Recipe: Maple-Brined Smoked Turkey
The traditional American Thanksgiving meal showcases the bounty of indigenous foods and the influence Native Americans have had on U.S. cuisine. Try this delicious turkey recipe from Native chef Sean Sherman.
Maple-Brined Smoked Turkey
Serves 10 to 12
The traditional American Thanksgiving meal showcases the bounty of indigenous foods and the influence Native Americans have had on U.S. cuisine. But this national holiday is fraught with the tragic history of colonialism. To me, the myth of Natives and colonists happily sharing a feast ignores the true story of the atrocities, genocide, and forced migration our people suffered at the hands of Europeans. This is why so few Native Americans celebrate the holiday. Many do gather, however, in a ritual giving of thanks for the harvest and to honor their ancestors. Our family and friends cook a meal of squash, wild rice, and turkey all seasoned with indigenous flavors.
- 10-pound turkey with giblets removed
- 4 quarts water
- 1 cup coarse salt
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons whole juniper berries
- 1 large sprig sage
- 4 to 6 cups wood chips (hickory, apple, or hazelnut)
- Sunflower oil for rubbing the turkey
Place the turkey in a large container (a food-safe bucket or big pot). In a saucepan, heat about 1 quart of the water with the salt until it dissolves. Cool. Then add the salt water, the remaining water, maple syrup, juniper berries, and sage to the turkey. Make sure the turkey is fully submerged. Cover (weigh the turkey down, if necessary) and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours. Soak the wood chips in cold water for at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove the turkey and pat dry.
Prepare a charcoal grill or smoker for indirect heat, at about 275°F. Sprinkle in enough of the soaked wood chips to cover the coals and allow them to char.
Place the turkey in a roasting pan fitted with a rack. Brush the turkey with the sunflower oil. Place the turkey in the grill or smoker and cook until the internal temperature of the thigh registers 165°F, about 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours. Remove and allow to rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.
From The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen by Sean Sherman with Beth Dooley (University of Minnesota Press, 2017) Copyright 2017 Ghost Dancer, LLC. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the University of Minnesota Press.