Turkey trouble: When your holiday dinner plans turn fowl

Volunteer Smart model Kristy Nieves, 34, of York poses with Diesel the bulldog
in the Smart Thanksgiving disaster kitchen (Photo by Jason Plotkin).

for Smart

We all remember the infamous turkey disaster from the holiday classic “A Christmas Story.” While a rambunctious pack of neighborhood dogs is unlikely to storm your kitchen and decimate your carefully cooked bird, many women face turkey dilemmas during the holidays.

Dru Peters, a founder of Sunnyside Farm in Newberry Township, believes the vast majority of women get into trouble with their turkeys because they don’t allow adequate time for the bird to thaw.

“Many times turkeys will end up half-cooked and half-raw,” said Peters, who sells pasture-fed beef, chicken and turkey. “That’s typical, because people don’t understand when you buy a bird how much it takes for the bird to thaw out.”

The tricky nature of thawing is one of the major reasons Peters believes that buying fresh leads to a better cooking outcome.

“A bird that is at even temperature when it goes into the oven is going to cook more evenly,” Peters said.

Peters also said that buying a quality bird will lead to a tastier turkey, avoiding any of the dreaded flavorless, dry meat. She and her husband, Homer Walden, raise heritage turkey breeds that are meant to
mature more slowly than breeds one traditionally finds on the holiday buffet.

“Our turkeys are on the field for months,” Peters said. “They are moved onto fresh grass every day. That changes the flavor of the meat. We also feed a GMO-free feed mix. They’re butchered the day you pick them up. All of those things combined make for a much better bird.”

While choosing the right bird and, if frozen, allowing enough time to thaw it are crucial to avoiding holiday woes, so is having a plan.

“Start out with a sketch of where you’re putting all your platters and your serving pieces,” said Charlene Calvert-Campbell, president of Accomac Inn in Hellam Township. “People are so focused on the fun. If you’re new at this game, you’re not thinking about having enough serving spoons and bowls ready.”

For those who are nervous about ruining the centerpiece dish of the meal, Calvert-Campbell recommends cooking the turkey the day before.

“Slip some bacon slices under the skin of the turkey,” Calvert-Campbell said. “It will ensure a more moist and flavorful bird. Baste the next day when reheating. The turkey will taste just as good as if you served it the day you cooked it.”

Thanksgiving Dinner at Accomac Inn

The Accomac Inn in Hellam Township will serve Thanksgiving dinner 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 22. Charlene Calvert-Campbell recommends making reservations as early as possible.

While the menu won’t be released until just before Thanksgiving Day, last year’s menu included local free-range, antibiotic-free turkey; sausage, cornbread and pecan stuffing; sweet potatoes; local vegetables, including roasted parsnips, chestnuts and creamed onions; and a cranberry, orange and jalapeño sauce.

Accomac Inn is located at 6330 S. River Drive, Hellam Township. For reservations, call 717-252-1521 or email reservations@accomacinn.com

Reserve a Sunnyside Turkey

Sunnyside Farm sells its pasture-raised turkeys for $5 per pound, with a $40 deposit. To reserve your turkey, email Dru Peters at sunnysidedru@gmail.com, or visit Sunnyside’s stand at the York Central Market.

Reserved turkeys can be picked up at the farm, 1865 York Road, Newberry Township.

Turkey Talk-Line

If you’re stuck with a turkey conundrum over the holidays, call the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line, open annually in November and December.

Serving nervous hostesses since 1982, the talk-line features 50 professionally trained turkey experts who respond to about 100,000 questions during the holidays.

The Butterball Turkey Talk-Line can be reached by calling 800-BUTTERBALL (800-288-8372).

Talk-line FAQ

How long will it take to thaw my turkey?

Butterball recommends thawing your turkey in the refrigerator in its original wrapping. Place the turkey on a shallow tray on the bottom refrigerator shelf and allow the bird to thaw one day for every 4 pounds of turkey. If you don’t have time to thaw in the refrigerator, use the cold-water method: completely submerge the turkey, breast side down, in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes and allow about 30 minutes per pound of turkey.

How do I know when my turkey is done?

A meat thermometer provides an easy way to ensure your turkey is cooked to the correct temperature. A perfectly done turkey will reach 185 degrees in the thigh, 170 degrees in the breast and 165 degrees in the stuffing.

How long can I keep turkey leftovers in my refrigerator?

Wrap leftover turkey and refrigerate within two hours. Finish the leftovers within two to three days of refrigerating, or freeze the leftovers.

— Source: butterball.com

Turkey roasting time

Want more holiday ideas? Visit Smart’s Holiday Countdown page.

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1 Response

  1. November 25, 2013

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