I’m back! My parents have been in town this week and we’ve been busy busy busy painting and building shelves and touring historic mansions. I can’t wait to share all our projects with you. For today, though, it’s the Thanksgiving edition of Throwback Thursday.
We do Thanksgiving with my husband’s family and then do 2nd Thanksgiving with his son and some friends and family on Saturday. Each year I go through this epic struggle about how to cook our turkey. TimTheFarmer’s aunt cooks the juiciest turkey I’ve ever had…and she does nothing to it. She cooks it unstuffed and doesn’t brine or bag or season it or anything. Nothing that you see on cooking shows or read in a cookbook. This is when I get whiny in my head…but I want to cook the juiciest turkey.
My dilemma comes from the fact that I MUST stuff our turkey. Our family stuffing recipe is ten times better when it is cooked in the bird. It’s my hypothesis that the stuffing soaks up all the turkey juices which makes the stuffing amazing, but the turkey dry. As I do every year, I will spend the next 5 days researching how to cook a moist, stuffed bird. I’ll read how you should never stuff them because you might poison your guests, advice I’ll promptly ignore because my family’s been cooking this same recipe for at least sixty years and so far, so good.
I’ve cooked it covered and uncovered, at one temperature and multiple temperatures, breast-side up and breast-side down. Ultimately, the only solution I come to is to brine the turkey, at which point I turn to Pioneer Woman, of course. I’ve used the same brine recipe the past four years and my turkey turns out good. Not amazing juicy, but solidly good. The stuffing, on the other hand, is amazing. Part of why I love it is how pretty it looks with all the orange peels and rosemary and peppercorns. The step I always forget in my planning is that after you bring the brine to a boil, you have to completely cool it before you put the turkey in it — 12 hours I usually don’t have.
Here’s where Throwback Thursday comes in. I am a big fan of using the outdoors as one giant fridge. Last year, we got a 16″ of snow the week of Thanksgiving, so the yard was our cooler. In last year’s effort to cool the brine quickly, I thought it’d be a good idea to stick a boiling stock pot of water in the snow to cool.
Because I was putting the brine in a snow bank, I figured I’d need to push down on the pot, not considering the fact that the pot was boiling hot. As I pushed the big pot full of 4 gallons of boiling liquid into the snowbank, all the snow immediately melted and the pot tipped over, pouring boiling brine all over my hand. My friend Jesse was there and as she watched me squeal and plunge my boiling hand into the snowbank to stop the burn, she she righted the tipped pot of brine and saved enough to brine the turkey #shesavedthanksgiving!. After removing my hand from the snow bank, we discovered I’d scalded the side of my hand pretty handedly. We piled in the car and drove to the drug store to stock up on lidocaine-laden burn cream and gauze.
We left the brine in the snowbank – despite it’s dangers, it was fabulous at cooling it down. Ultimately, we had another fabulous 2nd Thanksgiving with good turkey and great stuffing. Moral of the story? Snow melts when pots are hot, so stick your stock pot in the snow bank with caution.
Do you have any tips for cooking a juicy, stuffed turkey?