by Gay Cook
Christmas would not be complete without the wafting aromas of the turkey roasting in the oven. When purchasing a turkey, buy a fresh free-range bird. The birds are able to freely roam in the barn without hormones or antibiotics added to their feed. This produces a healthier and better tasting bird. To buy the right size turkey, plan 1 pound (1/2kg) per person.Calculate the roasting time by the turkey’s weight multiplied by 14 minutes per pound or 24 minutes per kg.
These last several years I have become enamored with brining our turkey as it produces a very moist and tasty bird. The day before Christmas, make the stuffing, cranberry sauce and brining so life is less stressful on the big day. Another important step is to allow the turkey to rest from 20 – 30 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to go back into the turkey and keep the turkey juicy.
To brine is optional4 quarts (4 L) water
1/2 cup (125 mL) kosher, pickling or
sea salt or ½ cup (125 mL) soy sauce (Kikkoman is a good product)
½ cup (125 mL) maple syrup
¼ cup (50 mL) each of juniper berries and peppercorns
2, 4-inch (10 cm) cinnamon sticks
2 – 3 whole cloves
10 ice cubes
- Use saucepan large enough to immerse 16 pound (8 kg) fresh turkey with a lid or place turkey in plastic container with lid, large enough for brine to cover the turkey.
- Place water, salt, syrup, berries, peppercorns, cinnamon, and gloves in a saucepan and bring to boil. Remove from heat and add the ice cubes to cool to room temperature. Pour brine over the turkey cover and refrigerate overnight or place outside if the temperature is cold enough to chill the turkey protect the bird from any roaming animal.
To prepare turkey
14 – 16 pound (7 – 8 kg) fresh turkey, wash and pat dry in and outside
4 tablespoons (50 mL) melted butter
Salt and pepper
Metal skewers or kitchen cotton string and large darning needle
- Use a sharp knife, to cut off the neck to be used in the gravy stock. Lightly press the stuffing into the neck cavity and inside the body. Pull the skin over the neck stuffing and secure it with skewer. Close opening between the legs with metal skewer or sew closed using needle and string.
- Tie the legs together and tuck the wing tips under the breast. Brush with butter and season with salt and pepper.
Fruit Stuffing (Makes 6 cups, or 1.5 L):
6 slices, 2-day-old whole-wheat, white or rye bread, crusts removed
¼ cup (50 mL) melted butter or rendered turkey fat
2 cups (500 mL) chopped onion
1 cup (250 mL) finely chopped celery
6 – 8 fresh sage leaves or 2 tablespoons (25 mL) minced
2 cups (500 mL) coarsely chopped dried apricots or any dried fruit
3 apples, cored, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons (10 mL) brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
- Tear bread into small pieces, pulse in food processor to make coarse crumbs or cut into ½-inch pieces to make 3 cups (750 mL). Place in large mixing bowl.
- Add melted butter in skillet and sauté onions and celery until tender but not brown, about 5 minutes. Cool several minutes. Toss into bread mixture along with sage, apricots and apples. Toss in salt, pepper and sugar to taste
Preheat oven to 326°F (160°C). Place turkey breast side up, in the roasting pan, breast side up and begin to roast. Baste turkey by spooning the pan juices over the turkey at least 3 times by spooning the pan juices over the turkey.
Make the stock for the gravy. Place any giblets and neck in small saucepan and cover with cold water. Add half an onion, 2 parsley sprigs and cups water gently cook for 2 hours. Simmer 2 hours and drain; reserve stock.
To prevent the turkey browning too much, tent it loosely with foil. To test for doneness, cut the string tying the legs together, when turkey is cooked, the legs move easily in their socket and juices run clear when meat is pressed on the underside, next to the backbone. If using a meat thermometer, insert it in the stuffing where it should read 170°F (77°C), then insert it in the inner thigh, avoiding the bone, where is should register 180°F (83°C).
When turkey is cooked, remove turkey to heat platter or carving board and loosely tent it with foil and leave to rest for 35 – 45 minutes so the juices can settle. Use a spoon to remove the stuffing and keep warm with the turkey or use a spoon to spoon out the stuffing for each person.
To Make Gravy
Place roasting pan on the stove and lift the pan so the juices gather to the opposite end and spoon off the fat leaving about 3 tablespoons (45 mL). Set pan over medium heat and use metal lifter to scrape up the brown bits in the bottom of the pan. Whisk in the flour to combine with the fat and cook to a dark golden brown. Whisk in reserved stock plus vegetable water or wine to make up 3 cups (750 mL) stock until well blended. Cook 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Sieve the gravy if there are any lumps. Serve warm.
Remove skewer. Use a sharp knife, cut the skin between the legs and breast; cut through hip joint or socket to separate the legs from the breasts. Cut the legs in half at the middle joint. Slice off the dark meat from the thighs and drumsticks. Cut the wings off at the joint next to the breast. Carve the breast meat in ¼-inch (2 mL) thick slices on the diagonal, starting on the outside and working to the breastbone. Arrange light and dark turkey on a warm platter with the stuffing. Serve with hot gravy.
Photo: courtesy of littleshamrocks.com