If you don’t have a backyard smoker, I urge you to get one; it will make entertaining so easy throughout most of the year. You don’t have to stand by it throughout the cooking process, as you do with a grill, so you can do chores or party while dinner cooks. With poultry, I like to use whatever wood chips reflect the flavors I have used in the brine, but if there is no defining flavor I will always opt for fruitwoods, such as apple or pear.
- 3½ cups raw honey (see Note)
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary needles
- 1 tablespoon whole allspice
- 1½ cups salt
- ½ cup black peppercorns
- 1 (20-pound) heirloom turkey, rinsed and patted dry
- ½ cup canola oil
Combine 3 cups of the honey with the wine and orange juice in a large brining bag (large enough to hold the turkey). Add the onion, thyme, rosemary, and allspice, seal the bag, and squish to blend and allow the honey to incorporate into the liquid.
Open the bag and add about 1 gallon of ice water along with the salt and peppercorns. Again, seal the bag and let the salt dissolve.
When the salt has dissolved, add the turkey. Seal and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, but no more than 24 hours.
Prepare your smoker following manufacturer’s directions for smoking a turkey.
Combine the remaining ½ cup honey with the oil in a small bowl, stirring until completely blended.
Remove the turkey from the brine, brush off any herbs or spices that cling to the skin, and pat it dry.
Using your hands, rub the entire turkey with the honey-oil mixture. Place in the smoker and smoke according to the manufacturer’s directions for a 20-pound bird.
When it is fully cooked, remove and let rest 30 to 45 minutes. Carve and serve as you would a roasted bird.
Note: As unbelievable as it may seem, in New York City bee keepers are now harvesting honey from hives kept on rooftops throughout the five boroughs and selling their excellent honey at various farmers markets in the city. Brooklyn Grange has a particularly good reach. In Sonoma County, we have a number of wonderful local honeys, ranging from a mix of wildflowers to lavender-scented. Among them are Bear Foot Honey Farm, Bloomfield Bees, and Lavender Bee Farm, but you can also find raw honey at most specialty food stores and farmers markets.