Brining makes for a juicier bird, and the subtle flavors of the brine soak into the turkey. Kosher salt works well for the brine because it dissolves more easily than table salt. If you have time and refrigerator space, the brining procedure is worthwhile. If not, the turkey will still be quite good.
8 quarts water
3/4 cup kosher salt
3/4 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons black peppercorns
8 garlic cloves, crushed
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 (12-pound) fresh or thawed frozen turkey
1 cup cola
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
1 tablespoon dried rubbed sage
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 onions, quartered
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
How to Make It
To prepare brine, combine first 6 ingredients in a large stockpot, stirring until salt dissolves.
To prepare turkey, remove and reserve giblets and neck from turkey. Rinse turkey with cold water; pat dry. Trim excess fat. Add turkey to pot, turning to coat. Cover and refrigerate 24 hours, turning occasionally.
Preheat oven to 375°.
Bring cola and 1/2 cup syrup to a boil in a small saucepan; cook 1 minute.
Combine thyme, sage, seasoning, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Remove turkey from brine, discarding brine; pat dry. Starting at neck cavity, loosen skin from breast and drumsticks by inserting fingers, gently pushing between skin and meat. Rub thyme mixture under loosened skin; sprinkle inside body cavity. Place 4 garlic cloves and onions in body cavity. Tie ends of legs together with twine. Lift wing tips up and over back; tuck under turkey.
Place turkey on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Insert a meat thermometer into meaty part of a thigh, making sure not to touch bone. Bake at 375° for 45 minutes. Pour cola mixture over turkey; cover with foil. Bake an additional 1 hour and 45 minutes or until thermometer registers 180°. Remove turkey from pan, reserving drippings for gravy. Place turkey on a platter. Cover loosely with foil; let stand 10 minutes. Remove twine. Discard skin.
To prepare gravy, while turkey bakes, combine reserved giblet and neck and the broth in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes. Strain mixture through a colander into a bowl, discarding solids.
Place a zip-top plastic bag inside a 2-cup glass measure. Pour pan drippings into bag; let stand 10 minutes (fat will rise to the top).
Seal bag; carefully snip off 1 bottom corner of bag. Drain drippings into broiler pan, stopping before fat layer reaches opening; discard fat. Add broth mixture. Place broiler pan on stovetop over medium heat, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Combine milk and cornstarch in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk; add to pan. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Strain gravy through a sieve into a bowl. Discard solids. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
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