Apple Bourbon Brined Smoked Quail stuffed with Brown Rice and Red Quinoa

Go back to all recipes

Prep Time: 3 hours - Cook Time: 1 hour

I’ve been trying to find / hire a few people to share game bird recipes on Gundog Central, without much luck so far, so I decided to try to do a few myself … starting this Thanksgiving. This is what I came up with for the first recipe, hope you enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!

I don’t know about you, but Thanksgiving brings back memories of choking down dry turkey and needing something wet to wash it down with. Since I’ll probably be having 2 to 3 Thanksgiving meals this week, I’ve decided to downsize this feast, we’ll still be having wild bird, stuffing and cranberry sauce …. just on a much smaller scale. I’ll include a little recipe for something to wash it all down, but you shouldn’t need it, as these birds will be super moist.

The rice stuffing is optional, so if you want to use it for your birds you’ll need to make it while your Quail brine. Youll also need some butchers twine to secure the rice inside the birds.

Turkey, chicken, duck and other game birds have a tendency of drying out when overcooked. Brining, or soaking the meat in saltwater, helps infuse the meat with moisture that will protect the bird from being overcooked, while also mildly favoring the meat. This insures you end up with a moist, juicy and tender bird. Couple that with the slow cooking process of smoking and you end with meat that nearly falls off the bone.

Our brining process doesn’t have to be exact, but I think the generally rule of thumb is ½ cup of Kosher Salt for every ½ gallon of brine that you make. Since we won’t need much brine to cover these birds, we’ll only make ½ gallon of brine.


4 whole Quail
1/2 cup(s) Apple Bourbon
1/2 cup(s) Apple Juice
1/2 cup(s) Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 cup(s) Kosher Salt
6 cup(s) Water
2 each Granny Smith Apples
1 sprig(s) Rosemary
1 leaf Bay Leaf
2 leaves Sage
1 tbsp Whole Peppercorn
2 each Gallon size Zip Lock bags

For Lemon Herb Butter

1 tbsp Thyme
1 tbsp Rosemary
1 each Lemon
1 stick(s) Softened unsalted butter

Brown Rice and Red Quinoa Stuffing

1 1/2 cup(s) Brown Rice
1/2 cup(s) Red Quinoa
3 cup(s) Chicken Broth
1 tbsp Olive Oil
Salt to taste

Cranberry Habanero Sauce

12 oz Fresh Cranberries ( Rinsed )
1 cup(s) Sugar
1 cup(s) Water
1/4 cup(s) Apple Juice
1/4 cup(s) Apple favored Jelly
1 Orange
2 each Habaneros

Apple bourbon Old Fashion

2 oz Apple Bourbon
1/2 tsp Sugar
1/2 tsp Water
3 to 5 dashes Angostura bitters
1 Orange Peel
2 Frozen Apple cubes


Step #1 Let’s start by peeling two Granny Smith apples. We’ll use the peels in our brine, to help infuse that apple flavor. We’ll then cube up the rest of the apples and put them in an ice tray, cover with water and place in the freezer. Well use them as ice cubes for an apple flavored dinner cocktail.

Step #2 Combine your Apple Bourbon, Apple Juice, Apple Cider Vinegar and Apple peels with the salt, pepper, bay leaves, rosemary and sage. Add about 2 cups of water and bring to a boil, stirring to help dissolve salt. Once the salt appears to be dissolved, turn off heat. Allow time for it to return to room temperature. We dont want to cook the birds by pouring hot liquid over them.

Step #3 Once your brine has returned to room temperature. Place four Quail in one gallon sized zip lock bag and pour the mixture over top of them. Fill the rest of the bag will cold water, approximately 4 cups, seal the bag and place in the refrigerator.

Step #4 Allow the Quail to brine for 1 to 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Step #5 When your brining time has expired, remove the quail from the zip lock bags, rinse with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Place the birds back in refrigerator for another hour. This will allow time for the outside of the bird to dry, this will help us get that golden outside skin when our butter rub is applied.

Step #6 If youre stuffing your birds with the Brown Rice and Red Quinoa Stuffing, youll need to start that now. In 2 quart sauce pan, combine rice, quinoa, olive oil and 2 cups of chicken broth. Bring to a boil, stirring lightly. Once rolling boil is reached, cover and reduce to simmer. Allow to cook 35-45 minutes, until broth is fully absorbed. Fluffy gently with fork. Salt to taste.

Step #7 Because Quail are so small and lean, they can benefit from some extra fat. Some people will soak them in olive oil, salt and pepper, but we’re going to drown ours in butter…. Lemon herb butter. So while the birds are drying in the fridge, we can prepare our lemon herb butter that we will rub all over the outside of the bird.

Step #8 To make the lemon herb butter take out a stick of unsalted butter and allow it to soften at room temperature. Take the tablespoon of rosemary and the tablespoon of thyme and chop them up finely. Place a sheet of wax paper down on the counter, then place your soften butter on the sheet. Zest the lemon over top of the butter, then squeeze out all the juice, sprinkle with chopped rosemary and chopped thyme, then start to incorporate with a spatula.

Step #9 After the birds have dried in the refrigerator, remove them and place in a shallow pan. Spoon some of your Brown Rice and Red Quinoa into the birds cavity. Use butchers twine to secure your rice mixture in the bird. Generously rub the lemon butter mixture all over the outside skin.

Step #10 Start your smoker and allow it to reach a temperature of 225 +/-. Place the butter coated birds in the smoker and allow to cook for about 1 hour or until the internal temperature is around 160 F. I like to put a pan filled with water and apple juice in my smoker, the steam helps favor and cooks the meat while also keeping it moist. I also like to use Pecan wood when smoking poultry, it doesn’t instill as much favor in the meat as mesquite or hickory.

Step #11 While your birds cook in the smoker, you can make this Cranberry Habanero Sauce as a side dish. Combine sugar, water, apple juice, apple jelly and habaneros in saucepan and bring to a boil. Once the sugar is dissolved, add your bag of rinsed cranberries. Optionally, if you didnt want to use the cubed apples from step 1 in a dinner cocktail, you can add them to the cranberry sauce. Reduce heat and cook for 10-15 minutes, until cranberries start to burst. Reduce heat to low simmer for an addition 10 – 15 minutes until you get the thickness you desire. Remember that it will thicken up even more as it cools. Zest with Orange and allow to cool. If the Cranberry sauce is to hot for you, you can cut the heat by adding additional sugar.

Step #12 When the birds are finally done, you can make this cocktail with the Apple Ice cubes we made in step 1. Place sugar in to an Old Fashion ( rocks or lowball ) glass and douse with water and bitters. Muddle together until sugar is dissolved. Pour in Apple Bourbon, stir, then add your frozen apple ice cubes. Garnish with Orange Peel.

Posted Comments - Add your own comment

Account Login

Email Address


Remember Me -

* Recover Password
* Create a FREE account