Mom's Overcooked Turkey and Other Rememberances Of Thanksgivings Past

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DawnT
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2010/11/25 10:57:03 (permalink)

Mom's Overcooked Turkey and Other Rememberances Of Thanksgivings Past

This is something I wonder about every year. You mention cooking a turkey in a conversation and someone usually brings up their mother or family member that was responsible for Thanksgiving dinner and how dry and overcooked it was. The word shoeleather comes to mind. My experience is no different as a kid. Most stories follow what I remember. They started preparing the turkey early in the morning along with the rest of the meal in a long, drawn out production with the old enameled roaster that seen use once or twice a year. By suppertime, there was this golden browned turkey on the table that was absolutely inedible with skin that was crunchy and pieces cracked when seperated. Like anyone relating a similar story like this, they dreaded Thanksgiving turkey and the "poor, unappreciated me" hissy fit their mom threw afterwards in many stories
 
I pretty much took over Thanksgiving dinner when I was about 16-17. Unlike my mother and grandmother, I started using the plastic baking bags and a disposable foil pan and followed the directions in the box. The difference was dramatic simply by following the instructions. As years passed, I've moved to an open roasting on a rack with a brined bird that produces a subperb turkey with a lot of flavor. Even years earlier with the baking bags, this wasn't the big deal and production and resulting huge mess that used to be put on. I'd get harranged why I was waiting so long to put the turkey on and start the meal around noon. My mom would make catty,sniping comments that the turkey was like boiled and similar to rubber from the beginning using the baking bags, totally lost on my dad that for once really enjoyed the turkey and my fixings. OK, I stole her thunder.....and enjoyed every minute of it.
 
This makes me wonder about something. I have a collection of old cookbooks and even a butterball brochure on cooking turkey from the late 50's or early 60's. While those materials suggested cooking by size and time rather then temperature, the times may have been a little bit longer then what I'm accustomed to, but it's nothing like the 8- 10 hour roasting times my mom or grandmother would cremate their bird of a similar size. Years ago, there seemed to be an emphasis on golden,crisp turkey skin as the hallmark of a properly cooked turkey. Baking bags and brining don't do that without some added steps and to some, doesn't make for the traditional appearance. Even with drying the turkey after brining and letting it sit exposed in the fridge for a while to get crisper skin doesn't make for that Norman Rockwell ideal. I wonder at times if the women of yesteryear were more preoccupied with that picture perfect image and the thankless martyr that "spent the entire day from early morning" slaving in the kitchen to prepare the perfect Thanksgiving meal that nobody appreciated. 
 
I'm sure plenty of families had great turkey that were prepared wonderfully. That story doesn't emerge much from years past. The nightmare scenario seems to be the oft repeated one. Why was that?
 
My turkey is still in the fridge getting drunk. My bread has already been pre-toasted in the oven and packed in bags for the stuffing. The corn pudding and green bean casserole take only about 1 1/2 hours start to finish or less while the turkey in sunbathing on the rack. The yams and pie aren't going very long. I'm not even going to bother for a few more hours. The table was partially set last night. No big deal and nothing that couldn't have been done 35+ years ago in the same amount of time.
 
I'm looking forward to a great turkey and meal with not much more effort then any other daily meal. I'm not worrying about logistics or guests. The girls can't make it down this year, so it's just going to be the three of us.
 
Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
post edited by DawnT - 2010/11/25 11:03:10
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    lornaschinske
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    Re:Mom's Overcooked Turkey and Other Rememberances Of Thanksgivings Past 2010/11/25 11:36:24 (permalink)
    I'm not doing turkey this year. My electric roaster sits in the storage shed until next year. Electric roasters are a godsend for folks wth RV ovens. I also brine my turkey. Makes a huge difference. Turkeys are bred to be larger with more white meat and less dark meat. I think that may account for the drier roast turkey.
     
    This year our T-day supper (Stacey has to work from 11A to 3P.. It's Family Dollar for heavens sake!) will consist of brie & cranberry stuffed chicken breasts (frozen in the freezer from Sam's club), my country style green beans, my homemade sugar free cranberry relish, Mashed taters (those Idahoan instant ones in the carton from Sam's is really good), chicken gravy from broth, and two huge pies from Sam's Club (pumpkin and "harvest orchard lattice pie"  which is an apple pie with cranberries and pecans i it... very good). It's just the three of us since we don't get along with my other daughter's boyfriend and she is having friends over (we are a bit of an embarrassment since we live full time in an RV and her boyfriend's shrink says he needs to stay away from us since we "upset" him... poor pookie... I think he needs a nice cup of tea to help him calm down ). All that work on T-day and C-Mas is totally stupid to me. Why work yourself to a frazzle (like my mom did every year) and not enjoy the day.
     
    My kids favourite C-mas dinner was one we did in Chattanooga (they were about 10 or so). We were living full-time in campgrounds (in a hard sided pop-up) and had no oven. So we ate out for C-mas at one of the few restaurants that was open. It was an English pub type place (now closed I believe). They served a small "personal" sized loaf of fresh baked pumpernickel bread (the girls love fresh bread). the girls had a personal sized pizza with their choice of toppings and a salad (they were thrilled... they could order anything they wanted off the menu). David & I had filet Mignon and a lobster tail. Was great for me since I don't care for turkey. No prep, no clean up (except all that wrapping paper). It was a great C-mas.
    #2
    ann peeples
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    Re:Mom's Overcooked Turkey and Other Rememberances Of Thanksgivings Past 2010/11/25 12:29:21 (permalink)
    I had a moment today, however brief, when I thought of my Mom( and Dad) with great sentiment-tears brimming in my eyes. I think the smell of the turkey triggered the memories of Thanksgivings past( they are both deceased) and what wonderful food Mom prepared, a beautifully set table, and wonderful ambience in their home. Bob and I spent every Thanksgiving with them( Bobs family was ok with that-we would stop at their homes after) until their deaths. Then I took over at my home. We are always extended many invitations, but I like to be home, and try and duplicate Mom's wonderful meal, which we always enjoyed. I just hope that my Mom would be proud...Happy Thanksgiving to all.
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    MellowRoast
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    Re:Mom's Overcooked Turkey and Other Rememberances Of Thanksgivings Past 2010/11/26 07:48:20 (permalink)
    Wow, it looks like someone deleted my post about the deviled eggs.  Must be the Roadfood Poltergeist.
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    Cosmos
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    Re:Mom's Overcooked Turkey and Other Rememberances Of Thanksgivings Past 2010/11/28 17:40:58 (permalink)
    We always traveled to my aunt's for thanksgivings, so she is the guilty party in both stories....both times we suspiciously did not smell turkey cooking. The first time we all enjoyed the warm-up to the dinner, the old folks with cocktails and appetizers, the kids hiking around, watching the Lions lose again...when it occurred to my dad he couldn't smell the turkey, upon which my aunt informed us she was heating up some leftover creamed chicken she had made for her social club...it seemed a shame to let such a large amount go to waste. MY dad never let her live that one down.
     
    The second time we didn't smell the turkey, she simply forgot to put it in the oven...
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    RubyRose
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    Re:Mom's Overcooked Turkey and Other Rememberances Of Thanksgivings Past 2010/11/28 21:50:16 (permalink)
    When I was a little girl, we'd always go to my paternal grandparents' house. My father had seven brothers and sisters, most of whom would be there, along with their spouses, more than a dozen grandchildren, and always a couple of relatives and friends who'd be alone for the hoiday.
     
    So of course the turkeys would be huge. At the crack of dawn, my Uncle Don would take the stuffed turkeys to a bakery in the town where my grandparents lived.  The baker would weigh them and tag the leg with our family's name.  Then they'd join dozens of others roasting in the commercial ovens.
     
    My dad's job was to pick up the birds from the bakery and I always went along. You could smell the bakery a block before arrival. They weren't open for selling baked goods so we'd park in the alley and enter through the back door. I remember the smell when we entered - pure turkey essence!  It was like a fog of turkeyness enveloped us.
     
    My dad would carry the birds out to the car and then bring in a bottle of whiskey for the baker. I never figured out if that was the full payment or if cash was also involved. Then we'd ride a few blocks to my Nana's house and arrive with my dad beeping the car horn to alert everyone that dinner was imminent.
     
    The one Thanksgiving memory that has stuck in my head all those years is that incredibly intense turkey aroma. I don't remember much at all about the meals themselves.
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    ces1948
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    Re:Mom's Overcooked Turkey and Other Rememberances Of Thanksgivings Past 2010/11/28 22:25:12 (permalink)
    That's a wonderful story. I had no idea something like that was done. I wonder how prevalent that was.
    RubyRose

    When I was a little girl, we'd always go to my paternal grandparents' house. My father had seven brothers and sisters, most of whom would be there, along with their spouses, more than a dozen grandchildren, and always a couple of relatives and friends who'd be alone for the hoiday.

    So of course the turkeys would be huge. At the crack of dawn, my Uncle Don would take the stuffed turkeys to a bakery in the town where my grandparents lived.  The baker would weigh them and tag the leg with our family's name.  Then they'd join dozens of others roasting in the commercial ovens.

    My dad's job was to pick up the birds from the bakery and I always went along. You could smell the bakery a block before arrival. They weren't open for selling baked goods so we'd park in the alley and enter through the back door. I remember the smell when we entered - pure turkey essence!  It was like a fog of turkeyness enveloped us.

    My dad would carry the birds out to the car and then bring in a bottle of whiskey for the baker. I never figured out if that was the full payment or if cash was also involved. Then we'd ride a few blocks to my Nana's house and arrive with my dad beeping the car horn to alert everyone that dinner was imminent.

    The one Thanksgiving memory that has stuck in my head all those years is that incredibly intense turkey aroma. I don't remember much at all about the meals themselves.


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    Twinwillow
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    Re:Mom's Overcooked Turkey and Other Rememberances Of Thanksgivings Past 2010/11/28 22:38:07 (permalink)
    My friends decided to do the turkey on their BGE this year. God bless them, it really came out pretty damn good. IF you like smoked turkey. I guess I'm just an old fashioned guy who likes his turkey roasted in the oven and served with good old corn bread stuffing. Mind you, it was a beautifully cooked turkey that looked like it belonged on the cover of a "gourmet" food magazine. It's a good thing I only eat dark meat because as nice as it looked, the breast was, dry!
    They invited me back for leftovers the next night. I couldn't eat any more smoked turkey. I feigned "tiredness". I sure hope the turkey go's back in the oven next year where it belongs.
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    agnesrob
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    Re:Mom's Overcooked Turkey and Other Rememberances Of Thanksgivings Past 2010/11/29 08:25:58 (permalink)
    Twinwillow, last year I cooked our turkey on my Weber charcoal grill, also with smoke. Everyone raved about it. This year when I mentioned doing the same thing my family decided they really wanted the turkey roasted in the oven. I put garlic herb butter under the skin and it came out great. It was an 18lb(I used a smaller one for the grill) bird so I was able to make about a gallon & a half of stock. Here is a picture of the one I did last year. It was a thing of beauty but I think I will stick to my oven for the big day and do a smaller one on the grill maybe next Spring or summer.

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