12 pounds whole turkey, neck and giblets reserved

    1/3 cup real maple syrup

    2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

    2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram

    1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

    3/4 cup butter, softened

    2 cups chopped onion

    1 1/2 cups chopped celery

    1 1/2 cups chopped carrots

    2 cups apple cider

 

  Boil apple cider and maple syrup in heavy large saucepan over

 medium-high heat until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 20 minutes. Remove

 from heat. Mix in half of chopped thyme, half of marjoram and lemon

 peel. Add butter and whisk until melted. Season generously with salt

 and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.

 

  Preheat oven to 375F. Position rack in lower third of oven. Pat turkey

 dry with paper towels. Place turkey on rack set in large roasting pan.

 Slide hand under skin of turkey breast to loosen skin. Rub 1/2 cup maple

 butter over breast and under skin. If stuffing turkey, spoon stuffing

 into main cavity. Rub 1/4 cup maple butter over outside of turkey.

 Reserve remaining maple butter for gravy. Tie legs together loosely to

 hold shape of turkey. Arrange onion, celery, carrots and reserved turkey

 neck and giblets around turkey in pan. Sprinkle vegetables with remaining

 1 tablespoon thyme and remaining 1 tablespoon marjoram. Pour 2 cups

 apple cider into pan.

 

  Roast turkey 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350F. Cover entire

 turkey loosely with heavy-duty foil and roast until meat thermometer

 inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 180F or until juices run

 clear when thickest part of thigh is pierced with skewer, basting

 occasionally with pan juices, about 2 hours 25 minutes for unstuffed

 turkey (2 hours 55 minutes for stuffed turkey). Transfer turkey to

 platter. Tent turkey with aluminum foil and let stand 30 minutes;

 reserve mixture in pan for gravy.

 

  For the gravy: strain pan juices into large measuring cup, pressing on

 solids with back of spoon. Spoon fat from pan juices. Add enough chicken

 broth to pan juices to measure 3 cup. Transfer liquid to heavy medium

 saucepan and bring to boil. Mix 3 tablespoon reserved maple butter and

 1/3 cup flour in small bowl to form smooth paste. Whisk paste into broth

 mixture. Add chopped fresh thyme and bay leaf. Boil until reduced to
sauce consistency, whisking occasionally, about 10 minutes. Mix in

 apple brandy, if desired. Season gravy to taste with salt and pepper.

 Brush turkey with any remaining maple butter and serve with gravy.