Brown sugar-brined turkey with warm apple-onion jam

Special to The Washington PostJuly 31, 2013 

Once you master indirect-heat grilling and learn to use your grill as an outdoor oven, a world of options opens up.

Here, the flavors of Thanksgiving dinner are captured in the summer. The turkey breast's apple cider brine ensures moist results. The chunky apple-onion condiment comes together while the turkey is on the grill.

If you don't want to use the bourbon or rye, double the amount of butter.

MAKE AHEAD: The turkey needs to be brined for 6 to 10 hours.

For the turkey

2 quarts unsweetened apple cider

2 quarts water

1 cup kosher salt

1 cup packed light brown sugar

2 teaspoons black peppercorns

3 bay leaves

One 5 1/2-to-6-pound bone-in, skin-on turkey breast

For the jam

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large Vidalia onion, cut into small dice (scant 2 cups)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into1/4-inch pieces

2 teaspoons bourbon or rye

3 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

For the turkey: Combine the apple cider, water, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns and bay leaves in a large stockpot over medium-high heat; stir until the salt and sugar dissolve. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat. Cool the brine completely, either in an ice-water bath or in the refrigerator.

If needed, transfer the cooled brine to a container or zip-top bag large enough to hold it and the turkey breast. Add the turkey, submerging it in the liquid. Seal, and refrigerate for 6 to 10 hours.

Prepare the grill for direct and indirect heat. If using charcoal, light the briquettes in a chimney starter and let them burn until the flames subside and a light layer of ash covers them (20 to 25 minutes). Dump the lighted coals into 2 mounds (or, preferably, into 2 half-moon-shaped briquette baskets) on opposite sides of the grill. Place a drip pan between the piles of coals and fill it halfway with water. If using gas, with a two-burner grill, set one burner to medium and leave the other unlit; with three or more burners, set the outside or front and rear burners to medium-low and leave the center burners unlit. The direct-heat temperature should be 375 to 400 degrees.

Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames. Lightly coat the grill rack with oil and place it on the grill.

Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse it and pat dry. Discard the brine.

When the grill is ready, place the turkey on the grate (over the unlit area), positioning the breast so it sits up straight on the grill. Close the lid and cook, adjusting the controls or charcoal as needed to maintain a temperature of 375 degrees. For even cooking, rotate the turkey breast once after 45 minutes.

After 60 minutes, start checking for doneness. The breast should take a total of 75 to 90 minutes. It is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 165 degrees; be sure to monitor both sides of the turkey. The skin might get quite dark, which can be deceptive. Transfer the breast to a platter to rest for 20 minutes.

While the turkey is cooking, make the jam: Heat the oil in a large nonstick saute pan over medium-high heat. Once it shimmers, add the onion and season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to medium; cook for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring often, until the onion has softened.

Stir in the butter and apples; increase the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring, for about 6 minutes, until the apples start to soften. Add the bourbon or rye and the brown sugar; cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, until the bourbon reduces and the sugar dissolves. Add the mustard, stirring to incorporate. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Serve slices of the turkey with the apple-onion jam.

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