Just to be clear we are “talking turkey” candidate for the White House Presidential Turkey pardon. The presentation of the National Thanksgiving turkey takes us back to the Ulysses S. Grant era in the late 1800’s. Turkey has been gracing the table since before America was America. In 1989, President George H.W. Bush began the official presidential pardon of the turkey and ever since, this bipartisan tradition has continued. The honor of presenting the National Thanksgiving Turkey goes to the chairman of the National Turkey Federation. In Ohio, we know a thing or two about turkeys, as we raise 219 million pounds of turkey each year, that is 9th in the Nation in turkey production. This year’s chairman is Gary Cooper, an owner of Cooper Farms, a family-owned farm in western Ohio. The Cooper family has been raising an extra special flock of turkeys since the beginning of July. Two of their turkeys will make the trek to our Nation’s Capital. For more details on how the turkeys were raised read this article in Ohio’s Country Journal.
Much like the Presidential Turkey is a tradition to the White House it also begins a tradition for the Cooper family. This will be their second run at raising the turkey for our President and his family. Gary’s brother was also Chairman of the National Turkey Federation back when President Clinton was in office.
The turkey is a time honored tradition and is something we eat often in our house. There are so many options now in the grocery store. Turkey burgers, brats, sausage, tenders and the traditional whole bird. We have been raising a few turkeys over the summer too for the first time. It has been a fun experience to watch them from a tiny poult (baby turkey) grow into a 30 pound tasty turkeys. I am surprised by how many people have never cooked a whole turkey. If you fall into this category or just want to cook the perfect turkey, here are a few simple tips when it comes to preparing the perfect bird Thanksgiving Day.
- Plan ahead: Buy a turkey that is the correct size based on your dinner guests. If you serve a large crowd prepare two birds or a whole bird and a turkey breast. I have cooked a few big birds in my time and fitting a 41lb turkey in your oven can be a challenge (yes I have roasted a turkey that large, I have pushed the limits of my oven). I love leftover turkey so I always prepare a little extra. Visit the Butterball page for all your turkey calculations and conversions.
- Don’t forget thaw time: Unless you are purchasing a farm fresh turkey you need to allow for ample time to unthaw your masterpiece.
- Get a good meat thermometer: This is a must you want a moist perfect turkey and a thermometer will make sure this happens. Here are the recommended cooking times based per pound.
- Budget in extra time: There is nothing worse than rushing and not enjoying time with family and friends. Add in at least an extra hour before you want to make the presentation of the bird. This will allow the bird to rest to keep in those delicious juices, make your gravy and allow the bird to cool so you can carve it.
- Have the correct tools: Use a sharp knife, it makes carving the main event an art to watch. Use a turkey baster to baste your turkey and keep it browning and moist. Use a disposable roasting pan for easy cleanup and a turkey cooking bag of you want to cut your cooking time down and not baste your bird. Keep Wondra Flour on hand for lump free tasty gravy.
- Keep it simple: Turkey is naturally full of flavor. Keep your recipe simple and allow the turkey to speak for itself.
Here is one of my favorite ways to prepare our Thanksgiving Turkey. Be sure you are using a turkey that has not already been brined – some may be pre-brined when store bought.
- 1 gallon vegetable broth
- 1 cup sea salt
- 1 tablespoon crushed dried rosemary
- 1 tablespoon dried sage
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon dried savory
- 1 gallon ice water
- In a large stock pot, combine the vegetable broth, sea salt, rosemary, sage, thyme, and savory. Bring to a boil; stirring frequently to be sure salt is dissolved. Remove from heat, and let cool to room temperature.
- When the broth mixture is cool, pour it into a clean 5 gallon bucket. Stir in the ice water.
- Wash and dry your turkey. Make sure you have removed the innards. Place the turkey, breast down, into the brine. Make sure that the cavity gets filled. Place the bucket in the refrigerator overnight on rest in a cooler full of ice.
- Remove the turkey carefully draining off the excess brine and pat dry. Discard excess brine.
- Cook the turkey as desired reserving the drippings for gravy. Keep in mind that brined turkeys cook 20 to 30 minutes faster so watch the temperature gauge.
- Stuff the inside of the turkey with wedges of onion, celery, carrots and garlic and a lemon. It adds a fantastic flavor. Brush the turkey with melted butter and bake at 325*
I would like to introduce you to my favorite turkey farmer, Katie Olthoff from Iowa. Katie writes at On the Banks of Squaw Creek has always dreamed about authoring a children’s book. Recently she combined her love of turkeys and her dream of being an author. In honor of Thanksgiving Katie has agreed to autograph and do a giveaway for her first book. “My Family’s Farm has been a dream of mine for over two years, since I realized that there are very few children’s books showing today’s livestock farms. Farms have changed over the past 50 years, but their portrayal has not. This book is an effort to change that.”For a chance to win her book all you have to do is leave a question or comment on my Local Farm Mom Facebook page before Friday November 21, 2014 at 8pm. I will randomly select the winner and send out the book. Be sure to subscribe my page as well!