I love breakfast food and often find it difficult to decide what meal I want when we go out for brunch. It is always a toss-up between ordering eggs, like Eggs Benedict or in the pancake / french toast category. Breakfast meals are sweet and savory comfort foods that just make the day start off on a happy note. French toast made with good quality bread soaked in a light vanilla custard always makes me happy. Yet today, I wanted to do something slightly different with some make in advance options and fruit topping. Baked French Toast with Apple Cranberry Compote, is a special occasion breakfast or brunch with easy do-ahead preparations.
Baked French Toast
The type of bread is the first key ingredient. I recommend a Country White Boule or Country White Sourdough Boule. The bread is sturdy and will hold up to an overnight soaking without falling apart. I bought my Country White Sourdough Boule at Whole Foods. It does not have a thick crust which is better suited for french toast. Challah or Brioche are other good choices, but I have yet to test them in this recipe. I do not recommend using regular sandwich bread as it will just fall apart before you start.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I make french toast by the time I get to the last 4 pieces the egg and milk custard is used up and I need to make more. The first slices of french toast soaked up more than their fair share of custard leaving none to spare for the last few slices. In this recipe, you soak all the bread slices at the same time overnight and every slice gets an even soaking of vanilla-nutmeg custard.
Another advantage of making baked french toast, is you bake the slices of bread at the same time in the oven. This frees up the cooks’ time to enjoy a cup of coffee or make the compote. At first, I was doubtful that baking the french toast would produce browned slices of french toast, but it does. Baked french toast has a great texture with crispy and buttery browned edges and soft and tender insides.
Apple Cranberry Compote
The compote combines fresh apples and cranberries with a spiced apple cider reduction. The fruit is gently cooked in butter until the cranberries start to pop. For this recipe, I reduced the amount of sugar, so you can taste the fruit and not the sugar. The cranberries are tart and contrast with the sweet apples. If the cranberries are too tart feel free to add more sugar a tablespoon at a time but make sure all the sugar dissolves before you remove the compote off the heat.
I made the compote with Fuji apples because they were on sale, but any apple that keeps its’ shape will work. Golden Delicious apples, Granny Smith apples, or Gala apples are all good choices. If you use Granny Smith apples, then you may need more sugar.
Use real apple cider and not apple juice. It just does not taste the same using apple juice. The apple cider reduction is flavored with cinnamon and fresh ginger, that steep in the apple cider while it simmers. Real maple syrup and orange juice add natural sugar to sweeten the compote giving the compote extra flavor the highlights the fruit and not the sugar.
This recipe is inspired by and adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine, December 2001, Eggnog French Toast with Cranberry Apple Compote. I love the idea of using eggnog for the custard in French toast, but I decided to tone down the amount of sugar in the compote, and over-the-top sweetness in store-bought eggnog. In this recipe, I use half-and-half and milk in the base with eggs, and flavor the custard with vanilla, sugar and freshly grated nutmeg. If the eggnog custard appeals to you, substitute the milk and half & half with 4 cups (1 quart) of eggnog and only use 4 eggs instead of 7. Also, do not add sugar to the mix.
Transferring the saturated bread slices from the baking dish to the sheet pan, and turning them over to brown, requires a thin and flexible spatula. The best tool is a fish spatula and is the most versatile kitchen tool I own. The flexible and thin metal base easily slides under all types of food and does not stick to the surface like with most spatulas. I own the Victorinox one, but the Wusthof fish spatula is highly recommended by America’s Test Kitchen.
More Breakfast Love
More Cranberry Love
This recipe is part of a collaborative social media project featuring the beloved fall fruit, cranberries. This collaboration would not exist without the efforts of Ruth and Rebecca of @squaremealroundtable and Annie Garcia of @whatannieseating. Thank you, Annie, Rebecca, and Ruth for all your efforts and keeping the seasonal collaborative projects going. Check out what all the food bloggers and Instagramers have created by following #yesyourcranberry on Instagram or click on the links below.
Baked French Toast with Apple Cranberry Compote
I deliberately used less sugar in the fruit compote and custard, because every baked French toast breakfast I’ve eaten is cloyingly sweet. I like the tartness of the cranberries to counter the sweet apples. Add more sugar, either in the egg custard or fruit compote to your taste, but please use restraint. Or, pass some maple syrup around with the french toast and apple cranberry compote if you prefer the compote with a more syrupy consistency and sweeter.
This recipe is inspired by and adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine, December 2001, Eggnog French Toast with Cranberry Apple Compote.
- 1 ¾ - 1 lb. (350 - 450 g) loaf of Country White Boule
- 7 eggs
- 2 cups (500 ml) half and half
- 2 cup (500 ml) whole milk
- ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 TB (24 g) sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 4 TB (56 g) melted butter divided for the baking pan and top of French toast during baking
Apple Cranberry Compote
- 2 cups (500 ml) apple cider
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 2 1/4-inch (.5 cm) slices of fresh ginger
- ¼ cup (60 ml) real maple syrup
- ¼ cup (60 ml) orange juice
- 6 TB (74 g) butter divided
- 3 apples cut into ½” pieces
- 2 cups (500 ml) fresh cranberries
- 2 TB (24 g) sugar
Prepare the French Toast
Cut the boule in half across the equator, then cut each half in 1-inch (2.5 cm) slices. Arrange the bread slices on their sides, equally divided between two buttered 9 x 13 xx 2 inches (23 x 33 x 5 cm) baking dishes. Set aside.
In a medium-size bowl, beat the eggs with a fork or wire whisk until blended. Add the milk, half and half, vanilla, nutmeg, and sugar and whisk until combined.
Pour half of the egg-milk mixture into one baking dish with the bread slices, then pour the remaining in the second baking dish. Cover each dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Bake the French Toast
Preheat the oven at 450°F (230°C / Gas Mark 8) with rack in the middle position.
Melt the butter then use half of the melted butter to baste a rimmed sheet pan, large enough to hold all the slices of french toast. Arrange the bread slices, on their sides, on the sheet pan. A thin flexible spatula is the best tool or an offset spatula. Baste the remaining melted butter to on the top of each slice.
Bake for 10 minutes. Carefully turn the bread slices over then continue to bake 10 minutes more, or until each slice is golden brown with crispy edges and soft in the middle.
Serve the baked French Toast with Apple Cranberry Compote
Apple Cranberry Compote
Make the apple cider reduction
Add the apple cider, cinnamon stick, slices of ginger, maple syrup, and orange juice to a medium saucepan on medium-high heat. Bring the cider to a boil then turn down the heat slightly to keep a brisk boil. Cook until the cider reduces to 1 cup, (250 ml), about 20 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and ginger slices. Whisk in 2 TB of butter.
Meanwhile, melt 4 TB of the butter in a large pot like a Dutch Oven. Add the apple pieces and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cranberries and sugar, stir then cook until the cranberries pop and the fruit begins to soften but maintains their shape.
Add the apple cider reduction to the apples and cranberries, stir and cook at a simmer for 3 minutes.
The compote can be made up to two days in advance, stored in an airtight container and refrigerated until ready to serve. Heat up on the stove, then serve.
Serve with the Baked French Toast.
What Annie’s Eating Cranberry Mojitos
Square Meal Round Table’s Cranberry Orange Streusel Pie
Easy and Delish — Avocado Cranberry Hummus Dip
Flottelottehaan Buchteln with Cranberry Oranges Jam
The Cooking of Joy’s Cranberry Curd Tart
Jessie Sheehan Bakes – Cranberry Buckle
Ciao Chow Bambina – Cranberry Pecan Cracker Spread
Baking The Goods – Cranberry Apple Brown Butter Crumble Pie
Katiebird Bakes – Cranberry Sauce Breakfast Rolls
Crumb Top Baking’s Cranberry Orange Overnight Oatmeal Muffins
The Baking Fairy – Vegan Cranberry Apple Bundt Cake
You Can Live Rich On Less – Cranberry Cherry Tarts
Sift & Simmer – White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies
Bappy Girl – https://bappygirlyum.blogspot.com/
Ronnie Fein – Baked Goat Cheese with Honey Sauce and Cranberries: http://www.ronniefein.com/blog/on-hanukkah-lets-not-forget-that-a-woman-played-a?rq=Cranberries
Lemon Thyme and Ginger https://lemonthymeandginger.com/baked-french-toast-apple-cranberry-compote
Cranberry Agua Fresca with Mint and Lime: http://www.holajalapeno.com/2016/11/cranberry-agua-fresca.html
Cranberry Pie with Dried Figs and Cashews: http://www.ronniefein.com/blog/honey-cashew-pie
Susannah Chen’s Cranberry Pico de Gallo
Katherine in Brooklyn: Cranberry Cinnamon Buns
Pie Girl Bakes: Dark Chocolate Chunk Cranberry Cookies
Clean Plate Club: Glazed Cream Puffs with Cranberry Buttercream
Tiny Kitchen Capers: http://www.tinykitchencapers.com/white-chocolate-cranberry-oatmeal-cookies/
Le Petit Eats: Dark Chocolate Tart with Cinnamon Sugared Cranberry
Prickly Fresh’s: Cranberry Crostini with Prosciutto & Port Salut
Zestful Kitchen: Naturally Sweetened Cranberry Curd
Simple and Sweet Food: Fresh Ricotta and Spiced Cranberry Crostini
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
When you want something different from the traditional bread stuffing on Thanksgiving, wild rice stuffing is a great alternative. Wild rice has an earthy appeal that is so well suited for fall and winter meals. It is generously filled with complementary fall flavors with grains, wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, and toasted nuts. To liven up these woodsy fall notes I added dried cranberries for a sweet and tangy zing and lots of fresh herbs. It is everything you expect in a stuffing recipe minus the bread.
I love wild rice and have always wanted to make wild rice stuffing, yet it has taken me all these years to finally do so. Tradition has a strong hold on what I make for our holiday meal. If it were only up to me, I would experiment and try new recipes every year. Yet, tradition overrules. Everyone has their favorite food that must be on the menu because Thanksgiving is not Thanksgiving without it. For my sons, that special holiday dish is pineapple stuffing, for me, it is all of the side dishes, but I particularly like my favorite stuffing recipe and pumpkin pie.
Wild Rice Stuffing
In the past, I sampled wild rice stuffing made with all wild rice and aromatics. As much as I like wild rice, I prefer it in a blend with long grain white or brown rice. The rice blend flavor is less overpowering and doesn’t compete with the other foods. Within this recipe layers of flavor builds from slowly caramelizing the onions then sautéing the mushrooms in the same pan. These flavors take time to develop, so be patient and cook the onions slowly until they turn golden and sweet. I promise it is worth it.
I adapted this recipe from an old Thanksgiving Menu article in Bon Appetite Magazine, Wild Rice Stuffing with Wild Mushrooms. My cookbook collection is filled with binders of old food magazine articles I read since the early 1990’s. At the time, any recipe for Thanksgiving and Christmas were hard to part with as I was dreaming of the day when it will be my turn to host a family holiday meal. I own binders full of recipes from old food magazines that still hold my interest 20 years later.
You have two choices for finishing the stuffing. One, stuff the turkey with the wild rice stuffing. Or, bake the stuffing in a baking dish. Both options have their advantages. If you stuff the turkey with wild rice stuffing, the stuffing absorbs the flavors of your turkey and gets very moist. The opposite happens, if you bake the stuffing. The stuffing stays moist, but the top gets crispy. The crunchy bits are Joe’s favorite part of the stuffing.
If you choose to stuff the turkey with wild rice stuffing, you must cook the stuffing until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) because it is cooked inside a raw turkey. Often, the turkey finishes cooking before the stuffing reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. If that is the case, remove the stuffing and finish it in a baking dish covered with foil in a 350°F (176°C) oven, until it reaches the proper temperature.
Stuffing or Pilaf?
You can prepare this recipe with two options. First, prepare the wild rice stuffing as directed using the two-stage cooking process. However, if you want to make this for a regular dinner, as a side with a roast pork or chicken, serve the rice after it finishes cooking on the stove. The rice is plenty done plus it saves you 40 minutes if you skip the baking. For extra flavor toast the wild rice and white rice in butter and make this recipe as a pilaf.
Dietary Challenges Creating a Holiday Menu
When I make a holiday meal for my family, there are many types of diets I must take into consideration. Generally speaking, my meal needs to satisfy an omnivore diet, plus vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free diets. Sometimes dairy-free, low salt restrictions, and nut free restrictions need consideration. Satisfying everyone in the family requires some thoughtful planning.
Fortunately, wild rice stuffing is one of those side dishes that easily fits into all my dietary considerations. It is in the one size fits all category. First, it is gluten-free, so you can check consideration off your list. Second, cook the rice in vegetable stock and bake it in the oven for a plant-based meal. You get bonus points with your vegetarian and vegan friends because combining wild rice, white rice, and nuts create a meal with complementary proteins. Low or no salt store-bought stocks are good options, but homemade stock is even better for keeping salt intake down.
Fortunately, when I host a holiday meal, I do not have to make it all by myself. People enjoy contributing to a portion of the dinner. It makes them feel connected to the event and not burden the host with all the work and expense. Recruit as much help as you need and don’t be shy about it.
Wild Rice Stuffing with Mushrooms and Cranberries
Wild rice stuffing is a great alternative to bread stuffing. It has all the flavors you love in stuffing from the caramelized onions, sautéed wild mushrooms, and toasted walnuts with an added boost from dried cranberries and fresh herbs. This is a great gluten-free stuffing alternative that all will enjoy.
This recipe is slightly adapted from Bon Appetite Magazine, Wild Rice Stuffing with Wild Mushrooms, I believe dating back to 2000.
You can prepare the wild rice stuffing a day or two in advance kept covered in the refrigerator then bake in the oven when needed. This recipe is easily scaled up or down as needed.
- 4-5 onions around 2- 2 ½ lbs (1 kg
- 1 cup (3 oz / 87 g) walnuts
- 8 TB (113 g) butter, divided one stick
- 1 ¼ lb (575 g) assorted wild mushrooms like crimini and shiitake stemmed and sliced
- 3 TB chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tsp Kosher salt divided
- 2 TB (30 ml) Brandy or Dry Sherry optional
- 5 cups (750 ml) vegetable or chicken stock
- 3 tsp fresh sage minced
- 1 1/3 cup (226 g / 8 oz) wild rice
- 1 ¼ cup (245 g / 8.5 oz) long grain white rice
- 1 cup (123 g) dried cranberries
- 2 tsp fresh rosemary minced
- 6 -8 large sprigs of Italian Parsley
Peel and slice the onions in half lengthwise then thinly slice each half in half-moons. Set aside.
Heat a heavy-duty skillet over high heat, to just before smoking hot. Toast the walnuts in the hot skillet. Keep the walnuts moving and jumping around the skillet so they do not brown and burn. The walnuts are toasted when you get a nutty aroma and the skillet seems shinier from the oils released from the walnuts, about 2-3 minutes. Immediately turn off the heat and tip the walnuts onto a plate to cool. Set aside.
Melt 4 TB (56 g) butter in a large pot or skillet over medium-high heat. Once the butter stops sizzling, add the onions slices and turn down the heat to medium-low. Stir to coat the onions with butter and cook the onions until caramelized about 30 minutes or longer. It is important to caramelize the onions slowly otherwise they will burn. Stir the onions every now and then to make sure the onions do not stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. The browner you let the onions get the more flavor they bring to the wild rice stuffing. Add in a pinch of Kosher salt.
Once the onions are caramelized, scrape them into a bowl and set aside. Place the pot or sauté pan back on the stove with the heat up to medium-high.
Melt the remaining 4 TB (56 g) butter then add the mushrooms, pinch of the Kosher salt, and 1 tsp minced thyme. Stir to coat the mushrooms with butter, then sauté until the mushrooms release their liquid and cooked all the way through. There are too many mushrooms in on pot for them to brown, but if you get some browning on the mushroom all the better as it adds flavor. Add the brandy or sherry (optional), and cook until the liquid is almost evaporated. Add the mushrooms to the bowl with the onions.
Meanwhile, while the onions and mushrooms are cooking, heat up the stock with 2 tsp minced sage and 1 TB thyme and remaining Kosher salt in a large Dutch Oven with at least a 5 qt capacity to a boil. Add the wild rice and bring back to a boil, then cover the pot and turn down the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 25 minutes.
Mix in the white rice and cover. Simmer until the white rice is just getting tender and most of the liquid is absorbed about 15 minutes.
Stir in the caramelized onions, mushrooms, cranberries, walnuts with the remaining tablespoon of thyme, 1 tsp minced sage, and 1 tablespoon of minced fresh rosemary. Cover and cook for 5 more minutes.
Finish by stuffing the turkey with the wild rice stuffing or bake the stuffing in a 9 x 13 x 2-inch (23 x 33 x 5 cm) baking dish.
To bake stuffing in the turkey:
Chop 4 of the parsley sprigs and add to the wild rice stuffing. Stir to combine. Loosely fill the neck and main cavities of the turkey with the stuffing. Loosely sew the skin flap over the neck area to secure the rice in place. Truss the legs of the turkey together. Add the remaining stuffing to a buttered baking dish large enough to hold the leftovers. Cover with buttered foil and bake in the oven with the turkey, until heated through about 25 minutes. Uncover stuffing then bake until the top of the stuffing is slightly crisp.
Bake the stuffing in the turkey until the turkey is done, and remove the stuffing while the turkey rests. Immediately check the internal temperature of the stuffing. The stuffing is done when it reaches 165°F (74°C). If the internal temperature is lower than 165°F (74°C) remove the stuffing from the cavities and place in a baking dish and cover with foil. Continue to bake the stuffing until the temperature reaches 165°F (74°C)
Remove the stuffing from the cavities and spoon into a serving bowl. Mince the remaining parsley and sprinkle over the top. Keep warm until time to serve. Serve hot.
To bake stuffing in a baking dish:
Butter a 9 – 13- 2-inch baking dish. Add half of the minced parsley to the rice stuffing and stir to combine. Tip the rice stuffing into the baking dish then cover with a buttered piece of foil, butter side down. Bake in a 350°F (176°C) for 30 minutes or until heated through. Remove the foil and bake until it starts to crisp on top, another 20 minutes or so. You do not have to concern yourself with the internal temperature reaching 165°F (74°C) because it was not cooked inside a turkey. Chop the remaining parsley and sprinkle over the top. Serve hot.
I believe the wild rice stuffing is delicious and ready to serve just after cooking on the stove. If you do not want to go through the extra step of baking it, however, this extra step gives you a crispy top, feel free to do so. Wild rice with mushrooms and cranberries makes a great rice side dish. This is a hearty flavored rice meal and will work well with oven roasted or grilled meats, and fish like sea bass, tuna, salmon or swordfish.
You can substitute the long grain white rice with long grain brown rice. Cooking times will vary and take longer with brown rice.
Extra mushroom flavor
For extra wild mushroom flavor, add 1 tablespoon of porcini mushroom powder to the stock. You can also reconstitute some dried wild mushrooms like porcini or chanterelle mushrooms, then chop them up. Add them to the sautéed mushrooms.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
If you ever want to impress someone with an incredible meal, there is no need to look further then this recipe. Apple cider brined, hickory smoked turkey is impressive and the best turkey I have ever had. I am not exaggerating. Oh my god, this smoked turkey is so good you will dream about it and want to eat turkey more than once a year.
What is so special about hickory smoked turkey? Everything. First off, the turkey bathes in an apple cider brine for 24 hours. This is not your ordinary brine, but one built with layers of flavor from oranges, fresh ginger, cloves, garlic, and bay leaves. Next, more flavor permeates the turkey from the smoke in a charcoal grill. Hickory wood chips scattered over hot briquettes create a smoke with sweet and woody notes that pair nicely with the apple cider infused turkey. The end result is a turkey that is moist and tender, with a fall fruit-smokiness and love in every bite.
I realize that I am on a trend of making absolute, “This is the one recipe you ever need” statements like I also made for my roasted vegetable stock recipe. I promise not to make this a habit because when I do say it, I want you to believe it. Honestly, I have never tasted turkey so good. Even my daughter-in-law, who does not like turkey, stated she loves this smoked turkey and will eat it without any hesitation or obligation. You know the meal is a success when everyone keeps picking away at the remaining pieces of turkey on the platter throughout the night. I started to wonder if there was going to be any leftovers for turkey sandwiches.
Mastering Smoked Turkey
First off, the brine recipe and smoking technique are from my trusted grilling source, Weber.com. I own a kettle charcoal grill, so this recipe is written using a charcoal grill. If you own a gas grill, brine the turkey with the apple cider brine then, follow these directions for smoking a turkey on a gas grill.
Other than the turkey and brining ingredients, you also need some special equipment.
- Container large enough to hold the turkey with the brine, or large plastic bag
- Cooler or refrigerator
- A couple of bags of ice for the cooler
- 2-3 large heavy-duty aluminum roasting pans. One for the bottom of the grill to fill with water, the other for the turkey. I use two pans to hold the turkey for extra reinforcement.
- 100% cotton kitchen string to tie the legs together
- Charcoal for a charcoal grill
- Hickory wood chips for smoking
- Charcoal chimney
- BBQ gloves
- Instant read thermometer
- Oven thermometer if your grill does not have a built-in temperature gauge.
Grilling and Smoking a Turkey
The biggest challenge for outdoor grilling during the fall/winter season in the northeastern part of the US is getting the coals lit and maintaining the temperature of the grill. When I mentioned this at dinner, one son responded, “If you want to get it “lit”, you need loud music and more booze.” As fun as that sounds, whenever you are cooking over an open flame, I recommend keeping the parting to a minimum, at least until the food is cooked and the fire is out.
On a windy day, it is important to watch the fire in the charcoal chimney and make sure the paper fire catches and lights the coals. Once lit, the charcoal will heat up in about 15 minutes.
The few times I grilled a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner was when the temperature was mild for a November day in New York. That means, above freezing and preferably around 40°F (4.°C) or above. However, if you have a grill that is well insulated, keeping your grill at 350°F (177°C) should not be so difficult.
It takes around 3-4 hours to cook a 12 – 15 lb. (5.4 – 7 kg) turkey in a grill. To keep the coals hot and burning, locate your grill outside in a protected area with easy to access to and from your kitchen. To maintain the grill’s temperature at 350°F (177°C), add fresh charcoal to the hot fire, every hour. Keep track of the temperature with an oven thermometer placed on the grill rack, or a built-in temperature gauge on the grill.
If you are lucky enough to live in a milder climate you should not have any problems maintaining the temperature.
For the smoke, I used hickory wood chips, but any purchased wood chips will work. Each type of wood has its own unique flavor so pick one you like. If you can find apple wood chips, they will complement the apple cider brine nicely.
When cooking with poultry it is important to keep food safety in mind, especially when brining a turkey for 24 hours. It is crucial the brine and turkey stays between 35°- 40°F (1.6°- 4.4°C). If the temperature in your cooler goes above 40°F you run the risk of developing harmful bacteria like salmonella, which will make you very sick.
Brining a turkey for 24 hours in a refrigerator is the safest and easiest option. However, if there is no room in your refrigerator, a good quality cooler is the next best thing. Fill the space in the cooler around the plastic bag filled with brine and the turkey, with ice and close the lid tightly. Periodically check the cooler to see that the ice is not melting. Replenish the ice as needed. A good quality cooler will maintain the temperature for several hours, just make sure you fill it with fresh ice before you go to bed.
Some words of advice
Brining and cooking a turkey is an involved process, even when you cook it conventionally in the oven. All the steps are not so difficult; however, it takes time and constant monitoring. If you can, buy a fresh turkey and save yourself 4-5 days of worrying about defrosting the turkey. I often use frozen turkeys, but it adds 4 more days to your timeframe just to defrost the darn thing in the refrigerator.
I quickly thaw a frozen turkey by submerging a sealed turkey in a leak-proof bag in my cooler filled with ice water. A 14-pound turkey will defrost in about 8 hours if the temperature of the ice water is between 38-40°F (3.3 – 4.4°C). It is important to check the temperature of the ice water every hour until the turkey is fully thawed.
Because you are brining the turkey, make sure the turkey you buy is not already injected with a saltwater solution. Some commercial brands, like Butterball and Kosher Turkeys, have a saltwater solution already injected in their turkeys. Carefully read the label to make sure.
If you are having difficulty maintaining the temperature of your grill at 350°F, preheat your oven and finish cooking the turkey in the oven. You will not get as much of the smoked flavor, but you will get a properly cooked turkey and that is what is important.
You can do this. Cooking a turkey is an occasion by itself and just think how ecstatic you will feel when you are done. Although, this recipe might not be the easiest starting point if you never cooked a turkey before, or you are a novice griller. It is good to have some experience before one starts to experiment. Fortunately, the apple cider brine adds lovely fruit flavor and moisture to turkey no matter how it is cooked. So, feel free to use it for a conventional roast turkey.
Over the weekend when I shared this meal with my family, an overwhelming sense of gratitude and love filled my heart and home. It was the generosity of spirit and the positive attitudes from each of my children and their significant others, that moved me more than anything. As delicious as the food was, it was only the exclamation mark to a wonderful time, not the meaning or purpose. It was an I don’t want this evening to end, kind of night. Don’t wait for Thanksgiving to show gratitude and love and make something delicious and unexpected to share. Seize the moments as they come. Light up your life with family, friends, and food in your own special way creating those moments you never want to end.
Hickory Smoked Turkey
This is one of the best recipes for making a turkey I know. Like any roast turkey recipe, it takes time and constant monitoring, but it is well worth the effort. The hickory smoke steeps into the apple cider brined turkey, creating a light smoke flavor that is sweet and woodsy with dark and crispy skin.
To determine the size turkey you need, the general rule of thumb is 1 - 1½ pounds (500 - 750 g) of turkey per person. You want leftovers for sandwiches and turkey pot pie, so you cannot err on the side of buying too much turkey. Keep in mind the smaller the turkey the lower ratio of meat to bone.
Plan ahead and give yourself lots of extra time to cook the turkey. 24 hours for brining the turkey. 1 hour to prep the vegetables, bring the turkey up to room temperature, soak the wood chips and light your coals. Cook the turkey for 15 to 20 minutes per pound depending on the temperature of your grill.
This recipe and grilling technique is by Jamie Purviance on weber.com
- 2 qt. (1 liter) apple cider
- 1 lb. (2 cups packed / 456 g) light brown sugar
- 1 cup (250 ml) kosher salt
- 3 qt. (1.5 liters) water
- 3 oranges quarter
- 4 oz. (125 g) fresh ginger peeled and sliced thin
- 15 whole cloves
- 6 bay leaves
- 6 large garlic cloves peeled and smashed
- 1 recipe Apple cider brine
- 1 12 -15 lb. (5.4 - 6.8 kg) turkey (thawed if frozen)
- 1 orange cut in wedges
- 1 lemon cut in wedges
- Enough extra virgin olive oil to coat the turkey
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
- 1-2 TB Herbs de Provence
- 1 sprig fresh sage
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 2 ½ cups (600 ml) chicken stock
Make the Brine
Pour the apple cider in a saucepan and place on a burner set at high heat. Add the sugar and kosher salt and bring to a boil. Stir occasionally to make sure the sugar and salt dissolve. Cook at a boil for 1 minute then remove the pan from the heat to cool. If using the same day, cool the brine to room temperature before adding to the turkey. You can make the brine 24 hours in advance and keep in the refrigerator overnight in an airtight container.
Brine the Turkey
You need a five-gallon food grade bucket, or another large food-safe container large enough to hold your turkey and brine, or 2 large plastic bags (I use two to prevent the brine from leaking.)* Add the remaining brine ingredients to your container, stir to combine then submerge the turkey in the liquid.
If you are using plastic bags, place the bags in the cooler or container first, then add the turkey. Mix the apple cider brine and remaining ingredients in another bowl then add to the turkey. Bring the bag ends together in a way that shapes the brine around the entire turkey. Tie a knot near the top of the turkey to seal the bags and prevent the brine from leaking.
Place the turkey with the brine in the refrigerator or cooler for 24 hours. If you are using a cooler, add ice to either side of the turkey and check the temperature periodically to ensure the cooler is maintaining a constant 36°- 40°F (2.2 - 4.4°C) temperature. You do not what the temperature to go above 40° F. Add ice to the cooler as needed. Make sure to add fresh ice to the cooler just before you go to sleep for the night.
Prepare the turkey
Remove the turkey from the brine after 24 hours. Discard the brine and place the turkey on a rimmed baking sheet. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels and allow it rest on the counter for one hour to bring it up to room temperature.
Meanwhile, add 4 large handfuls of hickory wood chips in a pan and spread out in an even layer. Add water to cover the chips and soak them for a minimum of 30 minutes. Set aside.
Just before you want to start grilling, dry off the turkey again with paper towels. Stuff the cavity with orange wedges, lemon wedges, and fresh herbs. If the legs are floppy, tie the drumsticks together at the tips with kitchen string. Baste the entire surface of the turkey with the olive oil then season with Kosher salt, black pepper, and Herbs de Provence.
Add the chopped celery, carrots and onion to a large heavy-duty aluminum roasting pan in an even layer.
Add the chicken stock to the vegetables then place the turkey, breast side down in the pan.
Prepare your Grill
Light your coals 20 minutes before you want to begin grilling. When the coals are ready, place a large aluminum foil baking pan in the center of the lower grate and arrange the hot coals around the pan in a horseshoe shape. Fill the pan with a tea kettle amount of warm water. Add some more coals to the hotbed of coals and allow them to heat up for a few minutes.
Add two handfuls of the soaked wood chips evenly over the hot coals. Place your grill grate in the grill. Cover your grill with the vents open all the way and wait for the smoke to appear.
Cook the Turkey
Once you see smoke, position the roasting pan with the turkey on the grill grate with the legs pointing to the hottest part of the grill, the arch of the horseshoe. Cover the grill with the vents open. Cook for one hour.
After an hour, carefully turn the turkey over and position it the breast side up. Add more charcoals if needed and more wood chips. Cover the grill and continue roasting. After an hour and a half check the turkey and cover the wing tips and drumstick tips with foil if they are getting too dark. Add more coals and wood chips as needed. Maintain the grill temperature at 350 °F (177°C) for the duration of time while cooking the turkey.
Cook the turkey until the internal temperature reads 165°F (74°C) at the thickest part of the thigh away from the bone. Check the breast meat for the same temperature reading. Usually, unstuffed turkey takes 15-20 minutes per pound to cook. While the turkey is smoking, check the coals periodically to make sure it maintains a constant 350°F temperature.
Once the turkey is done, remove it from the grill and roasting pan and place on a cutting board. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and rest for 15 – 20 minutes before carving.
Use the pan juices for gravy. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon and discard or serve them with the turkey if they are not spent. I was able to save the carrots and onions, but the celery was overdone. Pour the pan juices in a fat separator or skim off the top layer of fat from the pan juices with a spoon. Pour the pan juices in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
Turn down the heat and simmer until ready to serve. The pan juices have a lot of flavor from the apple cider brine and smoke, so it should not need any seasoning. Taste first before you add any salt or pepper. This makes a light sauce, not a gravy, which is how I like it.
If you want a thicker gravy-like sauce, make a roux then add the warm pan juices. Melt 1 -2 TB of unsalted butter in a saucepan then add the same amount of all-purpose flour to the pot. Whisk the flour and butter together and turn down the temperature to medium. Cook the roux, until it has a light golden color and the flour taste is gone. Add the hot pan juices to the roux and whisk until smooth. Taste and correct the seasoning. Simmer for 5 minutes stirring occasionally until ready to serve.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
It is amazing to realize no matter how much time goes by, special memories remain as vivid as if it happened a day ago. Even if it is just a portion of the memory, a picture of that moment develops like a photograph creating a snapshot of time. Such is the case of my childhood Halloween memories. What I remember most about Halloween is Mom making caramel apples and popcorn balls for trick or treaters brave enough to walk up our steep and dark road. Mom was not crafty and rarely made homemade gifts or treats, but every Halloween she spent the day dipping apples in sweet caramel and forming popcorn balls like it was her mission in life.
Our house was situated on a side road up a very steep hill. The surrounding houses in the neighborhood were scattered around the hill, in valleys, and down along the bay. It was steep territory to traverse and the neighborhood kids cleared trails from house to house creating shortcuts, so we could easily walk from one friend to another with the purpose of climbing up and/or down the hill only once in our travels. Walking up to my house was a steep hike and Mom believed that anyone who was willing to walk up our hill on Halloween deserved a reward for their efforts.
On Halloween, we traveled in packs, so mom could expect at most three groups of trick-or-treaters from the neighborhood. She bestowed upon her Halloween trick-or-treaters with not one, not two, but three treats: caramel apples, popcorn balls, and hot apple cider. We could sit and eat our treasure right there in the comfort of our kitchen or continue on our costumed journey. I am not sure if we timed it so we would stop at my house midway on our travels to warm up and take a break. Often, we paused only long enough to drink our hot cider, and then went on our way seeking more candy treasure. Mom was always so happy to see everyone dressed up in their costumes, and those caramel apples never tasted so good.
Despite my vivid picture of Mom dipping apples into caramel, I have no memory of how she made them or what recipe she used. Additionally, I cannot remember ever seeing a recipe for caramel apples in her recipe file either. Chances are she got the recipes from either Joy of Cooking or Sunset Magazine, but after a couple of years making them she knew the recipe by heart.
My lack of family recipes from Mom left me to figure out how to make caramel apples on my own. I did not keep up her Halloween tradition, but I love caramel apples and want to bring them back into my life. Over the years I tried a couple of different recipes and I found two options producing delicious caramel for apples. You can choose to go all out and make your own caramel for dipping. Or, you can go the semi-homemade option and melt soft caramel candies for your caramel sauce.
Tips for making caramel apples
Making caramel apples is
easy, temperamental and I learned some helpful tips the hard way from my mistakes and triumphs.
First, make sure there is no wax on the apples. The wax just creates a slippery surface on the apples and the caramel will slide right off. This is one reason why making caramel apples with freshly picked apples is ideal.
All apples bought at a grocery store are coated with wax. To remove the wax, drop apples one at a time in just boiling water for less than a minute. Make sure the apple’s entire surface area gets a good soaking from the boiling water. Be careful with the amount of time the apples spend in the hot water because you do not want to cook them.
Remove the apples from the hot water and rub them with apple cider vinegar or lemon juice with a paper towel or clean kitchen towel. You can also add apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to the boiling water. The acid helps break the bonds of the wax. Before you dip each apple in the caramel, make sure the apple is dry.
Another method to remove wax from apples is to wash the apples and rub super fine sandpaper over the apples being careful not to break the skin. Rinse off and thoroughly dry the apples. (Full disclosure, I have never tried this, but I am very tempted to for the next time I make caramel apples.)
Second, firmly secure each stick, popsicle stick, or lollipop stick inside the apple. However, do not push it all the way through the apple. The juices from the apple will leak out and weaken the caramel.
Third, chill the apples for 30 minutes in the refrigerator before you dip them in the caramel. Cold apples will set the caramel faster.
Fourth, if you do not make your own caramel, use the best quality soft caramel candy you can buy. The better the quality of the caramel, the more reliable it is for dipping. Do not use store-bought caramel sauce.
Fifth, less is more. Allow the excess caramel to drip off. Aim for a thin even layer around each apple. This will help prevent the caramel from sliding down and pooling around the base of the apple. The pooling caramel is often unavoidable. You can fix it by pressing on the caramel and pushing it back into shape over the top of the apple.
Sixth, refrigerate the caramel apples until the caramel sets. Once set, serve them or dip them in melted chocolate, then chopped nuts or candy if using. Refrigerate the chocolate dipped caramel apples until the chocolate sets and gets hard.
More Apple Treats
If you have leftover caramel apples, slice them up and briefly sauté them in butter. Serve the sautéed caramel apple slices over vanilla ice cream, french toast, waffles, or Dutch Baby pancakes.
Classic Caramel Apples
- 8-10 medium tart apples like Granny Smith
- 8-10 handles like lollipop sticks popsicle sticks or clean tree sticks
- 1 recipe of caramel sauce
- 8 oz (200 g) pistahios, or other nuts like walnuts or pecans, chopped fine (optional)
Caramel Sauce from Tartine
- 1 cup (225 g) sugar
- ½ cup (133 g) unsalted butter (one stick)
- 2/3 cup (150 ml) heavy cream
- ¼ cup (60 ml or 85 g) light corn syrup
- 2 TB (30 ml) maple syrup
- 1 TB (15 ml) Blackstrap or dark molasses
- ¼ tsp (1 ml) real vanilla extract
- Pinch of Kosher salt
Caramel Sauce Using Store-bought soft Caramel Candies
- 1 lb. (500 g) 500 g soft real caramel candies
- 3 TB (45 ml) heavy cream
- 1 TB (15 ml) real maple syrup
- 1 TB (15 ml) dark molasses
Prepare your apples
Wash and dry the apples. Remove the wax from the apples before you start. See the Caramel Apple blog post for wax removal instructions.
Secure the handle into the apples. Pierce one stick into the stem end of each apple. Do not push the stick all the way through the apple because the juices will leak and weaken the caramel.
Place the prepared apples on a tray and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Cover a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat. If using parchment paper, lightly spray it with cooking oil. Set aside.
Make the caramel sauce
Tartine caramel sauce
Add all the ingredients into a heavy-duty saucepan with a minimum of a 3-quart capacity. Place the pot over medium-high heat. Occasionally stir the ingredients to prevent the sugar from burning on the bottom of the pan. Bring the caramel to a boil and cook the caramel until it reaches 236°F (113°C), about 7 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and rest the caramel until it cools down to 180°F (82°C).
Continue to Make the Caramel Apples.
Caramel Sauce Made from Soft Caramel Candies
Add water to the bottom portion of a double boiler filling the saucepan until it reaches shy of 2-inches up the side of the pot. Place the top portion of the double boiler on top then add all the ingredients to the pot. Turn the heat to medium-high and melt the caramel. Occasionally stir the ingredients to incorporate the ingredients and promote even melting. Once the caramel is melted, turn down the heat to low and begin making the caramel apples.
Make the Caramel Apples
Remove the chilled apples from the refrigerator and bring near your saucepan with the caramel sauce. Position the prepared rimmed sheet pan at the opposite side of the caramel sauce.
One at a time, dip an apple into the caramel, turning it over to get an even coating of caramel. Lift the apple out of the caramel and let the caramel drip back into the pot. Turn the apple around to encourage the caramel to evenly drip off and not collect over one spot. Turn the apple right side up and hold it upright for 30 seconds.
If you are dipping your apple into chopped nuts or candies, turn the apple upside down and dip the apple into the bowl filled with nuts or candy.
Place the finished apple on the prepared sheet pan. Once you are done with all the apples. Place the sheet pan in the refrigerator and chill the apples until the caramel firms up.
Once set, serve immediately. Store the caramel apples uncovered in the refrigerator for up to three days.
After you dipped all your apples and notice caramel pooling at the base of the apples, you can press the caramel back into place with your fingers.
Many different types of nuts and candies taste great with caramel apples. Sprinkles, Heath Bar Crunch, Chocolate Chips, and or any nut will easily stick to the caramel if chopped in small size pieces.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.