I’ve done many Thanksgiving turkeys over the years. Here is my shortlist of tips:
Take advantage of the deals on frozen turkeys but stick them in your freezer for future use. For Thanksgiving spend the extra dollars and get a fresh turkey. I speak from experience: not having to worry about thawing alone makes it worth the price. Most of our local grocery chains carry them.
If using a fresh bird, plan on either dry or wet brining. If wet brining see if the butcher counter can provide you a turkey size box. If you line the box with a food grade bag (like a Reynold’s turkey bag) it will give you a nice compact structure for brining that has a chance of fitting into a refrigerator.
If using a frozen turkey don’t bother brining. The solutions they inject it with make brining less effective. Just thaw, season, and cook,
Make sure you have a sturdy pan for the bird. If using foil pans, stack two for added support AND use a sheet pan underneath, otherwise you run the risk of the pans bending and bad things happening. Again I speak from experience, but even after a few years it is still too painful to think about–move along people, nothing to see here.
Don’t over season, don’t over smoke. Your bird should taste like turkey, not like seasoning or a cigar. Use a moderate touch when seasoning and don’t use a lot of smoke wood. When in doubt, use less. We carry a lot of rubs that will work but our top three recommendations are “John Henry’s Tammy’s Herbal Rub”, Dizzy Pig’s “Mad Max Turkey”, and Dizzy Pig’s “IPA”.
Today is Election Day and, as I type this, I cannot think of a better day to use as a day to clean out the pantry/spices. The two have so much in common.
For many people it offers the chance for a change, a fresh start. A chance to evaluate if a given spice, or elected official, has true use for the future or if it was just a misguided, albeit well-intention, choice that never quite met our expectations. Perhaps we thought it was going to be just as good as other items in a brand we like, only to realize it is not really qualified or up for the job.
Like Elections, a good majority don’t bother thinking about their spices. To some it seems like a waste. Why bother? I don’t have the time. No one will know the difference. One is as good as another. The reality is, however, if you take the time much good comes from it. Things should become more palatable. You will gain a different perspective about your food and your world. It will also matter to others.
Not only is it your spice rack. We all know that the pantry and refrigerator are harboring wonderful products, but, alas, some may have reached their expiration dates. Sometime things make it into our refrigerator because they sounded good, or were recommended by a friend, only for us to find that we really never acquired a taste or have a real use. We don’t get rid of them because they haven’t gone “bad”. We convince ourselves that we still may find some need in the future (as long as we don’t take the time to look too closely). Therefore we think it is OK for them to remain. In reality we know better. This is not to say you can’t keep perfectly good items. It just means we should take the time to check, research, and choose.
So what do we do? First and foremost: think and vote. Do this, at minimum, every year; even when you really don’t want to. After that come home and hit the pantry and make those same choices. This should be done also, at minimum, every year.
I cannot give you a lot of guidance on what choices to make on Election Day. It is very personal. All I can say is, take the time and give it the thought it deserves. Also remember it is only you and your vote. Make the choices for informed, thoughtful reasons and not because of someone else’s expectations. Also (like spices) don’t be afraid to challenge your preconceived notions.
However I am not going to hesitant to give advice on the spice drawer. That is much easier:
Dispose of items past their expiration–especially the liquids. Check under all caps. They are often very telling.
Use your senses. If an item doesn’t clearly smell robust and like it should, then toss it. If you see signs of clumping/moisture, get rid of it–the situation will not improve with time.
Toss spices that are a year or older (6 months is what is recommended, especially for herbs, but I am willing to start you out slowly)
Look at the quantity left before tossing. If after a year you have a sizable quantity, then buy that item in a smaller size or not at all. Unless you are going through multiple containers in a year, you should not be buying herbs or spices in bulk. You are actually wasting money and eventually compromising quality.
Don’t restrict yourself to the spice drawer. Check the back pantry and certainly the refrigerator. I am going to guess that there are more than a few salad dressing bottles, pickles, juice, or vinegar that need to move to the great “beyond”. Let them go, it is the humane thing to do.
Make the needed space for the upcoming Holidays (another good reason for doing this on Election Day).