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by John Charlton

(Eve of Thanksgiving, 2009) — There is nothing fonder tha memories of family get-togethers long past; and a wonderful way to revive these memories are the recipes our Mothers cooked for us as children.  Being that it is the eve of Thanksgiving, I share with all the readers of The Post & Email some of my mother’s own recipes. If you would like to share some recipies, post them in the comments below.

Thanksgiving Turkey

For the every hungry, you can download this image as a wallpaper for your computer, by clicking the image
For the ever hungry, you can download this image as a wallpaper for your computer, by clicking the image

Of course Thanksgiving has to have a turkey — it just does not seem to be Thanksgiving without one.  And to enjoy a Turkey cooked right, you need to purchase one which is at least 12-13 lbs.  If that is too much for your family, then invite over some relatives or friends, for the more the merrier.

The safe way to de-thaw a frozen turkey is to put it in your refrigerator several days before.  Otherwise take it out the afternoon before Thanksgiving Day, and put a plate or pan under it to catch the condensing water. Leave it in the wrapper, until the morning of Thanksgiving, and put it in the refrigerator the night before, just so that it stays fresh.

As for fresh turkeys, if you buy one slaughtered-to-order, make sure you get a hen, and count on cooking it longer.

If your fresh turkey is from the market, you do not need to do that. I recommend a Butterball, the brand my mother always bought; and don’t buy a turkey on sale, since often you get a very inferior bird.  For a holiday splurge a little.


You must make the stuffing’s ingredients before the bird needs to go in the oven.  Most large birds will take 3-5 hours, so prepare accordingly.  Making the stuffing takes less than 1 hour.  Plan to stuff the bird, because stuffing that cooks inside the turkey is always the tastiest.


Turkey’s innards (liver, gizzard, & heart)

1 bag of Bread Croutons (2 if your bird is very large, in which case double this recipe)

1/2 cup of minced celery leaves or minced stalks.

1/2 cup of minced onions

1 1/2 sticks of real butter

2-4 cups Chicken or Turkey Stock

Thyme & Sage (powdered or fresh) — 1/2 table-spoon powdered or minced

salt & pepper to taste

3-4 large metal or wooden skewers

12-18 inches of cotton cord (butcher’s string)

1 sheet of aluminum foil

1 roasting pan with rack

Preparation of Stuffing ingredients

Mince the innards coarsely, and fry them in a 1/3 stick of butter in a frying pan on a gentle flame or medium setting.  When cooked (after 5 minutes) remove from pan and place in a bowl.  In the same pan with another 1/3 of a stick of butter saute the minced celery leaves and onions.  Try to use some of the leaves, since they are the tastiest part of the celery.  Saute both for about 3 minutes, as you don’t want to actually cook them.

In a sauce pan bring your stock to a boil.  If you want to make you own stock, use the turkey’s neck and a piece of fat from inside the central cavity of the bird, and bring these to boil for about 30 minutes in a stock pot with about 2 quarts of water.  As much will evaporate off, you should have the 4 cups necessary for the recipe.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place your dried bread croutons in a large bowl and stir in the fried innards and vegetables.  Add the herbs, salt and pepper.

Stuffing the Turkey & Cooking it

This should be done immediately prior to putting the Turkey into the oven.  Never let the stuffing sit in the bird outside of the oven uncooked.

First wash your bird entirely on the outside and inside and pat it dry with paper towels.  Light sprinkle some salt, if you want, on the outside of the bird (no more than 1 teaspoon on each side).

Take you bowl of dried stuffing and pour in your hot broth in which you should have melted your remaining butter minutes before this. The stuffing should be more moist than dry, as it will dry out during the cooking.  You have to judge how much broth to pour into the stuffing.  Use what is not needed to bastes the turkey every half-hour, after the initial browning of the bird (see below).

Stir well, but gently.

Get several metal or wooden skewers and a piece of aluminum foil big enough to enclose the opening of the bird, and a large serving spoon.

With the bird placed in its rack right-side up, use the spoon to fill it with the hot stuffing mixture; and pack very tightly. If the skin of the bird is not sufficient to close the cavity by itself, insert a piece of aluminum foil inside, and tuck it under the skin.

Use the skewers thus:  pierce one side of the turkey’s skin near the top of the opening; entering the cavity with the skewer, then move the skewer to the opposite side and exit the cavity by piercing the skin on that side.  Do with with another skewer, further down.  And a third near the bottom if your bird is larger.  With the final skewer pierce the tail of the bird and drive the skewer to pierce the skin from the inside of the to of the opening.

Then with the butcher’s string or cotton cord, tie one end to one skewer on the outside of the skin, and pull the other end over to the opposite end of the same skewer, rapping it half-way around it; as you pull it should pull the two side of the skin together — be gentle and don’t attempt to fully close the cavity if it does not seem likely to succeed without ripping the bird.  Then wrap the string fulling round the skewer a coup of times and thread it to the next skewer until you seal the entire cavity as tightly as possible.

When done put your bird in a very hot oven (425°-450°) for at least 30 minutes (larger birds, 45 minutes).  This is to brown your bird, which is necessary to seal in the juices. Then lower the temperature.  350° is a good temperature to cook a large bird like this thoroughly.  Some cook their birds at 325°, but add at least 2 hours to the cooking time if you do that. As for exact time in the oven, follow the instructions that come with the turkey.

During the cooking  baste the bird every 30 minutes, with the remaining stock. If the bird is not too big, turn it over half-way through the cooking time.

Carving the Turkey

The trick to carving the turkey is to take it out of the oven and let it cool at least 15-20 minutes.  Then place it gently on a large serving platter, removing the skewers, foil, and excavating all the stuffing, which should be put in a warm bowl, and dressed with gravy, if available.

Use a very sharp and large knife and cut across the brest, cutting upwards from plate.  A well-cooked bird should gently come apart.  If it is tought to cut, then you should probably have left it another 1-2 hours in the oven.


There is no better fixing with Thanksgiving Turkey than homemade cranberry sauce.  This is my mother’s secret recipe, which is so good, I nominate it for a national treasure:


1 bag of fresh cranberries, washed and culled (remove any bad berry which does not bounce)

1 cup white sugar

1/3 of a rind of fresh orange, cut in Julien strips

1/8 teaspoon powdered cloves

1/8 teaspoon powdered nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon powdered cinnamon

Take the washed cranberries and handful by hand full place them in a large measuring cup, squashing them partially with a wooden spoon or meat pounder.

Place cranberries in a sauce pan, add all the sugar and orange rind, and 2-3 teaspoons of water.  Heat on a medium flame and as the temperature rises the juice will mix with the sugar; at that point add the spices and bring to a full boil. As soon as it boils, pour the contents into a deep bowl (preferable glass) and let cool uncovered.  Then cover with Saran wrap and place in the refrigerator.  It is best to make this a day or two beforehand, as the flavor improves with age.  Serve chilled.  This is a tart but utterly delicious cranberry sauce.

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  1. very nice john!!! :)

    & here’s an alternate way of cooking your bird (after following the stuffing & purchasing a better quality bird as john mentioned)

    i’ve been cooking my bird this way for years & it’s so easy:

    i always buy a large bird (min. 20 lbs) so there is plenty of leftovers & plenty for freezing.

    this yrs bird is 26 lbs so it will take a while to cook….

    • stuff the bird as described by john
    • do not pierce the bird except where you place the thermometer
    • cover the entire bird w/real olive oil …use your hands & spread as though you were massaging it all over
    • place in pre-heated oven of 425 for 1 hr. {this will seal the outside of the bird & kill bacteria}
    • lower your oven to the lowest possible setting
    • older non-computerized ovens can be set to *warm* this will be anywhere from 110-140 degrees depending on your oven.
    • the newer models may only go down to 140 degrees

    • now cook your bird for 1 hr for every lb of wt.
    • in the example of a 26 lb bird …it cooks for 27 hrs
    1 hr @ 425 & 26 hrs on the lowest setting.

    DO NOT OPEN YOUR OVEN! the heat must remain intact as is.

    if you doubt the process…check the thermometer w/the light from the inside of the oven only.

    the bird that comes out is the juiciest bird you will ever taste–even the white meat!!

    no need for a knife to do any carving–because after you remove the skin & stuffing –the meat “literally” falls off the bone w/the use of a tablespoon only!

    it’s the easiest carve & cleanup too!!

    we have the convenience of living in a tropical area & have a smoker…so the last hr of cooking we “smoke” the bird to permeate the bird & juices {{careful because there is a LOT of juice cooking this way!}}

    the juice is later skimmed of any remaining fats & hubby makes the gravy.

    it may not *sound* like the bird could FULLY cook this way –yet it does every yr for me & gets rave reviews.

    after the meat cools we immediately use the “seal a meal” (to pack any extra-extra leftovers that are above & beyond a couple meals) by eliminating ALL the air from packaging for the freezer… when it’s thawed in the future …it’s not dry & like the day it was cooked :)

    if your nervous about trying this…you can experiment during the yr w/a roast…buy the cheapest cut…follow the above directions…note the temp on your thermometer if you want it rare or med etc….the rule of thumb w/a roast is 45 min. per lb…& once again tender…AND juicy!!! (cook longer if you want it well done)

    the first time i ever did a roast for hubby after we met he almost died when he heard it was in the oven still …after 8 hrs…& he likes his meat med. rare.
    he thought he was coming home to “shoe-leather” ;)

    he was a convert after the first time :)

    happy thanksgiving to all

    …& keep up the great work john!

  2. We must have had the same mother! The recipes she left me are exactly the same and are wonderful.
    Thanks for stirring up my childhood memories…have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

    I read your blog daily, thanks for your words of wisdom.

    My moms corn pudding:

    2 cups white shoepeg corn
    3 tbsp sugar
    11/2 tbsp flour
    4 tbsp butter
    2 eggs beaten
    1 cup heavy cream
    1 tsp salt

    warm cream,add butter and mix in the remaining ingredients. Bake @ 400 for 35 minutes uncovered or until set and the top is slightly brown. Enjoy!