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Citrus Cinnamon Apple Butter Turkey Brine (low sodium)
About The Turkey/Poultry And Pre-Work Needed
Since this recipe has lower sodium than most other brines, it can be used on pre-seasoned/brined/self-basted poultry, in addition to a natural birds (with no additives), which is what is typically used for brining. I have used it on a Butterball Turkey with a 7% sodium solution.
Brines must be used on thawed poultry only, with all innards and giblets removed and legs untied. This means that if you are using frozen poultry, you need to build in lead time (usually 16-24 hours per 4 pounds of meat). The thawing needs to be complete before beginning brining.
Exact brining time is up to the cook (depending on how strong the flavor desired is), but it is recommended to do 1-3 days depending on the size of the poultry used. For more details, read the table below. Make sure you have enough refrigerator space - alternatively you can use a cooler and periodically switch out with fresh bags of ice.
Quick Reference Planning Guide for Thaw + Brine Time
Approximate Thaw Time
Recommended Brine Time
Total Lead Time Needed Before Cooking
1 - 1.5 days
2 - 2.5 days
3 - 3.5 days
4 - 4.5 days
2.5 - 3 days
How to Use This Brine Recipe
This recipe is for the brine only! Please read instructions below the recipe on all the steps that must be done afterwards.
It is recommended to begin this recipe at least 8 hours before your turkey is due to thaw, so that the brine cools and you can begin brining immediately after thawing is complete.
- 1 can (12 oz) orange juice concentrate, thawed
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon rosemary
- 2/3 cup apple butter, or substitute with 1 apple, sliced, and a sprinkle of nutmeg and cloves
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 lemon, sliced (include peel) - optional
- 1 lime, sliced (include peel) - optional
- 1 orange, sliced (include peel) - optional
- 1-1.5 gallons water, depending on size/shape of turkey and brining container
To Prepare Brine
- Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot.
- Bring to a rolling boil, stirring frequently.
- Remove from heat and place in refrigerator to cool. Do not use on poultry until completely cooled at refrigerator temperature.
How to Brine Your Turkey/Poultry
Put your poultry in a large enough container, such as a large stockpot, a disinfected cooler, a brining bucket or bag, so that it completely fits inside, without sticking out above the top. Then, add the brine, being careful to fill the cavity. If the brine doesn't totally cover the entire bird, add some water to compensate.
If unable to locate a container that completely engulfs the poultry, increase total brine time by 25-50% and periodically rotate the bird so that all sides are relatively evenly soaked in the brine solution.
Follow the table above for how long to brine your poultry, based on weight. When in doubt, use lower brine time (you can always add more seasoning later).
Important: keep the poultry refrigerated while brining to prevent food-borne illnesses.
After brining is complete, remove the poultry from the brine and discard the brine fluid. Pat the poultry dry with a paper towel, then prepare to cook in the method desired (usually oven-roasted).
Cook Your Poultry!
Follow the directions on the label of the bird for how to cook. Be sure to use a meat thermometer for the best accuracy. Brined poultry tends to cook 10-20% faster than an unbrined bird.
You can glaze or baste the poultry for even more added flavor.