We’re deep into autumn now, so I’m going to throw out a little-known fact for all you Americans. Up here in the wilds of Canada we folks celebrate Thanksgiving in October — really! — and it’s not because we don’t know how to read a calendar.
Until the late 1800s, Canadian Thanksgiving was a semi-regular occurrence, mostly used to give thanks for a specific event, at any time of year. In 1879 Thanksgiving became an annual event, set for a random Thursday in November. That date changed several times until 1957, a year close to my heart, when it was officially declared that Thanksgiving Day would always be the second Monday in October.
- Thanksgiving has a harvest theme, even if you’re an urban dweller. What more appropriate time to be thankful than just when the harvest is finishing?
- Most places are beautiful at this time of year and that makes it even easier to feel thankful, not only for the harvest but for the rest of nature’s bounty, and just about everything else.
- It’s a lovely time of year to go outside and walk off a big Thanksgiving meal, and 34,000,000 Canadians, give or take a few, will be doing just that. Eating big delicious meals I mean, not necessarily walking.
- It’s not all that close to Christmas. Hello! In the country below Canada, a potential 314,000,000 Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving a mere month before pulling themselves up to another table laden with food, probably identical to the Thanksgiving meal they’ve barely had time to digest.
I’m kidding about #4, of course, but only a little.
The very best thing about Thanksgiving in October is that cooks have time to clean their kitchens of the first Turkey Explosion before embarking on another large fowl venture.
Nothing makes me more weary than the thought of getting the bird out of the oven, pulling out the stuffing, cutting the darn thing up (also known as ‘carving’ — that beautiful and immaculate thing they do in movies), making gravy, etc. etc. etc., all while directing the mashing of potatoes, and final preps of other traditional goodies. While too many cooks may not actually spoil the turkey broth, well-meaning help in close quarters is enough to take the “Thanks” out of the day. Later on, cleaning up the mess that was once a large bird, roasted to golden perfection, is enough to make grown cooks weep.
That’s where I come in. A number of years ago my sister shared a recipe for turkey that can be made a few days ahead of the actual event. (Don’t roll your eyes at me. It’s delicious!) The only comments I’ve had run along the lines of, “I’ve never tasted turkey this moist before!” and “What do you mean, you made this two days ago?”. Other cooks who have tried the recipe say they’ve never had such a relaxed holiday.
Since I make turkey for over twenty-five people every Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’d have to say this recipe has restored my sanity, although some people will be quick to point out that “sanity” is a relative term in my case. I can’t disagree.
All that said, take a look at the recipe below and give it a try if you dare. If you allow yourself to break with the “right way” of making a turkey, I hope it works out as well for you as it has for me. And if you love it, you don’t even have to say thanks.
STRESS-FREE HOLIDAY TURKEY
(This is for an approx. 25 lb. turkey. Adjust the amount as needed)
4. c. chicken broth (like Campbells broth in the big tetra-paks)
1/2 c. butter, melted
1/8 c. salt and pepper (mixed)
4 c. water
1 clove garlic, minced (no, you can’t taste the garlic in the finished product!)
1 Tbsp. paprika
- Put turkey into a Reynolds cooking bag
- Combine all ingredients and pour over turkey, then close bag and follow bag instructions, as far as placing vent holes etc.
- Bake @ 325 degrees for 4 1/2 hrs. or until your size of turkey is done
- Remove from oven and let sit for 30 minutes
- Remove turkey from bag and keep broth (I poke holes in the sides and bottom of the bag and let the juices run into the roasting pan. Then you can just lift the turkey in the bag out to the cutting board. It’s drippy but at least most of the juice is in the pan.)
- Pour juices through a sieve into a bowl or large pitcher.
- Slice turkey and layer in roasting pan.
- Retain 2 cups of juice (see below) and pour the rest over the turkey in the pan.
- Cover and put in fridge until turkey day.
- TO RE-HEAT
- Put turkey into 350 degree oven for about 1 1/2 hrs., until heated through.
Put meat on platter (cover and return to oven to keep warm and pour juices into a saucepan.
- TO THICKEN JUICES
- To the 2 cups of cold broth set aside (warmed to room temperature), add 3/4 c. flour (or more), blending with a wire whisk until it is thick and smooth, like whipping cream.
- Bring broth poured off the turkey to a rolling boil in saucepan and add flour/broth in a thin stream, stirring constantly with a whisk to blend.
- When gravy reaches desired consistency, stop adding flour/broth and reduce heat to med/low.
- Continue to stir and allow gravy to simmer for 5 – 10 minutes
* * *I know you’ll be wondering how you can do the turkey this way and still have stuffing. Just grab a casserole dish and bake your favourite recipe in the oven while the turkey warms. It will make your house smell wonderful.If you’re interested, I’ve provided a basic recipe below.
DRESSING / STUFFING
(This can also be made a day or two before and refrigerated. You can easily multiply it, if needed.)
1⁄4 c. butter, melted
1 onion, chopped fine
2 stalks celery, chopped fine
2 1⁄2 c. milk
1 tsp. Salt
1⁄4 tsp. Pepper
1⁄2 tsp sage
3/4 tsp poultry seasoning
1 loaf bread, broken in small pieces or cut into cubes
- Melt butter in large pot and sauté onion and celery until soft
- Remove from heat and add milk.
- Whisk eggs into milk mixture
- Whisk in seasonings
- Add bread pieces and stir until the liquid is absorbed into the bread. It should be kind of sticky.
Now you have two choices:
- Put stuffing into a very well-buttered and appropriately-sized baking pan and cover with foil, OR
- Form stuffing into balls the size of large golf balls and place side by side in a very well- buttered baking pan and cover with foil.
• Bake at 325, covered, for about an 60 – 75 minutes. Check to make sure middle of casserole is steaming hot and cooked through.
• Baked at 350, covered, for 30 minutes. Put balls into a bowl and serve.