Friday, November 23, 2012

Let's Talk Turkey. "Gobble, Gobble!"

Turkey place cards courtesy of True!
 Somehow, I managed to reach my ridiculously advanced age without having cooked a turkey! I'm not sure how that happened (well, 20 years of being a vegetarian may have contributed). But, with a couple years of meat cooking under my belt, this year I decided I needed to rectify that situation. In September, when my very favorite farm (Skagit River Ranch), began pre orders of their turkeys, I signed up, despite the fact that at the time I had no Thanksgiving plans or guests!   

I'll pause to give you the turkey's back story. My turkey had a good life. As my farmer wrote, it was a "healthy and happy turkey,...raised in sunshine and fresh air, on a spacious pasture". My turkey ate 25% of its diet in grass. The rest was organic spelt, emmer, wheat, peas, camolina, seaweed and sea salt!  (No, I have never heard of emmer and camolina, nor do I know why peas are good for turkeys.) My turkey could run. My turkey could fly. And, as everyone who saw me for the last couple weeks can attest, my turkey stressed me out!

Let's walk through out journey together.

Day 1, 'getting to know you'!
Mr. Turkey arrived on a cold wet Sunday frozen, wrapped in his plastic bag and a cute Skagit River Ranch logo freezer bag! The note that came with the turkey advised me that he would thaw 4 pounds per day. So, after a brief meet and greet photo op with his siblings, it was into the fridge for the 4 day defrost!
What  have we here?

Highly suspicious!

Otto and Daisy come to terms with brother turkey.
After 4 days of taking up way too much room in my fridge and turning from frozen turkey into limp biscuits, it was time for a trip to the spa. An ice cold salt/sugar bath is perfect for the skin! AND, it seems that ziplock makes 10 gallon bags (and 20 and 30) and they are perfect for brining.
Zip lock pool, prepping for spa treatment.

Mmm salt/sugar bath.
Glowing after a day at the spa!
Penny provides support as I apply post bath moisturizer (butter).
 Now, in looking at these pictures, you all are probably and possibly properly thinking turkey making is nothing but fun and games. But, let me assure you, these pictures do nothing capture the stress that went into each and every step of my turkey adventure. Let me detail some decisions that needed to be made along the way. (And let me add, as an aside, Google has a plethora of (frequently conflicting) answers to each and every one of these questions.)  

Where to thaw?
What brining sauce to use?
How long to brine?
What to brine in - pan? cooler? bag? refrigerator? some combination of? 
What kind of bag?  Does it need to be a special brining bag? What is food grade and what isn't?
Is the cooler food grade?
Do I need a bag inside the cooler? 
Where the heck to get a bag? (this involved two trips to Target and being sent to at least 3 locations within said, very large Target by no less than 4 different employees and a product locator device AND finally a Google search).

AND, we haven't even started the big stress yet. The questions continue, how to cook?  What to put on the turkey?  What temperature?  How long?  Where the heck do you stick a meat thermometer? It didn't help that the directions I got included a set that told me to cook the turkey for 15 minutes per pound and another that told me to cook for 12 minutes per pound (yes, that's an ENTIRE hour difference!)

THEN, there was the turning the turkey at 1 hour. No, my mother never did this, but it seems in 2012, you need to pick up a turkey that has been in the oven for an hour and use your hands to flip it over! (My mother's turkey also came with a plastic thermometer BUILTINTOTHEBIRD, that popped out to tell you it was done.)

And let's not even get started on the to baste or not to baste discussion! (Yes, that is a decision!)

In the end I would like to say it turned out perfectly. In truth, it probably did, but there were too many questions. Too many roads to follow. If I had a redo, there are some things I would do differently. But, the happy part is that next time I cook a turkey, it will be easy and perfect.

Is it brown enough/hot enough/cooked enough?

Or not so ALIVE and well (that can refer to me and the turkey).

Fortunately there was a real turkey carver who did a brilliant job with a very dull knife, removing one level of stress!
I'm really not sure how something that really only requires being stuck in the oven for multiple hours can be so insanely stressful.  But let's stop, deep breath in.... deep breath out..... and regroup and remember that merely one short blog ago I vowed to be Miss Glass Half Full, so I will end by stating the turkey was quite tasty. Today's breakfast of pumpkin pie and then lunch of left over turkey was even better. AND, I have two large batches of broth bubbling on the stove that will fill me with skin healing vitamins and nutrients. AND, even more importantly, Thanksgiving with lots of fun and full of great friends.

Thanks turkey and happy day after everyone!!

Hood canal table with view of canal through frosted window panes.
And a final cheer up for anyone who is still feeling a little stressed and wasn't sold by my glass half full ending. We'll finish today's very long blog with completely gratuitous, but insanely cute dog shots!

I love Otto with all my heart and soul, but it doesn't get much cuter than Penny.

This year I am thankful that my dog DID NOT pull the turkey carcass onto the floor.

The aliens flew in to watch the turkey prep!


Jonna Duvernoy said...

you crack me up.

james said...

Have you ever seen Piece Of April with Katie Holmes? Great blog.