Bourbon and apple cider brined Cornish game hens with apple, sage, and sausage stuffing.
The sweet-savory flavors of the bourbon and apple cider really come through in these brined hens. Add to that the sweet-salty sausage apple stuffing you have a tasty fall meal for two.
The recipes below can be prepped and assembled a day in advance, then baked off when needed. They can also be doubled, tripled, etc. Here are a few things to keep in mind when increasing the quantities. You will need to have enough brine to fully submerge the hens. So, the amount of brine you need will depend on the size of the container used. I try to find a container just large enough to fit the hens. This will minimize the space the brine needs to fill.
The amount of stuffing needed depends on the size of your birds and how much stuffing you pack into the cavities. The hens pictured are 2-pound birds. I filled them until they overflowed with one cup of leftover stuffing that I placed in the pan. So, one recipe could fill three 1 1/2-pound birds.
The hens will brown easily due to the amount of sugar in the brine from the cider and bourbon. To promote even browning, place the birds in a large enough roasting pan so, they do not touch and have room for air circulation. Basting also helps with browning. If parts of the hens (typically the breast) begin browning too much, place a small piece of foil over the area and continue baking.
Cider Brined Cornish Game Hens with Apple Sausage Stuffing
- 2 cornish game hens
- 3 cups apple cider
- 1/4 cup salt
- 1/2 cup bourbon
- 2 sprigs sage
- 10 black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 1/2 cups water
- 1 cup onion diced
- 1/2 pound sausage
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 cup apple diced (1 apple)
- 4 cups stale bread cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1 tbsp sage chopped
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/16 tsp pepper
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup apple cider
- 1 cup roasted hen pan drippings or chicken stock
- 1 tsp sage
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a large pot, bring to a boil the apple cider, bourbon, salt, sage, bay leaf, water, and peppercorns. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Place the hens in large container and cover with the brine. Refrigerate for 6-8 hours.
- Remove the hens from the brine, rinse, and pat dry. Rub the skin with a thin layer of oil and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until needed.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Cook off the sausage and remove from the skillet. Add the oil and butter to the pan. When melted add the onion, apple, and sage. Cook until soft. Add the bread to the pan and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock and remove from heat. Cool completely then mix in the egg, salt, and pepper.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Fill the cavities of each hen with stuffing. Tuck the wings behind the breast and tie the legs together. Place any leftover stuffing in a baking dish and place the hens on top. Bake for 1-1/2 hours or until the stuffing reaches 165 degrees, basting every 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.
- In a small pan reduce the cider with the sage to 1/4 cup. Add the dripping or stock and reduce by half. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Keep warm until ready to serve.