1 12-pound turkey, preferably fresh, defrosted if frozen, giblets and neck reserved if available)
6tablespoonsunsalted butter, softened, divided
2medium yellow onions, peeled and halved
4sprigs fresh rosemary
8sprigs fresh thyme
½teaspoonfreshly ground black pepper
1cupwhite wine (optional)
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Rub 3 tablespoons of the butter all over the bird, legs, thighs, breasts, everywhere. Rub the salt over the bird evenly. Place the turkey into a large plastic bag, preferably a sealable one, press out the air, and seal it tight. Place the turkey in a roasting pan, breast side up in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. Turn the turkey at least once a day, and rub the salt into the bird through the plastic bag
After 2 to 3 days, and 1 day before Thanksgiving, remove the bird from the fridge and take it out of the plastic bag. Do not rinse the bird, but pat it dry with paper towels. Place the turkey in a rack in the roasting pan, and refrigerate uncovered, for another 24 hours.
Remove the turkey from the fridge 1 hour before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Place a rack in the lower third of the oven, and make sure you raise or remove the upper racks so the turkey can fit with room to spare on top.
Place the orange sections, onions halves, and rosemary and thyme sprigs into the cavity of the bird. Tuck the wings behind the back of the bird and place it in a rack in a roasting pan breast side up. Tie the legs closed (some birds have a little plastic gadget that holds the legs together, thus closing up the cavity).
Rub the remaining three tablespoons softened butter all over the turkey, covering all of the skin. Season generously with the pepper. Make sure the turkey is breast side up in the rack in the roasting pan, and place the pan into the oven.
Pour the wine and chicken broth into the pan around the turkey. Place the pan in the oven. After one hour, baste the bird with the juices from the bottom of the pan. Start checking after 2 hours with an internal thermometer, sticking it into the deepest part of the thigh, and making sure that it does not touch bone. The temperature should be 160°F. If, as the turkey is cooking the top starts to get too browned, just tent a large piece of tin foil over the top of the bird.
When the turkey is finished cooking, remove it to a cutting board with a moat, tipping any juices that have accumulated in the turkey back into the roasting pan. Let the turkey sit, tented with foil, for at least 20 minutes.
While the turkey is resting, pour all of the liquid from the roasting pan into a large measuring cup. Put it into the fridge and when the fat has risen to the top, use a spoon to scrape off the fat and discard. You also can use a fat separator for this purpose. Click here for how to make gravy, or just drizzle the pan juices over the turkey meat.