I have a serious amount of satsuma juice from my Dad’s tree, so I used a quart of it for a brine for the thighs from a 10lb bag of leg quarters. Of course, you can easily substitute orange juice or, if doing pork, switch to apple juice if you aren’t lucky enough to have satsuma juice at the ready.
The satsuma adds a brightness to the brine without adding too much acid plus the lemon goes really well with sage and chicken.
Satsuma Brined and Grilled Chicken
1 quart water
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 quart satsuma or orange juice
1 quart ice
Lemon Sage Wet Rub:
2 lemons, 1 of them zested
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
Bring the water, salt, brown sugar and peppercorns to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Remove from the heat. Add in the satsuma (or orange) juice and ice cubes. Stir to melt the ice. Once the brine has cooled, add the meat and refrigerate. Brine for 12-24 hours.
Remove the chicken from the brine the morning before grilling and rinse it off. Place it uncovered in the fridge to dry the skin out a little.
About an hour before prepping the grill, pull out the chicken and let it sit on the counter. Set up the grill for indirect cooking with coals on two sides and some hickory chunks soaking.
To prepare the wet rub – combine the lemon zest and garlic cloves on a cutting board. Mince them together. Add the salt and chopped sage leaves and use the side of the knife to work the herbs into the garlic to make a paste. Place the paste in a bowl with the juice from one of the lemons and the pepper and olive oil. Whisk to combine. Rub over the chicken thighs.
Once the coals are ready, place the thighs skin side down on the center of the grate. After 10 minutes, flip them over and place thin slices from the remaining lemon on top. Continue to cook for 45 minutes to an hour or until done. Chicken thighs are at a safe temperature when they reach 165 degrees F. Because of the brining, you can let them go all the way to 170 degrees F without drying them out.
For serving, squeeze the lemon slice over the thigh for a bright hit of lemon.