Dry brining acts similarly to a marinade and brings out all the flavours in the meat. Just remember to start well in advance.
Serves: 8–10, with leftovers
You can get some brilliant turkey brining bags (I get mine from Lakeland). Pop your turkey into the bag and crack on with the dry brine. Place the cloves, allspice, star anise, cinnamon and peppercorns in a pan and toast them for 2–3 minutes. Place in a blender with the salt, sugar, herbs and zest and blitz until you have a spiced salt. Pour the salt into the brining bag with the turkey and give it a good old shake until the turkey is covered inside AND out with the mixture. Pop it into the fridge and leave for up to 48 hours.
When ready to cook, heat the oven to 140°C/fan 120°C/gas 1. This sounds alarmingly low, but trust me and go with it, it works. You now need to wash off the salt mixture and dry the bird really well. Carefully slide your hand under the skin to detach it from the breast, just enough to rub the butter underneath. Do your best to rub it evenly under the skin, but if there’s any excess butter you can rub it over the top of the bird. No need to season, as the bird has been brined. If you’re stuffing your bird, now’s the time! I do, because I like the meat juices to make my stuffing moist with the added flavour from the bird.
Next lay the bacon over the breast of the bird. You can get all fancy pants and make a lattice shape if you like, but this bacon is just to keep the breast moist and for more flavour.
Lay the bird on a trivet of the sliced onions in a large roasting tray and wrap tightly in foil. Roast for 3½ hours – there really is no need to baste when cooking at so low a temperature, so don’t remove the foil. It kind of roasts/steams the bird, which is how it keeps it juicy. When the time is up, take the bird out of the oven and increase the oven temperature as high as it will go. Remove the foil while the oven heats up and check that the bird is cooked by piercing the thigh at its thickest part with a metal skewer. The juices should run clear and it should be really juicy. Roast for another 20 minutes, or until the bird is an even bronze colour all over. Remove from the oven and wrap in fresh foil, then leave to rest for 40 minutes before serving with your best Christmas gravy.
- 1 free-range Kelly Bronze turkey, about 4–5kg, giblets removed for the gravy
- 12 cloves
- 12 allspice berries
- 5 star anise
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 10 peppercorns
- 500g fine salt
- 150g brown sugar
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 rosemary sprigs
- 5–6 thyme sprigs
- finely grated zest of 2 mandarins
- finely grated zest of 2 lemons
- 50g unsalted butter
- 20 streaky bacon rashers
- 2 onions, sliced
Recipe and photographs are from Season’s Eatings by Gizzy Erskine, with photography by Emma Lee, published by Mitchell Beazley, RRP £15.