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Alsatian-Brined Turkey with Riesling Gravy

Planning ahead to make a brined turkey is the key to a moist bird. In this recipe, F&W's Grace Parisi adds Riesling to the brine and also includes the wine in a delicious gravy.

  • Servings: 12

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  • 5 quarts plus 2 cups cold water
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/4 cup dried chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons caraway seeds
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns,lightly crushed
  • 2 tablespoons juniper berries, lightly crushed
  • 6 bay leaves
  • One 18-pound turkey, neck and giblets reserved for another use
  • 2 1/2 cups Riesling
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups Rich Turkey Stock or low-sodium chicken broth
  • Freshly ground pepper


  1. In a large pot, bring 4 cups of the water to a boil. Add 1 1/4 cups of kosher salt, the sugar, mustard seeds, dried onion, caraway seeds, peppercorns, juniper berries and bay leaves. Stir to dissolve the salt and sugar completely. Remove the pot from the heat.
  2. Line a large stockpot or bucket with 2 very large, sturdy plastic bags. Put the turkey into the bags, neck first. Pour the warm brine over the turkey. Add 1 1/2 cups of the Riesling and 4 quarts of the cold water. Seal the bags; press out as much air as possible. Refrigerate for 2 days.
  3. On Thanksgiving morning, preheat the oven to 350°. Drain the turkey, scraping off the spices, then transfer it to a large roasting pan and let it return to room temperature. Discard the brine.
  4. Add the quartered onion, the garlic and 1 cup of the water to the pan and roast the turkey for 1 1/2 hours. Add the remaining 1 cup of water to the pan and roast for about 1 1/2 hours longer, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into an inner thigh registers 165°. Cover the breast loosely with foil during the last hour of roasting to prevent it from browning too quickly.
  5. Transfer the turkey to a cutting board. Strain the pan juices into a measuring cup and skim off the fat; reserve 3 tablespoons of the fat. In a bowl, mix the reserved fat with the flour until a paste forms.
  6. Set the roasting pan over 2 burners and heat until sizzling. Add the remaining 1 cup of Riesling and bring to a simmer over moderately high heat, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom and sides of the pan. Strain the wine into a medium saucepan and boil until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and the reserved pan juices and bring to a boil. Whisk in the flour paste and simmer over moderate heat until the gravy thickens slightly and no floury taste remains, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Carve the turkey and serve with the Riesling gravy on the side.

Suggested Pairing

A rich Alsace Riesling will match the spices in this Alsatian-flavored turkey. Pick one with depth and complexity. Or try a tart and fruity Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley in Oregon.

Contributed By Published November 2004

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