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Preparing the Thanksgiving Turkey

November 8, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThanksgiving turkey recipes have varied for years and adapt from the wild game turkey commonly prepared past and present by hunters to the domestic turkey available for purchase at meat counters. The difference in birds, and in size, can make a difference in the final meal on the table. Likewise if you purchase a heritage or rare breed turkey it’s likely to have been raised somewhat differently than those in modern confinement systems.

The first decision will be whether to buy one of those heritage birds (usually direct from the farm) or one over the grocery store counter. The second will be to cook the bird stuffed or unstuffed.

For a stuffed turkey rinse the turkey and pat dry. If you want to stuff the bird do that and truss shut. Soften 1/8 to ¼ pound butter and rub thoroughly all over the turkey. Season the turkey, place breast down in roaster pan and place into a 325F oven. Bake for 15 minutes per pound if it’s less than a 16 pound bird but cook at 12 minutes per pound if heavier. If less than 12 pounds in an hour turn breast side up; for heavier birds wait an hour and a half. Cook until meat thermometer in the breast meat is 170 or thigh is 185F. Make sure your thermometer is in the meat not touching the bone, which can alter your reading. For an unstuffed bird cook the same but place a couple of peeled, quartered onions in the body cavity.

Especially for larger birds cover with a light cloth or foil and allow to “rest” for 10-15 minutes before carving.

Always stuff the bird just before cooking, not ahead of time and for safety reasons store the turkey separate from stuffing. Leftovers made easy can be diced and put into several half pound measured bags, which then are easy to pull out to add to favorite recipes.

Turkey doesn’t have to be difficult as many make it. Make sure you allow plenty of time to safely thaw the turkey and keep bones from pets’ reach. To stretch your meal further take the bones from the carcass and make turkey broth from them. Turkey leftovers can be spread over a week or two if you plan ahead.

Plan ahead for the leftover turkey by planning meals using it in a cooked dish or as sandwiches once per day through the weekend. Use other meals – perhaps using the slowcooker – to allow time with the family. After all this is the true memory maker of the holiday!

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