Turkey On the Barbie-That Heritage Holiday Bird Brined and Grilled

Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook




Homestead is happy to offer Heritage turkeys for your holiday.  Just place your order  

About Regular Turkeys 

You know the kind, the unnaturally broad-breasted turkey which is a mass-produced, human-engineered breed whose short life is lived in confinement, often with leg and heart problems due to their oversized breasts.  These commercially raised turkeys are confined to feed lots where they’re fed not fresh grasses and bugs but – well, something commercially produced and anything but natural to the species. 

About Heritage Turkeys

Like free-range chickens, these birds are allowed to roam and feed happily on fresh grass and insects. And they’re given NO antibiotics.  The USDA recommends that turkeys be cooked to 160F-180F, but Heritage birds are much more free of disease and bacteria so unlike commercially raised birds, they don’t need extreme temperatures to make them safe for consumption.  Bottom line, there’s no need to dry them out.

Grilled Turkey with Sugar and Spice Chunky Cherry GlazeMy favorite recipe for brined turkey

Either fresh or frozen, bring the bird to room temperature before cooking. Most Heritage turkeys are sold fresh. The rule of thumb is to allow 10 minutes per pound roasting time for Heritage or free range turkeys; we recommend filling the cavity with lots of fresh herbs of your choice.  




For brining use a special brining bag or double-bag two heavy-duty, unscented trash bags and put them in an ice chest that is large enough to hold the turkey. If your holiday bird is smaller as the one we tested, it should fit in your refrigerator.
  • 1 fresh heritage turkey,  about 12 pounds

For the Brine

  • 2/3 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 2 gallons cold water
  • 3 bay leaves, torn into pieces
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme     

Sugar and Spice Chunky Cherry Glaze

Makes 2 1/4 cup

This is a big PS: The glaze is so good you’ll devour it by the spoonful so consider doubling the recipe. Make 1 1/2 times the recipe for a large turkey. 

  • 1 1/2 cups McCutcheons Cherry Salsa
  • 3/4 cup Boar’s Head Sugar and Spice Glaze
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries for sauce
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar


Remove the giblet bag from turkey, along with any extra internal fat and pin feathers. Rinse well under cold water. If using a large sturdy bag combine the salt, sugar, peppercorns and bay leaves in the bag and add the cold water. Stir until sugar and salt dissolve. There should be enough liquid to completely cover the bird. Press out air in bags; tightly close each bag separately. Keep turkey cold with bags of ice, which will also help keep it submerged in the brine. Brine for 12-24 hours. 

OR place turkey and brine in a large pan or bowl. Refrigerate for 12-24 hours. If turkey floats to top, weight it down with a plate and cans to keep it submerged in brine.

Make the Glaze

Combine the Cherry Salsa and glaze. Remove 1 cup of the glaze mixture for the final serving sauce.

Place the dried cherries in a small bowl and cover with balsamic vinegar. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour to plump and then add to reserved Cherry Glaze as the final serving sauce.




Grill Roasting

Preheat grill to medium high heat. Sprinkle pepper over skin and in cavity. Tuck wing tips under, loosely truss legs and place turkey on a V-shaped rack in a roasting pan.  (You may want a layer of heavy foil wrapped around the bottom of the pan to protect it from the flames or use a heavy, disposable roasting pan). Tent breast loosely with foil.

For the 1st hour over cook the bird directly over the fire with heavy foil.  For the second hour move to the indirect heat side of the grill and spoon some glaze over the turkey. Repeat the glazing at least 2 more times during the grill roasting.

For doneness, test with an accurate thermometer, making sure not to touch the bone with the tip of the thermometer. The turkey should have an internal thigh temperature of 140F-150F.

Let the roasted bird rest 10-15 minutes before carving. Pass extra Cherry Glaze along side.