As a farmer responsible for the centerpiece of most carnivorous Thanksgivings, Growing Things Farm's Michaele Blakely feels compelled to clear up some misconceptions about turkeys. The big birds aren't dumb, she says.
""They're really quite wily, curious creatures," she says. "They're very sociable."
So would Blakely ask a turkey to help her with her taxes? Probably not.
"They are birds," she says. "They're not as intelligent as pigs."
Still, she's not sure why so many eaters seem intent on denigrating turkey brainpower. "I don't know where it got started, but I always hear it," says Blakely, who also grows certified organic vegetables and raises cows, pigs and chickens. She swears none of her gobblers have ever drowned by filling their gullets with rainwater during a storm, although she concedes turkeys seem to have a thing for bad weather.
"They really don't particularly care whether it's raining or not," she says. "We had shelters but they never used them."
Growing Things keeps a flock of about 100 turkeys. Without advertising, the farm sold out its turkey supply about a month before Thanksgiving. But Chris Curtis, director of the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance, said local shoppers may still be able to find an organic Washington-grown turkey: As of last week, Palouse Pastured Poultry planned to sell its turkeys in markets around Seattle.
Blakely believes in brining her turkey, and serving it with an apple and onion dressing.
"We've been using this recipe for over 30 years.," she says. "It's our family favorite and I always prepare extra just because there are so many thieves before it actually makes it into the turkey."
1 gallon of water
1 cup kosher salt
2 cups sugar (or not)
1 cup apple cider vinegar (or not)
2 tablespoons sage
2 tablespoons thyme
2 tablespoons rosemary
1 tablespoon pepper
4 cups ice
If your turkey is frozen, you need to plan in advance!! As a rule of thumb, you will need 24 hours for every five pounds of bird, so a 20-lb. bird will need four full days of defrosting time in a refrigerator. It is best to place it in a pan to catch any drippings; place it on the bottom rack of the refrigerator for safety.
If you're short of time, there is a quicker but more labor intensive alternative. Place the bird in a big pot of cold water, or the sink, allowing half an hour soaking time per pound (meaning a 25 lb turkey can thaw in half a day.) The turkey must be in a leak proof package, because turkey meat can absorb moisture and become watery. Change the water frequently, about every half hour.
Your turkey is now ready to brine (you can also just bypass this part.)
Bring 4 cups of water to a simmering boil. Add salt and sugar if used. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Turn off the heat. Stir in 8 cups cold water, apple cider vinegar (if used), sage, thyme, rosemary, pepper, and ice. The brine is ready to be used.
Remove the giblets and neck from the cavity. Rinse the outside and inside of the turkey. Place the turkey into a container large enough to hold the turkey and the brine. Completely submerge the turkey for at least 12 hours (an overnight in the cooler will work for this) and up to 2 days. Rinse the turkey and pat dry before adding additional seasoning, butter, or oil in preparation for roasting.
Do not use a kosher or a self-basting, or pre-seasoned turkey. You will be disappointed. It will be too salty.
If you stuff your turkey, 5 cups of stuffing should fill a ten lb. turkey so adjust accordingly.
Place the bird in a preheated 450 degree oven. Reduce the heat immediately to 350 or 325 for large turkeys. After the first half-hour of cooking, for birds of all sizes, baste frequently with pan drippings or additional fat, about every 10-15 minutes.
Timing involves many factors: the age of the bird and its fat content, its size, and whether it was frozen or pastured. Insert a thermometer into the center of the inner thigh muscle, taking care that the tip is not in contact with the bone. Cook to an internal temperature of 180 to 185 degrees. The center of the stuffing should reach at least 165 degrees.
To help gauge cooking time, allow 20-25 minutes per pound for birds up to 6 pounds. For larger birds, allow 15 to 20 minutes per pound. For birds weighing over 16 pounds, allow 13 to 15 minutes per pound. In any case, add 5 minutes per pound if the bird is stuffed. But use a thermometer to determine whether it's done.
After removing it from the oven, let it rest for about 20 minutes before carving.
1 cup raisins
7 cups soft breadcrumbs
3/4-cup butter (pastured butter to be guilt-free!)
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
3 cups tart apple, diced
¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
1-½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon paprika
Place raisins in boiling water for five minutes. Drain well.
Add raisins to breadcrumbs.
Melt butter. Saute onion, celery and garlic in butter for three minutes. Add to breadcrumbs.
Add apples, parsley, salt and paprika to breadcrumb mixture. Stir.