Turkey Basics — Lesson 7, To brine or not to brine

Scott's Turkey in the brine Banner for BlogNovember 25 — For those of us on a quest to prepare the perfect turkey, brining is definitely the way to go.

Lesson 7: You’ll need only 2 things – salt and time. Here’s why.

Salt naturally draws out moisture in proteins, but over time – the process reverses through the laws of diffusion and your turkey begins to absorb the moisture back in for a deliciously moist main dish. Salt also helps break down the muscle fibers, creating a more tender turkey – so this is a great idea for your larger birds.

You will also need:

  • A large space in your refrigerator. Or a lobster pot or large cooler or bringing bag. (I once brined a few turkeys in the bathtub, and  my guests were none the wiser.)
  • 2 days time
  • Salt and other various flavor enhancers – from bay leaves to apple cider, rum, sage, pepper, stock
  • Orange peels, dried allspice berries, brown sugar. You can really go flavor crazy, so have fun. You will rinse it away after 8 hours.

Click here for the entire recipe.

Turkey Basics — Lesson 6, Kosher vs. Pastured

fresh-turkey1November 24 — What is the difference between a kosher turkey and on that has been pastured?

Lesson 6: Here’s the scoop.

  • Kosher — These birds are killed according to Jewish dietary laws. Most are salted on the inside and out and have a nice full taste.
  • Pastured – These turkeys are what you think of as wild turkeys at the farm – they hunt and peck for their food daily – These birds offer full flavor and are delicious.

Turkey Basics — Lesson 5, Organic vs. Free Range vs. Natural

flickr_OlinGilbert_TomTurkeyNovember 23 — If you are trying to each au natural, here’s the difference between organic vs. free range turkeys.

Lesson 5: The good news is that the poultry industry does not use any hormones. 

  • Organic — Organic birds are fed only organically grown feed.
  • Free Range – These birds are outside part of the time. Yes, they can still be penned, but they get access to sunlight and space to roam.
  • Natural – This is your zero artificial anything bird. But, they can actually contain added salt water, and natural flavorings. So check the packaging.

Turkey Basics — Lesson 4, Do you have your Tom Turnkey? If not, today is the last day to purchase a large frozen turkey in order for it to thaw correctly for the big day

Flickr_USDANovember 22 — If you haven’t done it already, be sure to buy your turkey today so it’ll thaw correctly for the big day on Thursday, Nov. 26.

Lesson 4: 

  • Tom Turkey is the largest bird at 16 pounds, and you will want to serve about 1-½ pounds per person. In my experience, any turkey that is more than 24 pounds is too hard to handle – and too tough. So rather than buying a big bird, buy more than one for a large crowd.
  • Hens: These are 8-10 pounds and have a smaller meat ration, so estimate serving about 2 pounds per person.
  • To accurately calculate the amount of turkey you’ll need, here’s a great conversion application, courtesy of Butterball.

And remember: Buy more or bigger birds if you want tasty leftovers. Check back later this  month for Edible Education’s post-Thanksgiving classics.

Turkey Basics — Lesson 3, Try a Heritage turkey

flickr_Curt Gibbs_turkeyfarmNovember 21 — If you’d like to taste a turkey that is truly flavorful, try a Red Bourbon turkey.

Lesson 3: Last year I had the opportuity to prepare four Red Bourbon turkeys for a Slow Foods Festival, and I was truly delighted to taste these smaller birds, which are definitely less meaty. But they are unbelievably full of flavor.

Heritage turkeys are like Heirloom tomatoes – older breeds that don’t make it to the factory farms. Other Heritage breeds include Narragansett, and Standard Bronze. In Virginia, you can find these turkeys at www.localharvest.org. But sure to order early.

Turkey Basics — Lesson 2, Basting

flickr_m anima_bastingNovember 20 — What is a basted or self-basting turkey?

Lesson 2: This means the turkey is injected with solutions such as stock, salt, butter, or other edible fat (don’t ask).

These ingredients increase the moisture in the bird and make for a juicier turkey. But they can also mask the true flavor. Purists, be prepared.

Turkey Basics — Lesson 1, How to Cook a Turkey

flickr_Steven Depolo_roastedturkeyNovember 19 — Americans consume about 46 million turkeys during the Thanksgiving holiday, and knowing what to buy and how is much easier than you think. Today, our Edible Education chefs offer our first installation into Turkey Basics!

Lesson 1: Turkeys can be very easy to prepare. Just wash the skin, pull out all the inside extra stuff, season and roast.

Cooking times: These will differ depending on whether your bird was purchased fresh or frozen. Plan on 20 minutes per pound in a 350-degree oven for a defrosted turkey, and 10 to 15 minutes per pound for fresh. 4. A turkey will cook more evenly if it is not densely stuffed.

If you are feeling daring: Try your hand at brining, grilling, or just add some awesome flavorings to the skin and meat such as curry, jerk, or bourbon.

Celebrate National Apple Cider Day

flickr_Steven DepoloNovember 18 — Today is National Apple Cider Day. So grab your favorite brand (we like the organic version), and warm some up on the stove. Add a cinnamon stick for flavor. You’ll do year body a favor.

Here’s why: A spice that has a history going back more than 4,000 years, cinnamon has been shown to lower blood sugar levels. But, there is also a controversy about this tasty spice because some versions of it can actually be harmful when the cinnamon contains an ingredient called coumarin. So be sure to ask your parents to buy the kind that is purely cinnamon — sans coumarin. More info can be found here.

Here’s why turkey is good for you

flickr_jennie-o

November 17 — As we embark on the Thanksgiving holiday, and prepare to share a week’s worth of Turkey Basics from Nov. 19-26, we wanted to start with some information about why America’s favorite bird is good for you.

For starters, turkey is an excellent source of lean protein and a good choice for a speedy lunch or dinner. Plus, it packs the entire spectrum of B vitamins, in addition to selenium and potassium.

It’s also America’s favorite sandwich, according to research we reported on National Sandwich Day, Nov. 3. But before buying a bunch of packaged turkey slices, know that those are loaded with sodium. One 2-oz. serving of some brands contains nearly one-third of the maximum recommended daily sodium intake.

A better bet is to roast a turkey for dinner, and enjoy the leftovers as lunch for days to come. It’s so simple to prepare, and fun to come up with creative ways to add different spices. And whenever possible, opt for healthier cage-free, vegetarian-fed and antibiotic-free turkeys. Be on the lookout for our 7 Turkey Basics lessons! Gobble gobble.