Introduction: Epic Apple-glazed Rosemary Turkey

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Roast turkey is America's culinary super-star on Thanksgiving Day.  This year, I aspired to create something unique and unconventional for the occasion.

Allow me to present (my "epic" brainchild ;-) Apple-glazed Rosemary Turkey.... a magnificent, mouthwatering (and easy!) departure from tradition. 

Subtle and savory apple-rosemary flavors are mega-infused 4 different ways to create a Turkey masterpiece bursting with juicy succulence... without the hassle (my opinion ;-) of overnight brining. 

P.S. If you covet mouthfuls of golden turkey skin, I strongly recommend you attend the carving ceremony.  This prized delicacy will disappear faster than an apple pie from a window sill!  I'm confident you'll bethankful for the suggestion. ;-)

Let's get started...

Step 1: Ingredients and Tools:

  • 1 whole Turkey- (Large fatty deposits, giblets and neck removed) Rinsed and patted dry 
  • 4 cups (1 quart) apple juice or apple cider
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 6 Granny Smith or any variety baking apples (see list below)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons dried Rosemary
  • 1-2 Tablespoon butter
  • 2-3 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1+ teaspoons salt
  • Potato peeler
  • Apple corer or a small sharp knife
  • Marinade Injector- $5 at Walmart
  • Sauce pan
  • Medium bowl
  • Wooden spoon
  • Pastry brush
  • Roasting pan- preferably with a rack
  • Aluminum foil
Baking Apple Choices: 
  • Granny Smith
  • Jonathons
  • Jonagolds
  • Rome Beauty
  • Honeycrisp
  • Melrose
  • Braeburn
  • Winesap
  • Golden Delicious
  • Cortland
  • Gala

Step 2: Loosen the Turkey Skin:

Fold up your sleeves.  Wash and dry your hands.  You're about  to get up-close and personal with your bird. ;-)

If your turkey has a pop-up timer in the breast, remove it and set it aside to be replaced later.

Begin with the breast, at the top of the neck cavity.  Hold up the loose flap of skin with one hand and gently start working your fingertips (other hand) between the skin and the breast.  

Turkey skin isn't exactly delicate, but work carefully so it doesn't accidentally tear.

Loosen the skin all the way to the stuffing cavity between the legs, but don't push your fingertips out through that side. Leave a 1/2" margin of skin connected to the breast along the entire edge of the leg cavity.  

When you've finished loosening the skin on the breast, work your fingers completely around each thigh and about halfway down each drumstick.  

Leave the skin on the wings and the skin on the underside of the turkey untouched. 

Process complete... wasn't that fun?!?  Now rewash your hands. ;-D

Step 3: Prep Apples and Insert Under Skin:

Peel and core all 6 apples. (If you plan on stuffing your turkey with dressing, only prep 3 apples.)

Slice 3-4 of the apples into 1/4" thick rings. 

Put the rings into a bowl and sprinkle with a couple teaspoons of dried Rosemary. 

Going in from the neck area,  tuck an apple ring underneath the skin onto the breast.  Slide/push it toward the tail end of the bird.

Repeat this process until the turkey breast, thighs and legs are covered with apple rings.  The wings are too small for this step, so they're on their own. f(For now. ;-)

Cut the 2 remaining apples into large chunks and sprinkle them with a little more Rosemary.  Stuff them loosely into the neck and chest cavities. They'll infuse flavor from the inside out and help keep the breast moist and tender.  

Step 4: Prepare Marinade and Inject:

Marinade/Flavor Injecting is the easy, fast and inexpensive way to super-hydrate a turkey.  It's my favorite alternative to brining.  Don't be concerned if your using a turkey that has already been "pre-injected" (like Butterball) with a flavor solution.  Most of that solution gets lost/wasted in the thawing process anyway.

Put the turkey on the rack and in the roasting pan now,  before injecting it.

Marinade ingredients: Stir 1 cup apple juice and 1 cup chicken broth together in a bowl.  This is ample marinade for a 20 lb turkey.  It's better to have too much marinade rather than too little.  If you have any extra marinade after injecting, set it aside.  You can add it to the apple syrup in step 6 of this recipe.

Getting started: Even if you've never used a marinade injector before,  it's a straight-forward process that's easily mastered.  Start by washing and fully assembling the injector according to the directions.

To fill the syringe:
  1. Begin with the plunger fully depressed into the syringe.
  2. Place the needle into the bowl of marinade, well under the surface of the liquid.
  3. Slowly pull the plunger back until the syringe is full. 
Injecting technique:
  1. Begin at the top of the breast. (one side)
  2. Push the needle into the meat as deeply as you can without hitting the bone.
  3. Depress the plunger slowly and inject 1/3 of the marinade into the meat.  Slightly withdraw the needle/syringe at the same time you're injecting.  This helps evenly distribute the marinade and avoids creating pockets.
  4. Stop depressing the plunger just before the needle-hole nears the skin. 
  5. Without exiting the original injection site, simply re-angle the needle and push it back into the meat.  Again, slowly inject another 1/3 of the marinade down into the meat.
  6. Repeat at another angle away from the first two and inject the final 1/3 of marinade.
  7. Refill the syringe and continue the above process with the thighs, drumsticks and wings.
Keep the injection sites to a minimum.  2 at the top of each side of the breast, 2 on each thigh (inner and outer sides), 1 on each drumstick and 1 on each wing is ample.

For larger birds, you can reuse the same needle entry sites.  As long as you re-angle the needle, the marinade will be distributed evenly throughout the bird. 

Clear as mud? Injecting is a lot easier done-than-said.  The pictures should clear up any confusion. ;-)

Step 5: Season and Roast:

Roasting preferences can vary widely.  Feel free to follow your own temperature settings and roasting timeline.  You'll get no argument from me. ;-)  That said...

Here are the simple guidelines I followed:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Pour 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil into your hands, rub your palms/fingers together.  Massage your oil-laced hands over the entire turkey.
  • Sprinkle the skin with salt and dried rosemary. 
  • Replace the pop-up timer or insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh without touching the bone.
  • Put the turkey in the oven (bottom rack) and begin roasting.
  • Refer to steps 6 (and 7) of this recipe.
  • For even cooking, rotate the pan after the first hour of roasting.
  • Loosely tent the roasting bird with foil when it's turned golden brown.
The roasting time will vary, depending on the weight of the bird. 

If you stuff the turkey with apple chunks, follow the same roasting guidelines as you would for an unstuffed turkey.  If you stuff the turkey with dressing, you'll need to adjust the roasting time upwards.

Step 6: Savory Apple Syrup- Glaze Preparation:

While the turkey is busy roasting, prepare the apple syrup for glazing.  You can also make it a few days in advance to lighten your workload on the big day.  

This recipe will yield approximately 1 1/2- 2 cups of syrup. 

Savory Apple Syrup :
  • 3 cups apple juice or apple cider
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon butter

Stir apple juice, brown sugar, white sugar and salt together in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low.  Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the syrup has thickened and reduced by half the volume.  This will take about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.  

Stir in 1-2 tablespoons of butter into the hot syrup.

Remove from heat and allow it to cool until you can give it a taste without burning your tongue.

The syrup will thicken substantially after it's cooled.  If it needs thinning, add a little water or leftover marinade if you have it.  Don't be afraid to add more salt if desired.  

If you have a gravy-fail, (or even if you don't) this salty-sweet syrup tastes amazing drizzled over the carved turkey, too. ;-P~

Set the prepared syrup aside.  It needs to be at room temperature when you glaze the turkey.

Step 7: Glaze:

Pull the turkey out of the oven about 45 minutes (or so) before it's finished roasting.  If you're using the pan dripping for gravy, drain them off carefully before glazing.

Remove the tent.  Use a pastry brush to generously glaze the turkey with the Savory Apple Syrup, rotate the pan and return it to the oven (uncovered) to finish roasting.

When the turkey is fully cooked (meat thermometer reads 165 degrees) remove it from the oven and brush on a final thin layer of glaze.

Loosely tent the turkey with foil and allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes (up to 1 hour) before carving.  Resting ensures juiciness.  It's not imperative that roast turkey be served piping hot.  I think we can all agree that moist turkey is far more important that hot turkey. ;-)

Step 8: Author's Notes:

This is a recipe I'll definitely make again and again, experimenting with different herbs. Tarragon is at the top of my list.  

Roasting the turkey breast side-down (as Little Mom on the Prairie demonstrated in her tutorial here) is a fabulous alternative. The "pretty" might be a bit compromised, but you just can't argue with that much deliciousness!  

I'll definitely spatchcock (old-fashioned word for "butterfly") my Epic Apple bird next Thanksgiving. Scoochmaroo's recipe/technique can be found here.  A turkey so incredibly gorgeous might be painful to carve up, but I'm sure I'll manage. ;-)

Here's the part where I recite my favorite mantra:

"There's always room for improvement in any new recipe endeavor!"  You have my permission (and encouragement) to tweak Apple-Glazed Rosemary Turkey to your liking.  I also think your family will love this recipe exactly as-is.

Feel free to share your comments... and thanks for stopping by!