Ovens Need Not Apply

slow pot turkey

 

One of my favorite holidays is quickly approaching. I love spending time planning the large meal, shopping for ingredients, and getting an early start making dishes the night before. In the past few years, I learned a trick to prepare the main event, the turkey. Do you feel overwhelmed with preparing a 20+ pound bird? Do you find the breast meat dry? Is the gravy perhaps a bit bland? Is the oven prime real estate? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s time to bring out your Thanksgiving helper, the slow pot.

Several years ago, we started cooking smaller turkeys (8-10 lbs) in a slow pot. Need more bird for the crowd of guests, purchase two smaller birds and borrow another slow pot. These birds have more flavor and are more tender. Best of all, the oven is free for all the other goodies being prepared!

If you want to take your cooking another step, consider purchasing a Heritage turkey. These birds are descended from the wild turkey. Where your local grocer’s turkey is raised in 4-5 months, a Heritage turkey requires 6-8 months to mature. The added time is worth the wait and price. Domestic turkeys tend to be penned up in a cramped space and only eat grain, but most Heritage turkeys forage for food during the day and are supplemented with grain at night. Free ranging and extra time gives these birds a deeper flavor. It makes the gravy richer and provides an added flavor boost to those after-Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches.

 

baby turkeys

 

Three Heritage Turkey poults hatched on our farm this spring. Pliney the younger, Pliney the older, and Pompeii were easy to raise and were foraging within three weeks (My mom was visiting the weekend they hatched and named them after the people and town associated with Mt. Vesuvius). Unfortunately, our dog ate the Plineys, but Pompeii has grown quickly and will be our Thanksgiving star.

 

Pompeii

 

The preparation is similar to an oven turkey. Be sure to follow all safety guidelines: Use a completely thawed turkey, wash hands and any surfaces that touch the turkey, make sure the internal cooking temp reaches at least 165 degrees, and due to build up of juice in slow pot, stuffing is not recommended. However, cooking the turkey breast side down will immerse the meat in the natural juices, an added treat. Cooking time will vary based on the slow pot settings.

**Note: Slow pot turkeys do not have crispy skin, but there are several slow pot recipes on-line that include directions for an oven finish to create this effect.

**Note: Heritage turkeys can be quite expensive. However, I found many local farmers through Craigslist who offer these birds at reasonable prices.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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My Favorite Things: The Christmas Edition

Christmas quickly approaches! Only two days until school break starts for the kids, thought I better post something before the final, chaotic stretch to the holiday! I started journaling this morning about holiday stress but decided to tuck the negative away and focus on something positive. Instead, I’m sharing some of the season’s favorites!

nativity

Our Celtic nativity: Yes, Bethlehem is a long way from the Emerald Isle, but I LOVE my unique nativity, complete with Celtic knots and resin figurines that resemble stone. I searched for the perfect Irish themed nativity for about ten years and finally found one through an on-line store in England. Ironically, the shipping cost more than the set.

snowman earrings

My cheap, gaudy, snowman earrings: Chad bought them many years ago. Friends call them my “Summer diamonds…Summer real, summer not.” I love to dig them out of the jewelry box and wear them throughout the month of December.

stockings

Homemade stockings: My sister-in-law, Lissa, made my needlepoint stocking and her sister, Linda, made stockings for Chad and the kids. Linda’s are a particular favorite, complete with a Christmas tree to add mementoes over the years.

The Christmas seasonal culinary traditions: So many here…tourtieres, gravlox, sticky buns, overnight eggs, cheesy hash browns, fondue…nothing fancy, just simple, holiday traditions to look forward to every year.

Jesus:Santa

Santa and Jesus: Coming from a family of history majors, I love putting this decoration out and hear the outrage from Mom about the historical inaccuracy. I prefer to view this decoration for symbolic value, a reminder of the true reason for the season.

Of course what makes these favorites is the opportunity to share them with family and friends. Each Christmas season is a gift and chance to be with those we love, help those who are struggling, and remember the simple gift of hope and peace that arrived in a stable so many, many years ago.

God Bless!