We’re less than a week away from Thanksgiving (seriously, 2016, where have you gone?!) and for the first time ever I’m actually going to bake a turkey for our holiday dinner.
This is a pretty big deal in our house, because whether I was cooking or we catered, I was always more of a “honey baked ham” kinda girl. In fact, I actually thought I didn’t like turkey. I grew up having turkey every Thanksgiving and I only ate as much of it as I “needed” to – you know, before I filled up on potato salad.
But, like many habits I had as a kid, it turned out I was so completely wrong about turkey. As it turns out, I love turkey. Because like most dishes, how you cook and flavor a meat can make a world of difference.
Regular readers of this little food blog probably already know that most of the recipes I post here were made after I successfully made them for the first time. I take a lot of pride in that fact – I’m a pretty cautious cooker, researching different methods before I even step in the kitchen, and I like to think that if I can “wing” a recipe like this on the first attempt then so can anyone else.
So, here I am, with a gorgeously seasoned and browned turkey, telling you all those nightmare stories of brining, basting, and seasoning aren’t really that bad. If fact, if you start out with an easy recipe (like this one!) then baking your first turkey can be a breeze.
And as for what I loved most about this recipe?
The turkey baked with plenty of moisture – I did baste the turkey once, but only because I had bought a baster and wanted to use it. Basting isn’t required.
I really do think a good brine works wonders, and the hint of maple flavor was a great compliment to the tartly sweet chutney.
Plus, the simple seasoning on the turkey (just butter and sage) make the otherwise bland breast meat have a delicious buttery flavor.
And, finally, the chutney. Oh, the chutney. I was a little skeptical about pairing a savory meat with such a sweet sauce, but I almost felt like I didn’t have enough chutney for all the turkey.
New England Baked Turkey and Chutney
A fool-proof baked turkey that's treated in a maple brine and served with a cherry and peach chutney. Perfect for both experienced and first-time cooks!
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- In a large saucepan, combine 4 cups water, kosher salt, maple syrup, and apple juice concentrate. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently, until salt has dissolved, about 5-10 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat.
- Stir in 16 cups of cold water, peppercorns, cloves, and garlic.
- Prepare turkey as you see fit (removing neck, giblets, etc). Rince turkey with water and pat dry. Place a brining bag in a baking dish large enough to hold the turkey, then place turkey in the bag, Pour brine in bag with turkey. Seal bag as best you can so that turkey is submerged in the brine on all sides (I used cooking twine).
- Place turkey in the refrigerator and let brine for 12-24 hours, ideally turning once half way through.
- When ready to bake, combine butter and rubbed sage in a small bowl and mix until combined. Set nearby.
- Remove turkey from brine, then discard bag and excess brine. Rince turkey thoroughly and pat dry. Lay turkey breast side up, and starting at the neck, slip your fingers between the skin and the meat, separating and loosening the skin as you work toward the tail. Continue to create a pocket over the entire top of the turkey breast. Be sure to avoid the drumsticks, wings, and the joints nearby; skin should remain in place in these areas.
- Once pocket over breast is created, rub the sage butter mixture over the meat under the skin.
- Place prepared turkey in your chosen baking dish. If desired, use a long skewer to secure neck skin to back. Twist the wing tips under the back of the turkey. If not already done, secure the two ends of the drumsticks together with cooking twine. Season the top of the turkey with salt and pepper, to taste.
- For baking the turkey: If your turkey came with cooking instructions, it's okay to follow them as written. If your turkey didn't come with instructions, I recommend preheating to 325 degrees F and following this chart for weight & roasting time. No matter what your cook time, to prevent over browning, cover the turkey with a aluminum foil tent for the last hour of cooking.
- When turkey is done, remove from oven and let sit, still covered with foil, for another 15-35 minutes before serving.
- While turkey cools, add brown sugar, cherries, vinegar, red onion, and ginger to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
- Add peaches and continue to cook until heated through, about 5 minutes.
- Serve sliced turkey with sweet chutney either on the side or drizzled on top of the meat.