer registers 150 degrees F when inserted into the largest section of thigh (avoid the bone), about 3 hours total cooking time. Baste the turkey once every hour with ½ to ¾ cup chicken or turkey stock.
Remove from oven and place on a platter. Tent with foil and let rest for 20 minutes before carving.