When the holidays arrive, you usually find families and friends gathering around the dining room table. That is precious time that we get to spend catching up on each other’s lives and eat until we are stuffed — like a turkey!
Each holiday usually comes with some sort of tradition and favorite foods of the season. For most, it would not be Thanksgiving without a turkey, but where did this custom begin?
Traditionally, the main dish was a roast goose, and since they would migrate, they were only available around certain holidays/times of the year like Thanksgiving/harvest time, Christmas/Hanukkah/winter solstice, and were an important part of many ancient celebrations and rituals.
Just like turkey or chicken, a goose is a white meat. However, its breast meat is darker than a chicken or turkey breast, with a stronger flavor. That’s because geese fly and develop more breast muscles, while turkeys and chickens are raised for food, and don’t exercise their wings as much.
Although chicken/turkey/goose are all considered “white meat” and similar in nature, goose consumption (one-third pound per person per year) has declined and turkey has risen (17.5 pounds per person per year).
So, now that we’ve talked a little turkey, let’s focus on some food safety tips.
To have a happy and safe holiday meal this year, be sure to follow these food safety tips.
- Thawing: Thaw your chicken/turkey/goose in the refrigerator for two to three days, depending on the size and weight of the bird. Or, you can use a sink of cold water for the thawing, but be sure to change every 30 minutes. (If you run out of time, you can thaw in the microwave, but you must immediately start cooking to keep bacteria from multiplying.) A turkey can be kept frozen up to a year for best quality, but thawing a turkey correctly is very important for food safety concerns. Do not leave turkey at room temperature for more than two hours because bacteria grow rapidly in the “danger zone” (40°F and 140°F).
- Cross-contamination: Bacteria on raw poultry can contaminate anything that it touches. Be sure to thoroughly wash your hands, utensils, and work surfaces to prevent the spread of bacteria to your food and family.
- Leftovers: Nontyphodial Salmonella is the second most common bacterial cause of foodborne illness in the United States. (Nontyphodial Salmonella is associated with undercooked poultry and cross-contamination). Clostridium perfringens is the third most common cause of illness, due to failure to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. This cause of illness increases during the holiday season, when meat and poultry account for 92 percent of foodborne illness outbreaks. So, it is important to refrigerate leftovers in the refrigerator at 40°F or below within two hours of preparation and serving — to prevent food poisoning.
- Stuffing: It is best not to stuff your turkey, but rather in a casserole dish to make sure it is thoroughly cooked. If you do choose to stuff the turkey, do so just before cooking and use a quick-temp food thermometer to make sure the stuffing’s center reaches 165°F.
- Cooking: Preheat the oven to at least 325°F (I prefer 350°F). Place the completely thawed turkey with the breast side up in a roasting pan (2 inches to 2-1/2 inches deep). Cooking times will vary depending on how many pounds the turkey weighs. To make sure the turkey is done, check by using a rapid-rise food thermometer inserted into the thickest portions of the breast, thigh, and wing joint until it reaches 165°F. Let the turkey stand 20 minutes before removing all stuffing from the cavity and carving the meat.
Fall Stuffing Recipe
3 cups whole wheat bread, cubed
3 cups white bread, cubed
1 pound ground turkey sausage
1 cup onion, chopped
¾ cup celery, chopped
2 ½ teaspoons dried sage
1 ½ teaspoons dried rosemary
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 apple (golden delicious or Granny Smith), cored and chopped
¾ cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup parsley, chopped
1 cup low-sodium turkey stock or low sodium chicken bouillon
4 tablespoons butter/margarine, melted
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Spread bread cubes in a single layer on a large sheet pan. Bake 5-7 minutes until lightly toasted. Add to large mixing bowl.
In a large skillet, cook sausage and onions over medium heat while stirring/breaking up the lumps until evenly browned. Add the celery, sage, rosemary and thyme. Cook while stirring for 2 minutes to blend flavors.
Pour sausage mixture over bread cubes in bowl. Add chopped apple, dried cranberries, parsley and mix well. Pour turkey stock and melted butter and mix lightly. Fill a buttered casserole dish (or allow to cool and stuff turkey loosely just before cooking).
Another recipe option for a smaller gathering (cooking a turkey breast in a slow-cooker)
Fresh-Herbed Turkey Breast
2 Tablespoons butter/margarine, softened
¼ cup fresh sage, minced
¼ cup fresh tarragon, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1 split turkey breast (3 to 4 pounds)
1 ½ Tablespoons cornstarch
Thaw turkey breast (1-2 days in refrigerator), if frozen.
Remove skin and discard. Combine butter, sage, tarragon, garlic, pepper and salt. Rub butter mixture all over breast.
Place turkey breast in electric slow-cooker. Cover. Cook on low 8-10 hours, on high 4-5 hours, or until turkey reaches 165°F on a quick-temp food thermometer and no longer pink in the center.
Transfer turkey breast to serving platter; cover with foil to keep warm.
Turn slow-cooker to high; slowly whisk in cornstarch to thicken cooking liquid. When the sauce is smooth and thick, pour over turkey breast. Slice and serve.
Makes 6-8 servings
Published November 16, 2016