When will you buy your turkey?

The week past has been a busy one. For some reason, three of the groups I belong to all have their meetings on the first three days of the month. Sometime it gets hectic as it did this month. Since we are still selling tickets on a hand-made quilt as a fundraiser, I did that Monday morning and then went to my pokeno group, and on Tuesday there was an extra get-together that I attended after attending our Auxiliary meeting; joining other ladies in our work shop to make tray favors for part of the month of December; working in the gift shop for four hours and then in the evening attending a get-together at church! Wednesday was a little better, thank goodness, as there was only the one meeting in the afternoon, and I was able to get some sewing done. Thursday, it was back to the gift shop as we are very short-handed with workers right now and on Friday, we did one last time of selling the tickets. Our hospital CEO had suggested that we might do really well if we sold the tickets in the hallway leading to the various doctors’ offices, rather than out in the open in front of a local store. That had to be the most wonderful idea anyone ever had as we only had one or two days that we sold under $50 per shift! When I wasn’t doing the above things, it was time to go back to the sewing machine and work on some aprons and other things that will be sold at the Craft Show next week! This coming week promises to be a little easier, at least in part!
The turkey is the largest of the game birds native to North America. We no longer have to depend on our husbands, fathers, sons or brothers (or ourselves) to go out and shoot a turkey for us for Thanksgiving. (Isn’t THAT wonderful?) Have you ever cleaned a turkey from scratch? Believe me, it is a LOT of work, and smelly besides, and if it is a young bird, you have to contend with pinfeathers to boot. Then, after all that work is done, you still have to worry about how long to cook this bird to get it tender.
The turkey was domesticated and bred by the Aztec and Zuni Indians, and they were used not only for food, but also for sacrifice. These Indians used the feathers for adornment and for charms.
The Spanish conquerors first saw the turkey around 1492, and by 1530, the Mexican species was introduced to Europe. Any and all of the varieties bred today are descendants of the original North American wild turkey, Meleagris gallopava. There are several subspecies of wild turkey that have been recognized, and their range is from Mexico to northern New England.
When the colonists arrived in New England, they discovered an abundant supply of food in the form of the wild turkey. Since the first American Thanksgiving, the turkey has become the traditional symbol of this holiday. The wild turkey has diminished in number since those times. However, here in Texas, the turkey is hunted every year during the regular hunting season, and in some areas during a spring turkey season. Most usually, only Tom turkeys can be shot legally, and you must have a hunting license to do so.
Now, let’s talk about how to prepare our turkey for the upcoming holiday! If you are having the dinner at your home and are in charge of the turkey, the first and most important thing to do is to decide how many people you have to feed and the second is how much turkey you want left over. This is important in determining how large a bird you are going to need. One pound of meat should be ample for one person unless you want leftovers, then you will have to allow 1½ pounds per person. Next you need to know that a 12 to 15 pound turkey will take no less than three (3) whole days to thaw completely. You should estimate one full day (24 hours) for each five pounds of turkey. If your refrigerator is really cold, you will need more time. ALL defrosting should be done in the refrigerator and NEVER at room temperature. Once the turkey is thawed, be sure to remove the neck and giblets from the body cavity.
It was formerly believed that a Tom turkey was not as tender as a hen, but now, it really doesn’t matter, as they are all raised the same way. A Tom will usually be a heavier weight than a hen.
My favorite method by far, of cooking a turkey, and the one which I use most often, is the box of Reynolds® cooking bags and follow the directions on the box. They come in different sizes, so buy the one that your turkey will fit into. This is a simple, clean and easy way to bake your turkey, and you do not have to worry about basting or checking frequently. A newer method of cooking a turkey is the deep fryer. Since my son is the one who does that, all I can tell you is to read the instruction manual that came with your deep fryer and follow the directions as closely as possible!
Thoroughly rinse the inside and outside of the turkey. Drain well and pat the outside dry. Season the inside with salt and pepper (or anything else you would like to use) and stuff with dressing if this is what you are going to do. If you elect not to stuff the bird, several slices of onion and a rib of celery, or an apple cut into quarters will help season your turkey. If you opt to stuff the bird, pack the cavity lightly with the dressing, as it will expand while it bakes.
Bake at 325ºF until a meat thermometer registers 170-175ºF. The inside juices should be clear when you pierce the skin and the joints should move freely. The average cooking time for a 10 to 15 pound un-stuffed turkey is 3 to 3½ hours.
Do not roast at too low temperature, and do not partially cook, intending to finish cooking later, as this will allow bacteria to grow. When baking a turkey with the timer/thermometer follow the instructions on the wrapper from the turkey, and if you would feel safer, still test the turkey with a meat thermometer to be sure it is done.
There are probably as many dressing/stuffing recipes as there are cooks! You can buy a packaged mix, or make your own. Here are a couple of recipes that may help you. The main thing to remember is that you NEVER make the dressing completely the day before. It is all right to cook the vegetables and the meat and refrigerate until the next day, but do not mix the dressing itself until you are ready to use it. I know there are folks who do it the day before, and even stuff the turkey the day before and to my knowledge, they’ve never had a problem, however, it is definitely not recommended!
Bread Dressing
1½ lb. loaf, day-old white bread
1 cup diced celery
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup butter or margarine
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning (or more if desired)
1 to 1½ teaspoons salt
¼ to ½ teaspoon black pepper
¾ to 1 cup broth or milk
Remove crusts from bread, cut into ½-inch dice. Place in large bowl. Sauté celery and onion in butter until soft; pour over bread. Add seasonings and mix well. Add broth and mix again. Place in ovenproof baking dish and bake until set and brown on top. (For oyster dressing, omit all but ½ cup broth and add 1¼ cups chopped oysters).
Cornbread Dressing
4½ cups crumbled corn bread
2½ cups day old French bread, cut into 1/-inch cubes
1 medium chopped onion
1½ cups chopped celery
1/3 cup chopped parsley
½ cup butter or margarine
2 lightly beaten eggs
2 to 3 tablespoons poultry seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
2 to 3 cups broth or milk*
(Turkey giblets and neck, or 1 pack chicken giblets and hearts, or ½ pound ground meat or pan sausage) optional
Boil giblets, etc., until done. Chop or grind and set aside. If using ground meat or pan sausage, cook well in skillet until nicely browned, drain well and set aside.
Make corn bread using 2 cups cornmeal/flour, (or use one or two of the packages that need milk and eggs added to them) and bake according to directions in an 8×8 or 9×9-inch pan. This can be done several days ahead of time. When cool, crumble and place in bowl in fridge.
Allow bread to dry out slightly, crumble and add to cornbread. Add giblets or meat (if used) and sauté onions and celery in margarine until tender. Add to cornbread mixture. Add parsley and seasonings. Add beaten eggs and broth and mix well. If it does not seem moist enough, add more broth or milk. Place in 9×13”, baking pan and bake at 350ºF until golden brown and set. If it looks dry while baking, add more broth or milk. Canned chicken or vegetable broth can be used if you want to save the broth from cooking the giblets for your gravy. *If you use canned broth, be careful not to use too much salt in the dressing as the broth is already salted. One year, when a member of the family was following a vegetarian diet, I made the dressing using vegetable broth and it came out very tasty, and even though I made it in a separate pan, both pans ended up being eaten as lots of the guests decided to eat both and could tell no real difference.
1½ cups cornmeal
½ cup flour
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg
1 cup milk
¼ cup oil or melted shortening
Mix dry ingredients together in bowl. Mix together egg, milk and shortening, ad to dry ingredients and mix well. Pour into lightly greased 8×8 or 9×9-inch pan and bake until golden brown. Cool before using. (I usually double this and bake it in a 9×13 pan).
And, though I prefer homemade gravy, the packages of turkey gravy mix from Pioneer® is really tasty.
Mrs. Haass’ Pink Stuff
1 can (20-oz) cherry pie filling
1 can (20-oz) crushed pineapple in juice
1 can Angel Flake coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1 can condensed milk (not evaporated!)
1 carton (8-oz) whipped topping, thawed
Mix all together and chill before serving.
Broccoli Salad
1 bunch broccoli
1/3 cup raisins
2 tablespoons red onion, diced
6 thin sliced, slices bacon
1 cup mayonnaise (not salad dressing)
1/2 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar
Slice bacon crosswise into strips, fry until crisp, set aside to drain well, while you wash broccoli, separate it into flowerets and cut into small pieces. Place the broccoli into bowl and add the raisins. Finely dice onion, add to broccoli/raisin mixture, and stir in the bacon. Mix the ingredients for the dressing and pour over all, stir to mix. Serve at room temperature.
Missy’s Apple Dip
2 blocks cream cheese, softened
½ cup sifted powdered sugar
1 carton Marzettis Caramel Apple Dip
1 to 2 cups Heath toffee bits
Cream together cream cheese and powdered sugar, then spread this mixture onto an aluminum disposable pizza tin. Evenly spread the caramel apple dip over this and then sprinkle with the toffee bits. Serve with sliced apples of various types. (I use Gala, Granny Smith and usually JonGold to have 3 different flavors). The peelings can be left on and I arrange mine in separate groups so you can try each one with the dip. (To keep your apples from turning brown, slice them into a bowl of 7up® or Sprite®).
Texas Turtle Cake
1 package German chocolate cake mix
1 stick margarine, softened to room temperature
1½ cups water
½ cup oil
½ cup sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Combine and mix together the above ingredients. Line a 13x9x2 pan with foil and grease the foil. Pour half the batter into the prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes.
While cake is baking, make the filling:
½ cup sweetened condensed milk
1 bag caramels (1 pound bag)
1 cup chopped pecans
Melt caramels and mix with condensed milk. Spread over the baked layer. Sprinkle with the pecans. Cover with the remaining batter and bake 35 to 45 minutes or until done. Cool thoroughly. Frost with the following:
1 stick butter or margarine
4 tablespoons cocoa
6 to 7 tablespoons evaporated milk
1 box sifted powdered sugar (1 pound)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Melt together butter or margarine, cocoa and milk. Remove from heat and add sugar and vanilla. Mix well and spread on cooled cake.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and God Bless all of you, this day and every day!