I skipped the Christmas Countdown yesterday, partly because I decided to take a holiday from being online too much and partly because I got up too early and was tired. But to start back up, it’s now 27 days, on today, Black Friday, the retail day of retail days, until Christmas! We’ll be getting our tree tomorrow, hoping our year old Maine Coon doesn’t climb it!
For Thanksgiving, I didn’t cook a whole lot. We did the turkey, mashed potatoes and bread/rolls. The potatoes and rolls turned out great. For gravy, I used a turkey gravy base from Williams-Sonoma. It was easy to make; I just added milk (which was 1/3 cream, 2/3 skim milk). I also put in the drippings from the turkey, which really made the gravy great! I may try to duplicate it sometime, but this was some of the best gravy I’ve ever had.
But the day isn’t about the sides so much as the turkey itself. We got a fresh, locally raised, non-hormone-injected turkey. The Bowman-Landes website says they’re raised in the sunshine and fresh air. They’re also fed an all-veggie diet. The farm is about 7 miles from where I grew up, and I’ve seen their turkeys outside sunning themselves many times.
The bird was about 27 pounds… It was the largest that the store had. A couple was there at the same time, asking for the smallest of the Bowman-Landes birds, and the meat department manager thought it was funny that he was selling his smallest and his largest birds at the same time.
I brined the turkey on Wednesay morning. To figure out how much water to use, I put the bird (still in the packaging) in a 5 gallon bucket and filled the bucket with water. Then I took the turkey out. This bird was so big, there was less than 2 gallons of water in the bucket! So I put in just under 1.5 cups of kosher salt to dissolve into a brine. I added a cup of Maker’s Mark bourbon, a cup or so of Turbinado sugar, a handful of peppercorns, and some sprigs of thyme and sage.
I put the bucket with the brine in it into a cooler before putting the bird into it so that I wouldn’t spill everything all the way out to the garage. Since it was only going to be in the low 40s on Wednesday, I figured I wouldn’t have any problems with the bird getting too warm if I was careful. The bird went into the brine, then I topped it with ice until it was to the top. I put the 5 gallon bucket lid on, and poured ice around the bucket. With the temp being low, and the garage being closed up, the ice didn’t melt much at all, and the temp of the water stayed around 35 degrees through the day.
I’ve brined birds in the past, and air-dried them in the fridge overnight. This year, though, I didn’t air dry it. I’ve found the skin is too salty from the brining, anyway, so it didn’t need any more than a good pat-down on Thanksgiving morning.
The Big Green Egg got fired up at about 5:15 am, and I got the bird out of the brine and well-rinsed. I like to stuff turkeys with aromatics, so I prepped some whole carrots (with stems and all), celery stalks, onion, apple and herbs (thyme and sage, of course). I also chopped up some herbs and added salt and pepper to put under the skin. While I was letting the BGE get up to temp, I laid bags of ice on the breast of the turkey so that it would be cooler than the thighs; this helps make sure that the white meat and dark meat get done at the same time.
I got the BGE chugging away at about 325 degrees, and I had figured it would take about 6 hours to get done, with the size of the bird. It was just about right on that, too. I cooked it to 165 degrees F.
The bird was moist and delicious, with a nice herbiness. The leftover sandwich, on homemade bread with cranberry sauce and brie, was almost too good to be true! I’m going to make some turkey salad with black grapes tomorrow, I think.
I’ve had some turkey disasters in recent years. Once year, the wind got my Chargriller up too high in temp, and the bird reached 200 degrees. Thankfully, we had lots of gravy; the taste was good, it was just dry. Another year, I had cheesecloth on the turkey, soaked in apple cider vinegar, to keep the bird moist, and it caught on fire. Then there was the year when we fried turkeys and almost burned down the deck; we had 12′ flames shooting up from the fryer, but it had been moved out from the house before that.
So what are you turkey successes and failures? The failures make great memories, I think, but I prefer sitting down to dinner with the successes!