With six months of work in Stokes County behind me, meeting new faces, connecting with 4-H youth, speaking with senior citizens, talking with cattlemen, goat, and lamb breeders, and conversing with local government employees, I am starting to feel somewhat settled into life here.
As a Family and Consumer Science Agent, it has been my traditional role to assist with questions about purchasing, thawing, and cooking a big turkey. I will not be cooking a turkey in a big oven here until my home in Catawba County sells. But I know many of you may be cooking a turkey for the first time.
This one meal is very overwhelming to young adults who watched their mothers and grandmothers do the work. For new citizens to our area who have never tasted such a large poultry specimen, getting the meat cooked while keeping it moist but not dry is a very daunting task. And please take pity on the newly-married bride who wants to impress her in-laws for the first time; everyone in that situation needs to be gracious and supportive. So let’s place everyone’s fears up on a shelf and get down to the planning part of the big Turkey day.
N.C. Cooperative Extension is one of several Extension Programs across the country. I want to give you the best information possible to help you in your preparation, so my friend from Burke County has narrowed the “thawing of a bird” decisions for you. Here is what Eleanor Summers wrote:
“As Thanksgiving approaches, you may already be planning your menu. Shopping early will ease the countdown tension. If you choose to buy a frozen bird, you may do so at any time, but make sure you have adequate space in your freezer to store the turkey. A fresh turkey should be purchased only 1-2 days before cooking.
“Allow 1 pound per person if cooking a whole turkey and 3⁄4 pound per person for a turkey breast.
“It’s best to thaw the turkey in the refrigerator, allowing about 24 hours per 4 to 5 pounds of turkey. A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1-2 days, so plan ahead. If you forget to thaw the turkey or don’t have room for thawing, don’t panic. You can submerge the wrapped turkey in cold water and change the water every 30 minutes. It takes about 30 minutes defrosting time per pound of turkey. Cook a turkey thawed in water immediately after thawing.
“A whole turkey is safe cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F. Using a meat thermometer, check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.
“When the turkey is removed from the oven, let it stand 20 minutes before carving.”
Thanks to Eleanor!
Other Extension personnel offer great information. One of my favorites is Cook It Quick, which is a regular newsletter feature of Allice Henneman, MS Registered Dietitian with the University of Nebraska Lancaster County. Alice is always placing quality videos, new recipes, and information on her website and in her newsletters. Alice reminds us, “Turkey meat will be safely cooked when the internal temperature reaches 165°F; however, the meat may still be slightly pink. Some people prefer cooking turkey to a higher temperature (whole turkey to 180°F in the innermost part of the thigh; turkey breasts to 170°F in the thickest part) for meat that is more well-done. For additional reasons why turkey meat can be pink, visit www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Is_Pink_Turkey_Meat_Safe.”
By going to Alice’s website listed here, you can find lots of quality information about Thanksgiving Day.
http://food.unl.edu/web/safety/thanksgiving-food-prep#2. The following sections can be found at the website: 1. Planning ahead for Thanksgiving Day. 2. Where to call for help on Thanksgiving Day. 3. How to prepare a turkey. 4. Food safety questions. 5. Carving a turkey. 6. How to make turkey gravy. 7. Stuffing. 8. Pumpkin pie & other desserts (includes egg safety). 9. Tips for traveling safely with Thanksgiving foods. 10. Recipes for leftover turkey. 11. Preparing meats other than turkey. 12. Kids’ Corner (Thanksgiving coloring sheets, games, jokes).
Toll-free USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline
The hotline will be staffed with food safety specialists on Thanksgiving Day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern Time to answer your turkey questions. For food safety questions year round, you may speak with a food safety specialist — in English or Spanish — from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern time on weekdays. Call the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline, 1-888-674-6854, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Facts and Figures
For the children who like to have facts for reports and stories about Thanksgiving food, these facts from the census bureau posted in infoplease.com will give them the latest information in an easy format. Look and see how successful North Carolina farmers are in providing you with the food you need to enjoy a plentiful bounty with your family. If you know a local producer of these products, be sure to thank him or her this year as well.
The number of turkeys expected to be raised in the United States in 2011 (up 2 percent from the number raised during 2010). The turkeys produced in 2010 together weighed 7.11 billion pounds and were valued at $4.37 billion.
The preliminary estimate of turkeys Minnesota expected to raise in 2011. The Gopher State was tops in turkey production, followed by North Carolina (30.0 million), Arkansas (30.0 million), Missouri (18.0 million), Indiana (16.0 million), and Virginia (15.5 million). These six states together would probably account for about two-thirds of U.S. turkeys produced in 2011.
750 million pounds
The forecast for U.S. cranberry production in 2011. Wisconsin is expected to lead all states in the production of cranberries, with 430 million pounds, followed by Massachusetts (210 million). New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington are also expected to have substantial production, ranging from 17 million to 54 million pounds.
2.4 billion pounds
The total weight of sweet potatoes — another popular Thanksgiving side dish — produced by major sweet potato producing states in 2010. North Carolina (972 million pounds) produced more sweet potatoes than any other state. It was followed by California (639 million pounds) and Louisiana (247 million pounds).
1.1 billion pounds
Total production of pumpkins produced in the major pumpkin-producing states in 2010. Illinois led the country by producing 427 million pounds of the vined orange gourd. Pumpkin patches in California, New York, and Ohio also provided lots of pumpkins: each state produced at least 100 million pounds. The value of all pumpkins produced by major pumpkin-producing states was $117 million.
The best part of the holiday weekend is spending time with family and friends, so be sure to plan your menu and shopping in advance and enjoy the conversation and fun activities. Then ask for all volunteers for dish duty! If you have any further questions or need any materials written in Spanish, please call the Stokes County Extension office at 336-593-8179.