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November 24, 2005

Jon Singer’s turkey algorithm
Posted by Teresa at 01:18 PM *

“For a turkey of greater than ten pounds, the roasting time should be equal to 1.65 times the natural log of the weight of the bird in pounds, cooked at 325 F.”

I’m sure it’s terribly useful. Meanwhile, can someone for whom this is a trivially easy problem tell me what that comes out to for a nineteen-pound turkey?

[Recipe Index]

Comments on Jon Singer's turkey algorithm:
#1 ::: LeslieS ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 01:29 PM:

Don't know about that fancy algorithm but a 19 pound bird should be roasted for about 14 minutes/pound so depending on your oven I'd go around 4-4.5 hours. Joy of Cooking recommends preheating to 450 then turning down to 325 when you put the bird in and that's what I'm doing for my 16 pound bird. 16 pounds is the magic number - a bird under that weight should be roasted for 15-20 minutes per pound, over 16 pounds 13-15 minutes. Oh yes - and add about 5 minutes per pound if your bird is stuffed.

#2 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 01:30 PM:

1.65 * ln(19) = 4.85832432

So about 4 hours 50 minutes.

#3 ::: Iain Coleman ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 01:30 PM:

It works out as 4.86. I presume the units are hours.

#4 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 01:33 PM:

ln(19) is about 2.9444, so about 4.8583 hours, or about 4 hours, 51 minutes, 30 seconds.

Honestly, it's better to use a meat thermometer, because individual variations in the shape and size of the oven, air pressure, etc. can be significant.

#5 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 01:44 PM:

I'm bemused by the fact that bigger birds get less time in the oven per lb. I suspect my assumption of a perfect spherical turkey may be somewhat in error, and anyway, it's ages since I looked at the heat equation. Anyone care to enlighten me?

#6 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 01:46 PM:

Thank you all. Meanwhile, yes, a meat thermometer would be the right technology; but the the algorithm has major geek value.

#7 ::: Tracie Brown ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 01:48 PM:

Is that roasting time measured in minutes or hours?

So here I am parked in front of a computer on Thanksgiving day, while my 90 year old mother is making Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey, dressing (or maybe stuffing, or maybe both -- she won't let me in the kitchen), squash, corn casserole, home made cranberry relish, stuff she pickled this summer, and pumpkin chiffon pie (much lighter than the traditional pie). But this year no green jell-o (the flavor is green, not lime)with cottage cheese and pineapple. She says there isn't enough room in the refrigerator.

Mom won't let me help with the cooking, but she'll probably relent and let me clean up. But not without warning me to be careful with the good china, and not to cut myself on the knives. You never stop being your parents' child.

Now I'm off to show Dad the algorithm -- he'll appreciate it. (He's a mere babe at 83, and still working full time.) Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

#8 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 01:59 PM:

Ah, the goofy things one learns cooking in a restaurant. Three other things to be aware of:

(1) Subtract 30 minutes for a bird over 10 pounds if you have allowed it to come to room temperature before putting it in the oven. This is the best way to do it, so long as you do it carefully (that is, you let it barely warm up, then stuff it and throw it right in the oven--if, that is, you're stuffing it at all). If you let it go the "full" time, you'll get overcooked breastmeat.

(2) If you're especially concerned about getting "perfect magazine-cover brown skin," pull the bird out about half an hour before you would otherwise, quickly remove any stuffing from the main body cavity, and throw the bird back in at about 425 after basting it with a 50/50 mix of oil or butter and wine. Watch it carefully, and the instant the bird is just slightly lighter in color than you want pull it from the oven and allow it to rest for a good 20 minutes.

(3) If the bird was not injected with "x% of a solution for juiciness," slip about 1 tsp of light olive oil (maybe with a little dried thyme and/or rosemary in it) under the skin on each side of the breast before putting it in the oven. Most people who complain that "natural" birds taste better but are too dry forget that the "directions" we're used to are not intended for "natural" birds, which need a bit more attention to sealing the breastmeat early on. A turkey's skin is too loose to keep the juices from seeping out through the fascia; the oil tightens the fascia and also helps trap water-based juices. (One doesn't usually have this problem with chickens, geese, and ducks, because the skin is tighter.)

#9 ::: Edd ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 01:59 PM:

Amy said, "First, consider a spherical turkey of uniform density..."

#10 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 02:16 PM:

I'm bemused by the fact that bigger birds get less time in the oven per lb. I suspect my assumption of a perfect spherical turkey may be somewhat in error, and anyway, it's ages since I looked at the heat equation. Anyone care to enlighten me?

The larger the turkey, the more hollow space inside (you can cook them stuffed, but especially for the larger turkeys this is not recommended for tasty meat). This large hollow space creates a convective current that cooks the inside faster, so larger turkeys should need less time per pound.

On the other hand, muscle placement and density varies wildly on turkeys, so it is best to just use a meat thermometer. Or do as I do, and avoid ever cooking turkey by offering to make pie instead.

(This year I also made baklava. Hey, it's from Turkey!)

#11 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 02:18 PM:

There's always the 'stuff, wrap in bread dough, and bake for nine or ten hours' approach; the bread is something of a write off in any case, and the turkey (this is easier with chicken) can't dry out.

#12 ::: LeslieS ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 02:19 PM:

And we haven't even touched on the subject of brining....

#13 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 02:19 PM:

Would the spherical turkey by any chance be a spin-off of the bonsai kitten project?

(And am I right -- speaking as a benighted heathen non-colonial -- to assume that Thanksgiving this year falls tomorrow, i.e. Friday 25th, so I should forget about pestering agents and/or editors by email until next week?)

#14 ::: smc ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 02:23 PM:

Can you say KFC? sorry

#15 ::: Alan ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 02:32 PM:

Next week, I plan to cook a corner cut topside roast of beef (approximately spherical) and a leg of lamb (approximately conical). What are the parameters?

#16 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 02:56 PM:

Charlie Stross said:

(And am I right -- speaking as a benighted heathen non-colonial -- to assume that Thanksgiving this year falls tomorrow, i.e. Friday 25th, so I should forget about pestering agents and/or editors by email until next week?)


Thanksgiving is always on Thursday, so it's today, Thursday 24th. However, the Friday after Thanksgiving is regarded as the first day of the Christmas season. Most Americans also make some effort to be with family for Thanksgiving, so quite a few take the Friday off for travelling. While it is always possible that agents and editors might answer their e-mail tomorrow, I wouldn't expect anything really, until next week.

So, your premise was wrong, but your conclusion correct.

#17 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 02:57 PM:

If you want to be really fancy about the oil under the skin, you can do one of the following:

1) Bard the bird with bacon across the breast prior to cooking, removing the bacon for the latter part of the cooking period to allow te breat to brown. (This approach is usually used for game birds, which are very low in fat; I'm not quite sure what the times would be on a larger turkey.)

2) Instead of putting olive oil under the skin, take room-remperature herbed butter and carefully work it under the skin with your fingers, being careful not to rip the skin. This is the approved bistro method of roasting chickens, and should work for turkeys as well.

Brining, of course, also deals with the dryness problem.

#18 ::: Rich McAllister ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 02:59 PM:

Here's a graphical comparison of the Singer and Joy of Cooking formulas.

While a thermometer is great for figuring out when to take the turkey out of the oven, it's no good for figuring about when to put the turkey in to the oven, which is where these formulas help.

Charlie, US Thanksgiving is today, Thursday the 24th. Thanksgiving is the only four-day weekend on our calendar. Most people not in retail get the Friday after Thanksgiving off too; for some reason our media this year have decided to hype the charming name "Black Friday" for this day, because it's supposedly the day where the start of Christmas buying frenzy puts shops "into the black" for the year.

#19 ::: elizabeth bear ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 03:11 PM:

What James said about the brining and also the butter under the skin. That's what mine has suffered. (Also a nip of scotch in the body cavity concurrent with the stuffing process.)

There is, however, no trick the equal of the brown paper shopping bag for a perfect turkey every time.

Tak ye one paper shopping bag (that without ink or print is preferred) and do slit the bottom, so that ye may slide yt over both turkey and roasting pan entire.

Roast as one normally would.

It helps maintain moisture in the breast without preventing the skin from browning.

Also, for a 19 pound turkey I'd go 4.5 hours and then check for doneness--if the wings fall off when wiggled, it's cooked. (Jena Snyder uses this method for chicken as well, but I tend to think it results in a dryer bird, and prefer to high-roast butterflied chickens at 500 with butter under the skin and a meat thermometer for doneness, a method that (sans butter) also works admirably on duck.)

Please note that moisture-saving techniques (eg, the butter or the paper bag or both) are essential when using the "It's done when it falls apart" rule.

Chicken stock or wine may also be introduced to the pan while roasting, for additional moisture.

#20 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 03:12 PM:

4 hrs 52 min

#21 ::: elizabeth bear ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 03:12 PM:

It occurs to me belatedly that if kosherness is at issue, olive oil or schmaltz are to be preferred to buttah.

#22 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 03:21 PM:

Rich: I'm okay with Thanksgiving, I'm just vague about when it happens. Local holidays and all that.

(Over here, I'm waiting for January 2nd. Scotland is probably the only place on the planet that celebrates New Year's Day and then throws a second public holiday ... for recovery from the hangover!)

#23 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 03:25 PM:

I don't cook turkeys, but if I did -- gosh, what wonderful information!! Thank you all. No, I'm not allergic to poultry; I do roast chickens. And I eat turkeys. you betcha. Turkeys are too big for my oven, and too much work.

Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday. It gives folks a 4 day week-end, since nobody except firefighter, hospital workers, police, ets. works on Thanksgiving. I know there are some exceptions; some of YOU not in those categories may be working...

When I did hospital work, long ago, we were given the choice of which two holidays of three (Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, New Year's Day) we wanted to take off, and which one we would work. At that time I didn't celebrate Christmas, so I always worked Christmas Day and took the others off. I wonder if the same system is still in use?

Happy Thanksgiving, all. And thank you, Teresa, Patrick, for inviting us into your garden, and thank you, all the usual suspects, for the pleasure of your company this year.

#24 ::: qB ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 03:51 PM:

The resting time is very important, and the bird should be draped with a tea-towel, preferably Irish linen with very broad blue and white stripes. Don't ask me why, I have no idea. All I know is that it's what my step-mother does and she roasts the best turkey I've ever got my teeth round. This advice scores very low on the geek scale, but has the benefit of empirical evidence.

#25 ::: kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 03:54 PM:

While I haven't seen the Cooks Illustrated Turkey guide (does it exist?), a local paper did similar work. 40 turkeys later they found that brining gave the best results: (

I've had very good results since using their method and recipe (Chez Panisse- how can one go wrong with that): the meat stays juicy even as leftovers.

While its too late to brine today, west-coasters can still foil-tent the breast to keep its cooking temperature below that of the dark meat. While the guide says tent for the first hour, even if the bird is already in the oven you could still tent for a bit less than that. I've found the one hour of tenting works well- it leaves plenty of time to get that rich-colored skin while keeping the breast temperature under 170 F.

#26 ::: Beth Meacham ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 04:05 PM:

And here I was just going to say "five hours".

For a lovely crispy-skinned brown turkey, take your uncooked but stuffed and trussed bird, and pat it nice and dry. Then rub it with softened butter, all over. Then powder it with flour -- just like you'd powder a baby's bottom.

Start basting after the first hour, and baste every half hour. In the last hour of cooking, baste every 15 minutes -- no hardship, since you'll be in the kitchen anyway making the side dishes.

The turkey itself will not make sufficent juice to do all this basting, so melt a stick of butter in a couple cups of water, and leave that on top of the stove to use for basting until the last hour. Then you'll have plenty of lovely brown stuff in the bottom of the pan.

Happy Thanksgiving!

#27 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 04:26 PM:

Ah. Now I understand what all the hoopla about brining the turkey is about. It's some weird substitute for basting the thing. :-)

Butter under the skin. Streaky bacon on the skin. Foil as well as or instead of streaky bacon on delicate areas. Tent the lot in foil or brown paper for part of the cooking period, and check at regular intervals to baste with own juices, butter and/or poultry stock. Olive oil may be substituted when cooking a kosher Christmas dinner (don't ask). In theory one gets a better result by soaking an Irish linen teatowel in melted butter and tenting with that, but I'm not wasting a good teatowel that way, thank you, they're too hard to get hold of where I'm currently living and they're never the same afterwards.

Fortunately it's Not My Problem this year. :-)

#28 ::: kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 04:47 PM:

Naw, brining doesn't involve risking splatters of boiling hot fatty liquids. And basting is only skin deep: brining goes partway to the bone.

When I brine I still use basting for a richer glazed visual effect. However, the one time I used brining without basting the turkey was better (long lasting juiciness) than my previous best results using basting alone. ytmv.

#29 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 04:58 PM:

Charlie Stross writes: "Over here, I'm waiting for January 2nd. Scotland is probably the only place on the planet that celebrates New Year's Day and then throws a second public holiday ... for recovery from the hangover!"

I knew there was a reason I liked Scotland.

#30 ::: Fran ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 05:02 PM:

I never baste my turkey, and have not yet brined it (although I plan to do that next time). Instead of slipping butter into the pocket formed by loosening the breast skin from breast meat, gently push in some of the stuffing to form a padded bra effect about 1/2 inch thick. If you use a rich, moist stuffing, this shields the breast meat, adds flavour, and preserves moisture. Plus you get chunks of roasted stuffing clinging to the breast skin when you finish.

#31 ::: Bill Humphries ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 05:02 PM:

You know that posting a formula like that means I'll waste a few minutes making a tool out of it.

I should be over at Howard and Laura's... grumble. :)

#33 ::: Bill Humphries ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 05:14 PM:

@ Kevin: I'd almost forgotten that Google does unit conversions.

#34 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 05:18 PM:

Somebody explain brining to me?

This year's turkey: unfrozen, all natural.

Stuffing: bread, cornbread, chestnuts, celery, onion, cooked crumbled sausage, whole pistachios, assorted spices (sage, rosemary, and oregano fresh from the garden), butter, eggis, chicken broth.

Stuff it fore and aft. Run your hand under the skin on the breast to loosen it, then put a layer of extra stuffing under the skin. Any further leftover stuffing gets a dousing of chicken broth, and is cooked in a roasting bag.

Baste frequently.

Menu this year: Baked potatoes. Peas and pearl onions, creamed. Acorn squash, quartered, rubbed with oil and spices, baked skin-side-down. Mashed turnips. Salad of yuppie greens with scallions and grape tomatoes. Two kinds of cranberry sauce: one cranberries cooked with sugar and a little water until the berries burst; the other, cranberries chopped up with a whole citrus fruit or so, sugared down, and let sit for 24 hours. Fresh grated horseradish from my garden (we have harvested the Neil Gaiman Memorial Horseradish Plant). Apple pie. Pumpkin pie.

#35 ::: kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 05:37 PM:

I've found that the true secret of the Thanksgiving dinner-- the Way of delighting our elder-primate-brain into knowing we're feasting -- is to have at least three cranberry sauces.

Mostly because this is the fastest and easiest way to add permutations, but also because the sauce is just so cheerful looking.

Cranberry sauces only take 10-15 minutes for the first one, with an extra few minutes per additional sauce. so as made this morning, starting with a 3 pound bag of cranberries:

1. Traditional sweet spiced, with cinnamon, allspice and cloves to complement dessert's pumpkin pie.
2. Ginger and orange (or ginger, orange and five-spice powder),
3. Thyme and mustard (from epicurious's 4 fork sauces)
4. Caramelized onion and apple chutney

Cranberry works very well with Splenda if you want to reduce carbohydrates: I've found in general that splenda is good for acidic foods.

#36 ::: Mark D. ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 05:38 PM:

With pleasure. Basic brine formula: one gallon of water, one cup of kosher salt, one-half cup of [brown] sugar. May need to increase proportionally for a turkey. The rule of thumb is, "It should taste like salt water." I brine all poultry and duck (is duck poultry?) and pork - even one hour helps, but overnight is best. More than 10-12 hours produces diminishing returns.

You can add other flavorings: orange juice for duck, citrusy and herby items as appropriate - the salt carries the flavors right into the flesh. Once you try it, you never go back.

This year I brined the bird overnight on Tuesday, then let it dry 24 hours in the fridge for much crispier skin. I also cut the wings off and roasted them with the giblets separately, then made broth with them. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm....

#37 ::: Mark D. ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 05:45 PM:

Instead of creamed onions this year:

Poured off the liquid from two jars of small onions. In one pan, cooked the onions as dry as they would get (not very) and got a little carmalization. Lost courage because I didn't want them to break down, but they were still pretty brown.

In second pan, reduced the onion liquid by 3/4, then thickened with a little cornstarch slurry and mixed with onions.

What resulted was a very intense sort of onion confit which cut through the usual starch-o-rama in a most satisfactory fashion.

Also - oyster stuffing + pinot noir = food of the gods.

#38 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 05:46 PM:

at least three cranberry sauces

One year we were given a commercial gift box of three cranberry sauces, one of which was southwestern in style and another was Caribbean. One of them had a hot pepper in it (possibly even a Habanero).

My family generally went for cranberry jelly, even to having a dish traditionally used to serve it (elliptical China bowl, just the right size, and the jelly couldn't escape over the side when you used the spoon to cut it).

#39 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 05:49 PM:

Good morning, Ms. Nielsen Hayden The bird you're looking at is . . .

No, the hell with that, this is a holiday. Brining is, at minimum, soaking meat (it doesn't have to be a boid) in salt solution, usually along with some seasoning agents. Our friend osmosis carries the seasonings into the tissues, flavoring the meat itself, not just sitting on the surface.

Alton Brown is big on brining (and against stuffing large birds like turkeys, but as he says, that's another show), and his brine recipe includes kosher salt, brown sugar, crystallized ginger, black peppercorns, allspice berries, and a gallon of vegetable stock. You boil this just to dissolve, then chill it. Then it's diluted with a gallon of ice water, and the bird goes in, fully submerged, for six hours. It needs to stay cold, so it doesn't catch turkey flu or something; he recommends putting it in a closed ice chest. You start with the breast down and flip halfway through. And before roasting, it gets a cold rinse.

Hey, don't look at me. I'm thinking of going across the street for a pizza today, though it's nineteen [insert expletive] degrees and there's plenty of stuff in the refrigerator.

Tomorrow, however, I go out for ingredients for Sunday dinner for six (menu approaching final form). The hope is that people will have piles of leftovers and not feel the need to shop at Lunds, though I suspect I will also end up at the Ultimate Kitchen Gadget store across the street, and they're likely to look like the Santa's Workshop Toolroom & Canteen.

#40 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 06:00 PM:

My Aunt Connie was a very good cook, but nipped a bit too much from the cooking sherry (they took all the others away from her). Since she died from complications due to too much sherry shortly before I was born, this story comes down as family legend, oft told by those who were there.

My Aunt Connie had been told that covering a turkey in bread dough before cooking keeps the turkey moist. So Aunt Connie covered said huge turkey in bread dough and stuffed everything into the oven. I have to believe Aunt Connie followed the family tradition that if a little is good, a whole lot is better, because I've heard other successful cooks use bread dough to cover turkeys without what happened to this one. The turkey went into the oven covered in bread dough and came out encased in baked adobe. Poor Uncle Bill had to get a sledge hammer and chisel to get the bird out of its coffin. I understand the bird was very juicy.

#41 ::: kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 06:20 PM:

A brined bird is soaked in a salt and spice solution for 12-24 hours before cooking: this brings the seasoning into the meat and makes the meat juicier.

Or, as Cooks Illustrated says
"we find that delicate white meat is best protected by soaking... in a saltwater solution before cooking. Whether we are roasting a turkey ro grilling chicken parts, we have consistently found that brining keeps the meat juicier. Brining also gives delicate (and sometimes mushy) poultry a meatier, firmer consistency and seasons the meat down to the bone..."

The Chez Panisse / San Francisco Chronicle recipe also has sugar, about which CI says "sugar does not affect the texture of the meat, but it does add flavor... enhances the caramelized flavor..."

See also
for more on Chez Panisse's brine.

With a bit of fridge drying after taking the turkey out, and the proper application of butter or oil, I can get the skin as crisp as an unbrined birds.

I use a 5 gallon bucket, with two oven roasting bags to hold the water and turkey (2 just in case one breaks)- it fits in the fridge with one shelf moved or removed. I first ring the bottom of the bucket with upside down cups before placing the turkey-in-bags inside to minimize the brine needed (and to help hold it up). I then make the brine to cover the bird (continuing to add cups and misc rounded items to fill in space outside the bags as needed).

The fresh turkeys I get always have those handles built in: it'd be much more difficult without that.

For gravy the brined turkey drippings will have salt in them- I use no-salt chicken broth if I need to add liquid. I make my stuffings outside of the turkey anyways, but I read that brining can cause the stuffing to be salty on the edges. I just throw a few onions and carrots into the turkey before roasting.

The recipe might seem like it has too much spice, but because its a cold soak only a subtle amount of spice gets into the turkey: the recipe is exactly right. Also, the turkey itself doesn't get salty.

The Chronicle article of 2005 doesn't include their full test kitchen results as the original article did: they'd found that 400 degrees was better than lower temperatures given a brined bird. Tenting the breast generally gives better results by keeping the temp lower.

The fresh turkeys I get always have those handles built in: it'd be much more difficult without that.

#42 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 06:42 PM:

If you want to use this formula for a weight in kilograms, you should perform the same calculation but add 78 minutes to the result you get.

Non-intuitive I know, but that's logarithms for you. :)

(And you'll probably also want to know that 325 F = 160 C = 436 K).

#43 ::: Beth Meacham ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 06:58 PM:

I have yet to understand why people want to carry salt and sugar into their turkey meat. I dislike the taste of brined turkeys. And no one has ever complained of my roast turkeys being dry. Baste. It is basting that makes the bird.

#44 ::: Stephan Zielinski ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 07:17 PM:

For anyone curious about what brining actually does, here's the relevant bit from McGee's On Food and Cooking.

Brining The tendency of modern meats to dry out led cooks to rediscover light brining, a traditional method in Scandinavia and elsewhere. These meats, typically poultry or pork, are immersed in a brine containing 3 to 6% salt by weight for anywhere from a few hours to two days (depending on thickness) before being cooked as usual. They come out noticeable jucier.

Brining has two initial effects. First, salt disrupts the structure of the muscle filaments. A 3% salt solution (2 tablespoons per quart / 30 grams per liter) dissolvs parts of the protein structure that supports the connecting filaments, and a 5.5% solution (4 tablespoons per quart / 60 grams per liter) partly dissolves the filaments themselves. Second, the interactions of salt and proteins result in a greater water-holding capacity in the muscle cells, which then absorb water from the brine. (The inward movement of salt and water and disruptions of the muscle filaments into the meat also increase its absorption of aromatic molecules from any herbs and spices in the brine.) The meat's weight increasesby 10% or more. When cooked, the meat still loses around 20% of its weight in moisture, but this loss is counterbalanced by the brine absorbed so the moisture loss is effectively cut in half. In addition, the dissolved protein filaments can't coagulate into normally dense aggregates, so the cooked meat seems more tender. Because the brine works its way in from the outside, it has its earliest and and strongest effects on the meat region most likely to be overcooked, so even a brief, incomplete soaking can make a diference.

The obvious disadvantage of brining is that it makes both the meat and its drippings quite salty. Some recipes balance the saltiness by including sugar or such ingredients as fruit juice or buttermilk, which provide both sweetness and sourness.

The full title is Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. My copy is ISBN 0-684-80001-2; the quote above is from pages 155-156.

#45 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 07:21 PM:

Oh yes, Harold McGee. We have that. Somewhere around here.

#46 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 07:27 PM:

Whatever you do to it, you're making me hungry. I'm going to have to go find another topic...

#47 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 07:36 PM:

Get up really early. Put it in the oven before 7 AM.

That's what it translated to for me.

#48 ::: Mark D. ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 08:09 PM:


I respectfully disagree about basting, for two reasons.

1) The basting liquid slides over the skin and drops into the bottom of the pan, where (at best) it steams and reduces. It manifestly doesn't come in contact with the flesh of the turkey long enough to have much effect.

2) Opening the oven door drops the oven temperature, leading to longer cooking times.

Alton Brown was mentioned upthread. Along with brining he sold me on a probe thermometer with a wire that runs out through the door to a monitor which gives exact interior temperature of any meat. The door stays closed, and you know just when to remove whatever you are roasting.* This has become an indispensable kitchen tool for me.

*NB - remove 5-10 degrees below desired temperature - carryover!

#49 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 08:50 PM:

I've found that there are a lot of things you can do when roasting poultry which seem to have mostly a placebo effect. Thus, in middle age, I have become quite lazy about my poultry preparation rituals. Though I like preparing large holiday meals, having this one at home came about because of a recent death in the family; there was not much advance meal planning.

So early this morning, before it was light, I arose and collected the roasting pan and the thawed turkey, and muttered something like, "What am I going to do with you?" in the direction of the turkey.

Other than removing all the things they put in the turkey to make it weigh more (I was particularly amused by the unexpected bag of gravy), and rinsing it, all I did to the thing was fill it with apples and ignore it while it baked it in a closed roasting pan for five or six hours.

#50 ::: Stephen Sample ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 09:04 PM:

I'll put in a vote for the old-fashioned* unglazed clay pot (Römertopf and the like). Soak the pot in water for 10-15 minutes before you load in the turkey, then place in a room-temperature oven and turn up to 450 Fahrenheit/232 Celsius/505 Kelvin. The wet clay holds the moisture in (and indeed adds some), and the temperature inside the pot ends up about 100 F/56 C lower than the oven is set to. I've never brined, basted, or larded a turkey, and they've always been tender and juicy.

Cooking time is 2 hours for an 8-pound heirloom bird (Bourbon Red, Slate Blue, etc.). By dimensional analysis, we can see that cooking time scales as the 2/3 power of weight, so you can extrapolate from there.

Sorry, I don't know any cooking times for Butterball/Broad Breasted White turkeys in the clay pot.

Today's menu here:
Caribbean pumpkin soup. Calabazas horneadas (squash, corn, poblanos, and sour cream). Challah. Oaxacan black mole (the peppers-and-chocolate sauce, for use on the turkey, not a burrowing mammal). A local Bourbon Red turkey hen (don't know her name, sorry). Roasted sweet potatoes and celeriac. Cranberry sauce (a pound of fresh cranberries, a few ounces of fresh grated ginger, and half a cup of sugar, simmered until the cranberries burst). Pumpkin pie. Sour cream apple pie (the sour cream is spread on top and makes a sort of cheesy layer that incidentally holds in the moisture). Ginger pear pie (about 8 pears, sliced and layered, with a few ounces of fresh grated ginger on top and a streusel over the whole thing. We were going to have mashed potatoes and curried cauliflower as well, but some family was kept home by bad weather, so we cut back. Mmm. And now I won't have to cook for days.

* The Etruscans used them, so they go back a ways.

#51 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 09:21 PM:

The other benefit of brining a turkey is that the range of temps at which the meat is juicy and tender becomes much wider. Today, I accidentally overdid the turkey. The breast was at 190. It was still moist and tender. Brining the bird saved by behind once again.

That said, I think many brines are too salty. It ruins the stuffing, and really, stuffing is pretty much the only reason to cook a turkey.

Our menu: Brined turkey, bread and sausage stuffing, honey-glazed carrots, cranberry sauce, garlic mashed potatoes, giblet gravy, roasted asparagus, rolls, sweet potato pie.

Nothing fancy, although most of it was homemade, including the sausage, bread and rolls. The bird was, well, really ugly. Tasted good, though.

#52 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 09:23 PM:

I have one of those pots, but sized for, say, a cornish game hen, rather than a turkey. My biggest regret in pre-Thanksgiving grocery shopping is that we forgot the cauliflower.

#53 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 10:20 PM:

Did anybody watched any turkey movies today? We have lots of MST3K tapes and DVDs, but we wound up playing catch-up with tapes of our regular TV shows. The closest to a turkey is Invasion, which I've taken to calling Evasion.

#54 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 10:29 PM:

Lin --

I used to use heavy whole wheat bread dough; it would get pretty tough, but this is what coarse-bladed hacksaws are for.

The two chicken variants are bacon over the chicken and mushrooms, bits of bacon, and herbs to taste in, or chicken parts, skinned, with the juice of a quarter lemon per and truly fresh tarragon. The lemon-tarragon version was the better-received.

#55 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 11:29 PM:

Teresa, you're using MacOS X, right? Next time you need to run this algorithm, open up the Terminal and type the following:

perl -e '1.65 * log(19)'

...only substitute the poundage of the turkey you're working with for the 19. Then hit Return.

#56 ::: Adrian Bedford ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 11:33 PM:

Hey folks--

I don't say much, but Making Light is pretty much my favourite site on the web, and I spend, probably, far too much time reading here, fascinated, enthralled, amused, saddened--the whole gamut. The site is a treasure. Thank you Teresa and Patrick, and the multitude of regular commenters. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

#57 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 11:40 PM:

Around here we deep-fry 'em. Seriously.

I've never personally been involved in the preparation, but the end product is pretty tasty. It seals in the juices and raises the skin itself from marginally edible to crispy goodness. You have to buy a special multi-gallon deep-fat fryer, but the local Home Depots sell them this time of year for around $60.

The end product is much less greasy than fried chicken and, when used in conjunction with the brine soaks discussed above, very juicy.

Race you to the cardiac ward!!!

#58 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 11:47 PM:

I'm on my own for Thankgiving for the first time I can remember . . . bad planning and a serious dread of the twelve hour car drive it takes to get to the nearest batch of family.

But not a bad day at all. Got some minor shopping done, made it to the dog park before the rain started, and, while waiting for phone calls from back east, got virtually all of my Christmas gift wrapping done.

The only sucky part: The salmon that was supposed to be the central dish of the feast was dry. For some reason they don't sell salmon "steak" in Oregon, just fillets. Fresh ocean-caught fillets, but that doesn't count for much if you broil it too long. Steaks are more forgiving.

#59 ::: Mary ::: (view all by) ::: November 24, 2005, 11:50 PM:

Deep fried turkey lovers and fellow pyromaniacs -- you have seen this film by Underwriters Labs, right?

#60 ::: Allen J. Baum ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 12:38 AM:

Scott: We once deep fried a turkey here at a party.

The result was not terribly greasy, but was incredibly moist and tasty - quite unexpected.

I don't know what the magic formula for deep frying a turkey is - but it was about 15-20 minutes start to finish, so about a minute a pound. Nice if you're in a hurry.

Clues to the unwary:
a) don't do this inside.
b) spread newspaper on the ground around the deep fryer- it can get messy & splatter a bit.
c) do arrange to have the proper tools (e.g. a long pole that you wouldn't normally touch things with) to place and remove the turkey from the pot - the splatters are no fun on bare skin.
d) DON'T DON'T fill the deep fryer to the brim with oil. Very bad move. The result if you do is left as an exercise for the reader(I'm not speaking from personal experience!)(hint: Google "Eureka" and "bathtub" ).
e) Have a plan of what to do with the oil when you're finished.

#61 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 01:03 AM:

I love this place.

You have turkey at Thanksgiving; we have it, increasingly, at Christmas, not celebrating any holiday parallel to Thanksgiving. (Anzac Day is not a feast day. To the contrary.)

But we do have Mr Musgrove's lamb. Leg of lamb boned, stuffed with herbed peaches, trussed.

#62 ::: Janet Lafler ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 01:08 AM:

I've never been actively involved in roasting a turkey -- my mom always does it. She uses the outdoor grill, which frees up the oven for other dishes and reduces congestion in the kitchen. I realize this isn't practical in colder, wetter climates. One problem with this method is that it can be difficult to control the temperature, but the turkey always comes out well.

Our menu: We usually start the meal with some sort of spicy soup -- I think this started with a curried butternut squash soup my sister made years ago. This year, I made a green pea soup (frozen peas, not split peas) seasoned with Thai curry paste, which was well-received. But the star of the meal was a carrot pudding made by my sister. I'm going to have to get the recipe from her. We also had a green bean and mushroom dish, a green salad, a fruit salad, bread stuffing with pecans, and a couple of kinds of cranberry sauce. For dessert, Matt's fabulous cheesecake. (Heads up: he says he's about to comment on the turkey-cooking formula.)

Our youngest diner consumed many pretzels, and insisted on pouring apple juice into her soup.

#63 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 01:20 AM:

I'm going to have to nitpick about Jon's formula, though. Not that I think it's wrong, just that I don't it's as different from the older linear rule as one might think. Since it's only valid in a limited range, and since ln isn't a very fast changing function in that range, we can do a Taylor expansion around, say, 15lb. This gives us 1.65 (ln 15 + (m - 15)/15 - (m-15)^2/450 + ...) In the range of 10-20lb, neglecting the quadratic term never gives us an error of more than 5%. So Jon's formula is really a linear one: 2.71 + 0.11 (m-15), or 1.06 + 0.11m. This isn't quite the same as the older linear formula of 0.23m, but it's still linear.

#64 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 02:02 AM:

"we have it, increasingly, at Christmas"

Turkey is a Christmas thing in the States, too. And Britain: The bird makes an appearance in A Christmas Carol ("What, the one as big as me?").

Ham is its close rival.

In a movie and short story, Jean Shepherd describes a childhood Christmas feast ruined by an invasion of neighbor's dogs. In the movie, the dogs steal turkey; in the short story, it is a ham. I always wondered about the switch.

#65 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 02:32 AM:

"Mr. Clark? I'm Boris X. Birdhammer, of Butterball. Are you aware of how dangerous prop hams have been in the history of motion pictures? Lefty and Knuckles, here, would be pleased to illustrate."

#66 ::: Kayjay ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 02:36 AM:

Ham says Easter to me, though every year I try to get my mom to do something different. Thanksgiving will always be turkey. Christmas, however, is pretty variable. I like doing steak or prime rib for Christmas, but sometimes we've had ham or bird.

I've never brined anything, but all this talk of it makes me want to try it on a cornish hen. The ancient, inefficient Hotpoint stove that came with my apartment is equipped with a wee little rotisserie, which is perfect for the small birds.

#67 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 02:54 AM:

Salmon and other fish:

Prep it any way you like it. Whole fish, rolled filets, whatever. As long as it's basically whole flesh and at least half an inch thick.

Heat the oven to 475 F.

Honest. I'm serious. That hot.

Put the fish in for 10 carefully timed minutes per inch of thickness at thickest point. Thickest point of its current configuration, of you have stuffed or rolled it.

Watch it like a hawk and get it out of there right on time.

Skin and tails and fins will char and smoke awfully, which is annoying, but makes no difference to the end flavour.

The fish will come out of the oven 90 percent cooked, and by the time it hits the table it will be hot, tender, moist, and generally wonderful.

The only way I have ever messed this up is by having a crisis break out in the house and leaving it in too long.

Be careful; the oven gets so hot I have had a metal necklace heat enough in the time it took me to get the fish out to sting like crazy and leave a mark when I stood up and it settled back against my skin. No damage, but no fun, either.

#68 ::: Rich McAllister ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 03:36 AM:

I think Matt made a slight error when simplifying the Taylor expansion (I think it was forgetting to multiply the constant term by 1.65); anyway I get 2.82+0.11m, and the result has been added to the graphical comparison.

#69 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 04:02 AM:

All I know is my mother-in-law cooked a 25-pound turkey, and it took her 12 hours until she was happy with it.

#70 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 04:31 AM:

Serge asks:

Did anybody watched any turkey movies today?

Serge, I believe the ultimate movie in this category is Blood Freak, which is both a turkey of a movie, and a movie that features turkeys. It also features psychoactive drugs, a has-been B-movie strong man, man-turkey vampirism, and, of course, a strong evangelical Christian message. The ultimate "turkey movie." And now I know what we're watching at my sister's house tomorrow.

#71 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 05:32 AM:

Blood Freak does sound for Turkey Day, HP. Last week, I was checking out the local Borders's DVD section and came across something from the Sixties called Girl Slaves of Morganna Le Fay. I might have bought it if these parts had a local chapter of Bad Cinema Lovers, but, as it is, there's nobody with whom to share this Italian story of Morganna still alive in modern times thanks to the sustaining energies of the Love That Dares Not Speak Its Name.

#72 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 05:37 AM:

So, nothing special from the White House on Turkey Day? No flying to Iraq for a turkey feast with the troops? No pardon for Scooter?

#73 ::: Trix ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 08:15 AM:

Charlie Stross wrote: "Over here, I'm waiting for January 2nd. Scotland is probably the only place on the planet that celebrates New Year's Day and then throws a second public holiday...

In NZ, we also have a holiday on January 2nd. Yay! Australia doesn't. Boo sucks!

And since it was Friday here while it was Thursday there, no, there was no techical support to be had from our backup solution providers in the US. And yet they do have people available on Xmas day. Most interesting.

#74 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 08:40 AM:

For salmon, get a citrus fruit (lemon is commonly used, but I've had very nice results with a good orange) slice it, and layer it over the fish before putting it in the oven at 425 or so.

I'm pleased to report good results for a 19 lb free-range turkey with the Joy of Cooking's brining recipe. We had some questions from the family, and my mother thought it added too much salt to the gravy, but all agreed the end result was a very good turkey.

Now, does anyone know what to do with 2 gallons of turkey brine in a cooler I can't lift?

#75 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 08:56 AM:

Just a couple of comments on the "brine v. basting" controversy:
(1) If you're in the Midwest outside of a major metropolitan area and not looking for a 19lb+ bird, you're probably stuck with a pre-injected one, even among so-called "fresh" turkeys, unless you spend the time and money to find an organic supplier. If the bird is pre-injected, do not brine it; your real spices, etc. will clash with the artificial stuff in the injections, and probably make for a waterlogged bird that takes an extra 10 minutes per pound to boot.

(2) Light olive oil for basting (or under the skin), rather than butter: This avoids both kosher/kashrut issues and problems with getting "browning" just from the milkfat solids while leaving a greasy residue behind.

(3) In any event, remember that basting only influences the outer 2cm or so of meat. (Remember, the fascia is not a one-way osmotic membrane!) That's why it works so much better for chickens and ducks than for turkeys.

#76 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 09:06 AM:

I've never tried brining a turkey; I don't think we have a food-clean vessel in the house big enough. But we eat a lot of turkey in my house, as it's one of the best calorie-to-dollar protein sources around, and we have discovered a way to do it that works nicely:

Take a large turkeye and divest it of its guts, then with metal foil make for yt a swaddling in a large pan. Adde to the pan water, vinegar made of the juice of apples, salte, and pepper, and the turkeye, and close the swaddling arounde the turkeye, being sure that the foil toucheth not the meat of the top and that there are no holes from which steame might escape. Roast as you normally would.

I just had to duplicate the "Take a Thousand Eggs or More" style, having been reminded of it earlier in the thread. :)

Cider vinegar--about a half cup (what, about 250 mL, or am I getting my conversion wrong?) for a large bird seems to work--does the thing where it breaks down the fibers of the meat, and having an enclosed pan keeps all the moisture in where it will do good. If your roasting pan is large enough that the lid fits tightly around the bird, you can do without the tinfoil.

#77 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 10:04 AM:

The lazy middle-aged person's Thanksgiving dinner for a party of three: store-bought already-grilled chicken (slowly reheated to the ideal temp for tenderness in the oven); 1/2 pound of sliced mesquite & honey-cooked turkey from the deli section, nuked to just-warm-enough; small tube of buttermilk biscuits, heated as per directions; fresh sweet potatoes, peeled and boiled; half-bunch very skinny asparagus, prepared and nuked briefly then topped with good yogurt/soy margarine; can of cranberry sauce (the one blah disappointment); pre-made apple and pumpkin pies. (Oh, and Mom the potato lover brought her own bowl of mashed.) Sparkling cranberry juice for the two non-drinkers, red wine for hubby.

It may sound ghastly to gourmets, but it tasted wonderful. (And it gave us time to get the house semi-clean & tidy before Mom came over!) The Prescott AZ weather helped, unexpectedly warm and clear. One insane rose still blooms outside the dining room window, and the lesser goldfinch gorged at their thistle feeder, also within view. The cat got his goodies later.

Best wishes to all, and I join the chorus of thanks to our hosts. This is by far my favorite discussion site.

#78 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 10:08 AM:

On Christmas dinner: Smithfield ham.

(I'm from Virginia, and turkey was meant for Thanksgiving not Christmas, according to my family's tradition.)

#79 ::: paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 10:17 AM:

Margaret, dip enough of it into another container (or into the sink) until you can lift it.

I had this issue with a ginormous pot of hot stock last Sunday. Plus I needed to get it to the spare fridge to cool it enough to portion it into plastic baggies and get it into a freezer.

I also managed to do it in a way to remove about 90% of the fat

#80 ::: Scorpio ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 10:21 AM:

Until golden brown and the juice runs clear, no matter what the numbers say.


#81 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 10:44 AM:

And since it was Friday here while it was Thursday there, no, there was no techical support to be had from our backup solution providers in the US. And yet they do have people available on Xmas day. Most interesting.

[sweeping generalization]I've found that while people here will trade their religious observation days with each other, nobody wants to do without the food feast.[/generalization]

#82 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 10:55 AM:

One of my Thanksgiving feasts had no meat at all. My family had a series of celebrations throughout the year where someone said, "ooo, make that for Thanksgiving." By the time T-day arrived, we had such a collection of "good recipes," that's all we had. Eggs-n-cheese-n-rice stuff, potato-shreds-n-cheese stuff, beans-and-cheese-and-something stuff, mashed potatoes (cheese optional), and disgustingly gooey chocolate cake (no cheese). And, yes, someone there made the "cheesy meal" comment.

#83 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 11:15 AM:

Teresa, you're using MacOS X, right? Next time you need to run this algorithm, open up the Terminal and type the following:

perl -e '1.65 * log(19)'

...only substitute the poundage of the turkey you're working with for the 19.

If you just enter 1.65 * log(19) into Google, Google's calculator feature will calculate it for you:
1.65 * log(19) = 2.10994344

#84 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 11:33 AM:

Lois: Except that the formula specifies the natural log of the turkey weight, not the 10log. In which case it's 1.65 * ln(19).

Would it be heresy to say that I'm not that bothered about turkey? It's nice enough, but a bit bland, and so ruddy big that the weeks of turkey leftovers get a bit tedious. For Christmas we've had a capon the past few years; As my dad's a priest, we tend to eat about 4-4:30 anyhow, and a turkey would no doubt have us eating about midnight. I have pondered trying a suckling pig, but the whole ones lying in the supermarket coolers creep me out just a bit too much.

#85 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 11:34 AM:

Goose or capon for Christmas, lamb for Easter, turkey or ham for Thanksgiving.

Being a Canadian, I place Thanksgiving Day in mid-October; which seems more appropriate to me for other reasons (it's an outgrowth of older harvest thanksgiving customs: harvest is long over by late November).

Lois, the Google version gives you the decimal, not the natural logarithm. For google, you need 1.65*ln(19).

Also, in bc (invoked with -l for the math library) it's l(19)*1.65.

#86 ::: Bill Humphries ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 11:38 AM:

@ Lois, as Kevin mentioned upthread, you need to specify the natural log, not the base 10 log.

1.65 * ln(19) = 4.85832432

#87 ::: Janet Lafler ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 11:47 AM:

Another brining note: The roast chicken recipe from the Zuni Cafe cookbook involves salting the outside of the bird and letting it sit in the fridge for 1 to 3 days, depending on size. Then wipe the salt and moisture off the outside and roast at 450 for about an hour. There's a little more to it than that, but it's very easy and results in an amazingly tender bird.

As for various holiday menus, it's interesting to see what people think is essential to make it a meal. A number of years ago my family switched to a "light brunch" format for Christmas day, which is kind of nice amid all the overstuffing of the holidays. Matt and I have a tradition of an elaborate meal for two on Christmas Eve; one of us spends the day cooking while the other is enjoined to stay out of the house until the dinner hour. It has gotten very competitive. Each year the bar has been raised, so that we're now up to about 7 courses, plus palate cleansers and other extra frills. The tradition is on haitus this year, and probably for at least a year or two, but the next time we do it it'll be my turn to cook, and I'm already mentally filing away ideas.

#88 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 11:53 AM:

And what do vegetarians on Thanksgiving? Why, they go for tofu and Satan, of course.

#89 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 12:20 PM:

It needs to have roast potatoes to be a *proper* Christmas dinner. No roast potatoes last night. :-( But we *did* have Brussels sprouts. :-)

Yes, Christmas dinner. If you have harvest festival rather than Thanksgiving in your cultural background, Thanksgiving is merely an excuse to have other ex-pat friends round for a dinner party with a Christmas menu...

I would say that it's entirely the wrong time of year to be having a harvest festival, given the pictures of snow all over the British blogs this morning, but I've got a tomato ripening on the vine in the garden.

#90 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 01:00 PM:

You're all making me very hungry for more turkey, and alas we were guests at somebody else's home so don't have any leftovers in our house.

One more point about brining though. Kosher poultry already gets a saltwater bath as part of the kashering process, so brining may not be necessary.

#91 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 01:19 PM:

Usually I cover the turkey inside and out with rosemary from the garden and baste with olive oil.

A couple years agoI had to cook the turkey for a gathering at my grandparents', a bit over an hour's drive away. Because we didn't want them to have to clean, I needed to cook it at my place. I decided to cook it en casserole, so it would stay moist during transport and be easier to reheat. I scaled up the Captain's Curry recipe from Joy of Cooking; it is a very mild tomato-based curry, a westernized version of a Penang Curry, I think. When I told them, my family mobilized to cook extra side dishes so everyone would have something to eat. As it turned out, everyone liked the turkey and it was a big success.

I really liked how easy it was. I had to get up early to cut all the meat off the bird. But once the pieces were in the casserole dishes with the sauce, all I had to do was put them in the oven, wash the cutting board and the knife, and I was free. No basting, no gravy making. No cleaning the oven afterwards. The casserole dishes were easy to clean because they were baked, not roasted.

If I were to do this for a large gathering of friends, rather than my family, it would be nice to try making a more authentic curry with lots of spices. Or turkey cacciatore, or turkey au vin.

#92 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 02:12 PM:

I've done brined turkey, and while the results were fine they were not so spectacular as to make me want to give over my refrigerator for half-a-week to my canning pot (the only vessel in the house big enough to hold a fair-sized turkey). So I have returned to the Joy of Cooking, which yielded a fine figure of a turkey yesterday. I agree with the proponents of basting--although I tend to baste at 15-20 minutes (except when my attention is diverted). Rather than fretting because half the juices steam away, I find this leaves me with a really nice residuum of pan juices to make, as Mrs. Lovett would have it, the gravy grander.

Yesterday's turkey was 19.16 pounds, and cooked for four hours and forty minutes. I made the pumpkin pie first, then the turkey, got the apple pie ready and when the turkey came out of the oven put the pie in. It all worked out nicely. We will be eating turkey until midsummer's night, I think.

And I want Dave Luckett's recipe for leg of lamb stuffed with peaches. Ummm.

#93 ::: kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 02:42 PM:

"food-clean vessel" for brining? I've never had exactly that, thus the use of a double-layer of oven-roasting bags [They're very strong].

I use a vessel that's as close to the turkey's width as possible. The 5 gallon utility bucket otherwise stores cleaning cloths. The next closest vessel would likely be one of my 'cleaned for winter storage' black plastic plant pots.

But by next year I might own a proper vessel: my SigO has seen the UL video and even more greatly wants a turkey fryer. The elements of danger and fire are not disincentives, alas.

#94 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 03:18 PM:

FYI, the McGee On Food and Cooking, just came out last year with a second edition, which I did some work on, that is completely different from the first. So save your old one if you get the new one...

#95 ::: Jon Singer ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 03:27 PM:

It is my sad duty to disillusion you. As much as I would love to take credit for that algorithm, I cannot in good conscience do so. It was developed by Mike Fellinger, of Boulder, Colorado, lo these many years agone.

As far as I know, it does work, but these days I usually tend to follow methods developed by the people at Cook's Illustrated. We really like Cook's Illustrated.

Back to basting (we're running a day late here) --

#96 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 04:38 PM:

Jakob, James, Bill, et al.:

This is apparently one of those "a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing" things. I haven't really worked much with logarithms since college, which was a long time ago (and I didn't do much with them then, either), so it didn't occur to me about the different kinds.

At least it's too late to cause problems for Teresa's turkey.

#97 ::: Ellen Fremedon ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 05:32 PM:

I'm surprised no one has yet mentioned roasting the turkey (brined or not) upside down, supported on balls of crumpled aluminum foil. The breast is shielded from the most direct heat, and the juices of the turkey trickle down and collect in it; the dark meat cooks thoroughly, but the breast doesn't dry out. For the last 10-20 minutes of cooking, you can flip it back over to brown the skin of the breast-- buy a new pair of heavy cotton work gloves for this part.

(And we had turkey cassoulet for Thanksgiving, made with smoked drumsticks in place of duck. Very yummy, very easy.)

#98 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 05:46 PM:

The handicapped middle-aged person's Thanksgiving: a Marie Callender turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, and green beans frozen microwavable meal. This is actually my favorite frozen meal and I have it about twice a week.

I had a couple of invites, but it's hard to be so up and bright for a few hours and I'd done it twice in a week already with a birthday party and the book group. Turned out just as well because I have an awful cold.

When I cooked, I used to cook the turkey upside down most of the time (the dark meat bastes the light meat) and just turn it up the last 30 minutes or so to get brown & crispy.

#99 ::: melissa ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 06:34 PM:

I'm lazy... I make a perfectly acceptable turkey (for Christmas, though) using an oven roasting bag - no basting, always moist. Pretty easy, too.

#100 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 06:42 PM:

Whilst dumping a bag of dog poop this morning, I spotted something odd in the dumpster:

An almost intact turkey carcass.

Looks like they sliced off the juciest white meat, then dumped the rest.

That whirring noise and unearthly moaning that New Yorkers may be wondering about are the remains of my grandmother, spinning at high speed and shrieking Soup! Sandwiches! Several meals worth of leftovers! What are you, dopey?

I picked off a few pieces for the dog, who on receiving them looked like she wanted to start a new religion.

#101 ::: Eve ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 06:58 PM:

The stomach flu victim's Thanksgiving: one bowl of congee made with chicken broth and ginger slices.

It was really good congee, but still...

#102 ::: cafl ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 07:00 PM:

About Christmas dinner, we never have had a fixed menu. However, last year I decided to make duck, and used Julia Child and Company Cookbook's "duck ragout with 20 cloves of garlic" recipe. It was so outrageously good that my family has declared a new tradition.

As for turkey leftovers, I always cut half the turkey off the bone in a big hunk as soon as it's cool enough to carve, and immediately freeze it in 2-4 big chunks. Thus there isn't too much meat left over after Thanksgiving, and several wonderful easy meals lie ahead when you crave turkey again. Plus, the carcass is ready to go into the stock pot as soon as dinner is over. Yum! Turkey soup.

#103 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 07:16 PM:

Last night's turkey was in a roasting bag. It works, why not?

Stefan: my parents were born in the UK during WW2. Even now the memories of rationing still have a perceptible effect on European attitudes to the frivolous waste of food; particularly with those who grew up with rationing, and their children. My reaction on reading your post about your neighbours' trash would require disemvowelling, which is one letter away from what my instinct is to do to such wastrels. Such behaviour was quite literally a criminal offence when my parents were growing up, and the marks remain.

#104 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 07:23 PM:

The turkey went into the oven covered in bread dough and came out encased in baked adobe. Poor Uncle Bill had to get a sledge hammer and chisel to get the bird out of its coffin. I understand the bird was very juicy.

This sounds remarkably similar to the classic Chinese dish Beggar's Chicken. A quick Google even unearths a variant that uses "bread" instead of clay for the wrapping (although with that much salt it's almost a salt-crust grill).

#105 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 07:33 PM:

Marilee, the Marie Callendar's stuff is darn good, so that actually seems like a reasonable way to do Thanksgiving alone.

We got kind of delayed getting the kitchen cleaned and re-organized, and shopping, due to my ill health, so we're doing Thanksgiving tonight; my turkey is about ready to go in. I do butter under the skin and baste, and my turkeys come out really well that way (even though I commit the sin of stuffing :D), so I stick to it.

My stuffing's pretty basic, just two types of bread (rye and white), celery, onion, lots of sage, butter, and a little orange juice. Sometimes I add walnuts and ground meat, but I didn't want to fuss with it this time. A large chunk goes in the turkey, the rest will go in the pan about half an hour before the turkey's done.

We'll be having the starches out the wazoo; there'll also be mashed potatoes and corn. And green bean casserole, but I cheated on that, and it's frozen (the Green Giant stuff's pretty darn good, btw). And dinner rolls from the bakery.

I imagine I sha'n't be able to move afterwards.

#106 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 07:58 PM:

loosen skin, rub flesh w/olive oil first, then kosher salt, pepper and either rosemary and garlic or sage and chopped onions, depending how traditional you are about thanksgiving turkey. If the former, fill cavity with white wine or marsala and sew or skewer. If the later, fill the cavity with sherry or beer and sew or skewer.

Either way, sausage, mixed nut, kasha and scallion cornbread dressing is always appropriate. Dried cranberries if you must.

#107 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 07:59 PM:

Stefan: One could probably call up two dozen writers, spreading the styles and genres as far as possible, and ask each for a story of, say, five thousand words or less on how that turkey came to be in that condition. (Rufus Wainwright could do "Dead Turkey in the Middle of the Road.")

I am not suggesting that this should happen, mind you, my commercial sense being somewhere about three carlengths plus a double semi behind Cousin Edsel's.* But just to make some kind of point or other, suppose we desecrate Ogden Nash's memory once more:

O holiday, O holiday
O how we do adore thee;
We find, each in our pleasant way
A manner to ignore thee.

The children gathered round the box
With pixels shrill and violent,
While we had bourbons on the rocks
And drank them, wholly silent.

(How could we know, this Macy's Day,
A float had quite escapéd.
It happened many streets away,
All that we saw was tapéd.)

When suddenly we heard a sound
A noise of stormy weather;
This many floors above the ground,
Con Ed, we thought together.

But when we looked into the back,
There was an apparition:
A turkey, on a roasting rack,
In lightly broiled condition.

We never saw the bird before,
We never made its stuffing;
It wasn't saying "Nevermore,"
It wasn't saying nothing.

Then Uncle Herbert said, "I'm rude,
But I'd like early dinner."
The thin acceptance he'd accrued
Unlike him, got much thinner.

He cut into the breast with care
And made a choice selection,
As everybody gathered there
Looked in some odd direction.

He found some bread, he found some beer,
Got cutlery and fixin's
For god's sake, we're New Yorkers here
We don't know what's in our kitchens.

Nobody else could say a word,
All tongues were slack and listless;
"You serve a guy a darn fine bird,
I'll see you all at Christmas."

Then Herbert went upon his way
A smile across his jowls,
The carving knife all ready lay,
But we've got all-white towels.

I got the tongs, I took it out,
I didn't stop for wrapping;
But nights now, in the hours of doubt,
I think I hear it flapping.

*No, he isn't really.

#108 ::: Nomie ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 08:29 PM:

Nicely done, Mike.

We do Thanksgiving on the day itself with my dad's cousin, who emigrated from Spain about eight years ago, and her husband and daughter. We bring apple pie and homemade cranberry sauce. Then we do our own turkey on Friday.

Tonight's menu was turkey, mashed potatoes, mashed rutabaga and carrot, mushy green peas, two kinds of stuffing, two kinds of cranberry sauce, and rolls. It was an experimenting year; the cornbread stuffing went over well, but the cranberry chutney was panned.

And for dessert, sweet potato and apple pies. I made two of the latter from scratch - one for yesterday and one for tonight - and received rave reviews.

#109 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 08:39 PM:

Marilee, have you tried Marie Callendar's chocolate cream pie? Is it any good?

#110 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 09:04 PM:

"My reaction on reading your post about your neighbours' trash would require disemvowelling."

Tell me about it. The thought of that carcass going to waste led me to further salvage:

When I walked Kira this afternoon, she made a beeline for what, if she thought in words, she will for many weeks think of as "turkey dumpster."

I was prepared this time, with a steak knife and a plastic container.


* It was a nicely prepared bird. Not raw or burned.

* It was stuffed with vegetables, not skillfully cut, and apparently untouched.

* Not one piece of the "dark meat" was touched. (You know that old WB cartoon gag where an entire tree is chopped down to produce a single toothpick? I'm reminded of that.)

I whacked off enough meat to fill the container, plus perhaps half that amount of meat and fat and skin fed directly to the dog. If it wasn't raining and getting dark, and I had a cutting board, I could easily have filled another container.

The meat is for the dog of course. (She'll be getting a minced-up gobbet or two with her kibble for the next week.) Although, given it was a cool day, I don't doubt that the bird was in human-edible condition.

Maybe the coyotes who live in the Intel plant down the street will figure out a way to get the rest. No doubt involving an ACME catapult and a big net.

#111 ::: Beth Meacham ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 09:50 PM:

For me, the thrown-out turkey gives me images of one of those Thanksgiving family fights, which culminated in the dinner being chucked out the window.

The most interesting turkey prep I've ever done (and I'll do it again one of these days) was turkey mole. I made a lot of mole -- ground chiles, almonds, chocolate, cumino, other herbs which slip my mind just now, in a turkey stock. Disjointed the raw turkey like a frying chicken, and put it in a big covered enamal roasting pan and poured the uncooked mole over it. Then put it in the oven to bake for about 5 hours.

It was amazingly good. A bit on the sloppy side, but rich and spicy.

#112 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 09:55 PM:

Yes, I can think of excuses if the meat was poorly cooked. Or even the possibility that someone was sick (lot of flu at the moment) or fewer people than expected, and couldn't face dealing with the remains. But that sounds like someone just bought an entire turkey rather than a breast joint, and threw the remainder away.

#113 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 10:03 PM:

"...Maybe the coyotes who live in the Intel plant down the street will figure out a way to get the rest. No doubt involving an ACME catapult and a big net..."

Say, Stefan, do you live in the Albuquerque area?

#114 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 10:27 PM:

There are too many \organized/ people around here....

Last night was something like my 25th potluck Thanksgiving at a local household (in multiple senses); what we came up with this year was
- stuffed mushrooms
- tea sandwiches: cucumber, and blue cheese & Serrano ham
- roast fresh turkey (unstuffed)
- dressing featuring bread crumbs and grapes
- ecumenical chili (uncommon mushrooms, baby corn, ...)
- different eggplant parmigiana (peeled, breaded, lightly fried before casseroling)
- pureed squash with enough ginger to settle anyone's stomach
- mashed potatoes (real potatoes)
- sweet cider
- Liberty Spy hard cider
- Beaujolais Nouveau (DuBoeuf)
- Menage a Trois (Cab/Shiraz/Merlot combination)
- fancy-named Reisling
- apple pie
- dense chocolate cake with raspberry sauce/coulis/...
- pumpkin cheesecake
- coldwater-process coffee
And I'm certainly forgetting some things. The hostess exercises a degree of control (some balance between green and starchy and between dinner stuff and dessert stuff (which happens after we take an hour to cleanup and digest), but people do get creative. And we all had a lot to be thankful for, ranging from Pinochet getting nailed (for tax evasion, just like most other big-name criminals) to the hostess getting shoes that actually worked with her feet (we kept saying "sit down and let us do something" and she said "no, I can actually stand!").

And I'll add my voice to the thank-you's here; I mostly don't bother with blogs (don't need the time sink) but I've been hanging around here for five years.

#115 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 10:32 PM:

And I'm certainly forgetting some things
Like my mind, and what I brought: steamed broccoli served cold with vinaigrette. (Sometimes the cranberry sauces aren't enough to cut the rich, especially when heavily spiced.)

#116 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 10:50 PM:

"Say, Stefan, do you live in the Albuquerque area?"

Hillsboro, OR.

Intel plants must have some strange attraction to canis latrans.

(This particular Intel plant has a splotch of wetlands running through it. There are beaver and egrets and nutria and I'm sure other critters there.)

#117 ::: kate ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 10:53 PM:

People who speak of bags in ovens, in particular E Bear, since the other folks were talking about bags that appear to have been treated in some fashion--

Does this work in a gas oven? I'm rather worried about, say, the bag bursting into flames.

#118 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 11:06 PM:

Oregon, not New mexico, Stefan? I should have remembered that Wiley Coyote has expanded all over North-America. It's just that the way you described that Intel plant's neighborhood sounded like our backyard. No, we don't had a dumpster with discarded turkey in it. But we've had coyotes come close and give us a concert worthy of a New Age music piece. In fact our backyard at times feels like a WB cartoon, with white-tailed gwey wabbits sampling our lawn, and sometimes a whole family of roadrunners walking across said lawn a few feet from me.

#119 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 11:19 PM:

Thank you to whoever upstream (I can't seem to find the message tonight) suggested bailing the brine out of the food chest.

It's a good, sensible, and used suggestion. I admit until that point I'd been overly fascinated by the possibilities of railless decks, concrete backyards, and alleys with storm drains.

#120 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 11:21 PM:

I used to hear coyotes yapping and howling when I lived in the hills over Silicon Valley, but not up here. It was so damn cute; I was pretty sure I could make out the young ones trying to sing along, with high-pitched rough little voices.

#121 ::: Dawno ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2005, 11:52 PM:

kate - my oven is gas and the (pre-cooked)12lb. turkey was in a bag. It was delicious and no combustion occurred.

#122 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 12:29 AM:

My sister-in-law once raised three turkeys. Their names were Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's.

Better to buy (o rampart consumerism) a bag for the turkey than to use a brown paper one. These days almost all of them have recycled content - potential contamination blah blah blah.

No room in the fridge for brining? That's why the deities gave us ice chests. And ice.

#123 ::: Lynn Calvin ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 12:30 AM:

I cook a fresh natural Ho-Ka turkey, courtesy of Ream's Meat Market in Elburn, Illinois.

Several of my preferences are mentioned above, most notably cooking the bird breast down, quoting my grandfather, "cook the bird as it was in life" so all the fat on the back ends up self basting the breast.

I use an adjustable vee-shaped rack to hold the turkey.

I dry the skin, and butter the outside, stuff both ends with a bread stuffing (white & wheat, celery, onion, garlic, butter & broth with fresh sage and some poultry seasoning. For a 16 pound turkey, I roasted it 5 1/2 hours stuffed and it was almost perfect, although I should have left the 4 inch by 4 inch foil tents on the wings and the stuffing cavity skin a little longer.

#124 ::: Mark D. ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 05:36 AM:

And as the holiday recedes in the rear-view mirror, a last thought from John Updike:


Just the thought of them makes your jawbone ache:
those turkey dinners, those holidays with
the air around the woodstove baked to a stupor,
and Aunt Lil's tablecloth stained by her childhood's gravy.
A doggy wordless wisdom whimpers from
your uncle's collective eyes; their very jokes
creak with genetic sorrow, a strain
of common heritage that hurts the gut.

Sheer boredom and fascination! A spidering
of chromosomes webs even the infants in
and holds us fast around the spread
of rotting food, of too-sweet pie.
The cousins buzz, the nephews crawl;
to love one's self is to love them all.

#125 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 05:49 AM:


open up the Terminal and type the following:
perl -e '1.65 * log(19)'
...only substitute the poundage of the turkey you're working with for the 19. Then hit Return.

I tried that and it gave me no output. Just straight to the next command prompt. To be sure, I tried again without the spaces in the numerical expression -- same result.

OS X 10.3.9 comes with a Calculator program, however, that (in the Advanced view) does both log and ln.

Beth Meacham:

The most interesting turkey prep I've ever done (and I'll do it again one of these days) was turkey mole. I made a lot of mole -- ground chiles, almonds, chocolate, cumino, other herbs which slip my mind just now, in a turkey stock. Disjointed the raw turkey like a frying chicken, and put it in a big covered enamal roasting pan and poured the uncooked mole over it. Then put it in the oven to bake for about 5 hours.


#126 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 08:35 AM:

Coyotes in Silicon Valley? Heck, I used to see deer not far from the Orinda BART Station so coyotes mingling with computer geeks doesn't surprise me.

Hmm... You've seen them in Silicon Valley. You've seen them near an Intel plant. Maybe they're moving beyond the catapult level of technology.

The funny thing about coyote concerts is that they suddenly start, no preamble, no nothing, then they just as suddenly stop.

#127 ::: Elyse ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 10:30 AM:

And since it was Friday here while it was Thursday there, no, there was no techical support to be had from our backup solution providers in the US. And yet they do have people available on Xmas day. Most interesting.

Hi. :-)

A Canadian friend of mine recently observed (rightly, I believe) that the American Thanksgiving is, essentially, THE holiday in the United States, bigger than Christmas, and possibly bigger than Independence Day, because it celebrates what constitutes the most innocent version of the American psyche: spirituality, family, overcoming obstacles, and abundance in a new life.

He didn't put it quite that way (it was something more along the lines of "Celebrating both of your religions: God, and being American" which made me laugh), of course, but it's still a shrewd observation. I do work in a 24/7 care industry, and I've seen plenty of extraordinarily devout Christians choose to work Christmas rather than give up their Thanksgiving.

Regarding Stefan's: Turkey is a Christmas thing in the States, too. And Britain: The bird makes an appearance in A Christmas Carol ("What, the one as big as me?").

Another film menu switch: Scrooge sending off for a goose in my favorite version of the film (the 1938 release starring Reginald Owen). When it's my turn to host Christmas, I usually head for a goose and a combination of Victorian-era recipes and traditional Scandinavian dishes. Like lutefisk.

MMMMmmmmm. Fish mush. Yummmm.

Because my in-laws had an accident last week (all humans will recover, but the car, alas, is done for), I cooked the turkey and assorted sides and hauled the feast two hours north. While the bird came out of the oven bag quite nicely done, it had dried out after sitting so long before serving. Hurrah for the miracle that is gravy! I carved the bird, reheated it in the gravy, and everything was right with the world.

#128 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 11:48 AM:

I grew up in a family where there was stuffing and there was dressing: dressing was baked in a pan separately from the bird, and it had oysters. Stuffing got cooked inside the bird, and was oysterless. It was only much later that my mother went to the in-the-bird-pan method; she found it worked very well. But no oysters that way.... (She was from Kansas: oyster dressing is an old midwestern tradition.)

#129 ::: Janet Lafler ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 11:56 AM:

Years ago my dad saw a coyote trotting along non-chalantly on the campus of UC Santa Cruz. High tech, higher education: what's next for the coyote community?

#130 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 12:39 PM:

Janet, there's nothing unusual about nonchalant coyotes at UCSC (the nice fellow I married is a cook there, the firstborn just graduated from there, the second born is a freshman there, one of our favorite dog walks is just off campus, and several of our favorite mushroom walks are just off campus in a couple of other directions). Most of the campus is wild and semi-wild land. It was the Cowell family's main ranch (they had several), but while they ran cattle on what's now the Great Meadow of the Lower Campus (and where cattle still run), their main source of income from the ranch was cement, which they made from limestone quarried right out of the redwood forest and burned in kilns right on the spot. You can see them still when you wander around in the redwoods. What that meant was that the land was only lightly developed, and since the campus opened in 1965 it's grown rather slowly, partly due to the students finding out they liked what they found here and raising a ruckus every time the administration cuts a tree.

The result is: nonchalant coyotes, mountain lions, deer, raccoons, skunks, foxes, badgers, and eagles. Right outside the classroom door.

And armies of fat, fat groundsquirrels.

#131 ::: amysue ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 05:41 PM:

I took over the Thanksgiving dinner this year (Mom is moving to a smaller place soon and starting last Pesach handed me the holiday meal hosting role) and started the meal with a Curried Pumpkin Soup. I hate pumpkin pie, but knew that pumpkin's were going to be required to make an appearance somewhere.

It's day three and the turkey was apparently infinite as that's what's on the menu again tonight. Which in this house nobody minds, although most years we get Chinese on the Sunday after Thnaksgiving (to be repeated on Christmas day when we follow the age old Jewish ritual of Chinese food and a movie).

And thanks to whoever suggested splitting my bolus (though I think it was re the pump, it worked the same) of humalog. I did it on Thursday and my numbers were great, forgot yesterday and they sucked (though I blame the challah).

#132 ::: Janet McConnaughey ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 06:50 PM:

> and disgustingly gooey chocolate cake (no cheese).

If you'd been in a purist mode, you probably could have found a chocolate cake with ricotta.

As for measurement converters, I couldn't get it to do anything with logarithms, which I think I once understood vaguely. But the measurement converter at is geekery at its most wonderful. For instance, asking it to turn 25 miles into leagues gets you 8.333(repetend).

And then ...

Related Measurements:
Try converting from "25 miles" to agate (typography agate), Biblical cubit, chain (surveyors chain), city block (informal), cloth finger, ell, fathom, finger, inch, light yr (light year), line, marathon, mil, pace, point (typography point), rod (surveyors rod), Roman foot, skein, soccer field, verst (Russian verst), or any combination of units which equate to "length" and represent depth, fl head, height, length, wavelength, or width.

Sample Conversions:
25 miles = 1,134.02 actus (Roman actus), 1,100 bolt (of cloth), 63,360,000 bottom measure, 183.33 cable length, 352,000 cloth finger, 35,200 ell, 4.02E+19 fermi, 54,320.99 gradus (Roman gradus), 521,624.59 Greek palm, 1,584,000 inch, 8.33 league, 19,008,000 line, 704,000 nail (cloth nail), 21.72 nautical mile, 52,800 pace, 1.30E-12 parsec, 8,000 rod (surveyors rod), 217.82 stadium (Roman stadium), 25 UK mile (British mile), 44,000 yard.

#133 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 06:51 PM:

Tina, I like the Green Giant Green Bean Casserole, too, although I'd rather they put the fried onions in a separate packet because I like them crunchy.

Melissa, I've never had any Marie Callender pies, and I probably wouldn't buy chocolate if I did.

#134 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 08:15 PM:

I'm a chocaholic.
I HAVE had their pot pies. Those are delicious!

#135 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 08:23 PM:

This year, I had Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant with a good friend and his family. His wife was sick at home with Mono (a.k.a. contagious Epstein-Barr), and I decided to steer clear rather than stay with them as originally planed. So, dinner was a traditional American turkey with most of the trimmings served up by a normally Italian restaurant in scenic Paramus, NJ, with my friend, his son, his parents and his in-laws. I stuck my head in the door and said hello to his wife from a distance of about 30 feet. Selfish, perhaps, but I just can't afford to get sick right now.

So, this year, I'm thankful for not contracting another illness from these friends, as they gave me a whopping case of Campylobacter-based food poisoning last Passover. (New job, important meetings, and I was flat on my back for a week, delerious from extended 103 degree+ fevers, except, of course when I wasn't dragging myself to the loo...)

I've never cooked a whole turkey, but I have had good success brining breasts. My mom went for the bacon method, but she left the strips in place, making the skin even more prized. Turkey-baked bacon, mmmmm.

#136 ::: Rick S ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2005, 09:31 PM:

Excellent. Through the miracle of logarithms you can cook a million pound turkey in 22 hours and 47 minutes. The more modestly ambitious or less hungry can cook a thousand pound turkey in exactly half the time.

#137 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 01:21 AM:

We skipped the usual yams/sweet potatoes this year and substituted a butternut squash casserole in their stead. Quite good. Otherwise pretty traditional.

#138 ::: Stefan Jones sees comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 01:42 AM:

Bastids, they is.

#139 ::: Bill Humphries ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 03:00 AM:

@ Avram, David: perl -e 'print(1.65 * log(19),"\n")'

Perl will compute the result, but you have to get it out.

#140 ::: Squrfle ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 08:23 AM:

I'm a chocaholic.

Chocolate - the fourth food group!

#141 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 08:49 AM:

A million pounds is only four hundred and fifty four tons, so if you were cooking Apatosaur for the Nation ("skin and gut sixteen large bull Apatosaurs, removing the distal third of the tail and threading the neck back into the body cavity...") once you'd got everything ready, 22 hours in the large -- built with bulldozers -- clay oven doesn't sound completely unreasonable, especially if you fired the thing with rocket engines.

Serving it all will it was still hot, now that would get challenging.

#142 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 09:57 AM:

Serving it all will it was still hot, now that would get challenging.

The oven(s) should hold the heat nicely, and a whole (possibly stuffed) apatosaurus should have enough mass to hold heat also; I'd think you'd have a day at least to serve it in. Of course, the last bits might be overcooked.

I think I'd go for the gingered mammoth myself.

#143 ::: Barry R ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 10:41 AM:

So many great variations on turkey! After being in charge for over 30 years I am firmly in the baste often/start with butter school. Brining seems to preclude stuffing as some have noted. Sorry, but the stuffing inside the turkey is exponentially better than cooked in a dish on the side. We had a great yam cassarole with chipotle adobo sauce gently adding a smokey flavor - pretty hot the second day though. Next year we plan seeded dried chipotles for the sauce to cut the heat. Stuffing was a cornbread concoction with green chiles (Anaheim), pine nuts and raisons soaked in Tequila. Yup, Santa Fe this year. I'm surprised that there has been no mention concerning leftovers, of the celestial grilled turkey sandwiches, which I have always thought were the main reason for roasting the turkey in the first place. Grilled to heat white meat, thinly sliced onion, grilled or not, cranberry sauce -I prefer the raw with orange- and mayo, all grilled on a nice pliant white bread until golden brown, oh for many more days of the same.

#144 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 11:17 AM:

all grilled on a nice pliant white bread until golden brown, oh for many more days of the same.

Now I know what to do with that danged George Foreman device Santa gave me last year.

In my neck of the Sierra Nevada, coyotes (pr. ki-yots) are particularly abundant. Oddly, though, I never hear them in choruses here. Instead, the only aural sign of their presence comes from frenzied neighbors' dogs that have detected them in the area, or from a short burst of banshee-liked screeches that indicates the coyotes have found a rodent -- or a housepet -- away from cover.

#145 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 12:22 PM:

celestial grilled turkey sandwiches, which I have always thought were the main reason for roasting the turkey in the first place.


Second reason: soup stock!

The only thing I can think of that has more pride-of-accomplishment than roasting a turkey is giving birth.

Me, I have a nip of something and leave all the labor to someone else.

#146 ::: claire ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 02:20 PM:

And for me, there is nothing that announces the start of the holidays like the smell of turkey soup in the making on the Sunday after the holiday.

I may even get ambitious and make my mom's fruitcake this week. Yeah I know, people, fruitcake, yuck. But hers is more medieval than anything else, no red or green thingies and you have to make it this week so you can soak it in an entire bottle of good sherry before Boxing Day. Yep, I think I will make the thing...


#147 ::: cmk ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 02:30 PM:

Second reason: soup stock!

Yup. My one regret for the pretty-near-ambrosial braised pork shoulder with cider and caramelized onions we did this year: no turkey bones.

As to stuffing/dressing cooked outside the bird: top the casserole (before topping with the lid) with a turkey wing or thigh. (What, because we had pork we were going to pass up the turkey stuffing?)

#148 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 02:37 PM:

Here's a Hawaiian/Chinese use of turkey stock; makes a great soup (called Jook).

#149 ::: LeslieS ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 04:45 PM:

turkey tortellini soup - best use of leftover turkey!

#150 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 04:58 PM:

Melissa, after another night up pulling muscles by coughing, I gave in and got some guainefesen. As long as I was at the Giant, I got this week's groceries, too, and wandered down the frozen sweet goods aisle. There were four types of Marie Callender (right spelling, by the way, I think people are corrupted by calendar) pies -- Apple, Dutch Apple, Razzleberry, and Chocolate Satin. I briefly considered buying one, but it would likely start growing stuff before I finished it.

I buy the Mrs. Smith's pie slices (as long as Edwards puts the fish and bible verses on their packages, they don't get my money).

I used to get the MC pot pies, but Pepperidge Farm came out with frozen pot pies and I like those better.

#151 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 07:42 PM:

Anybody here have experience making hard cider? I keep making pies, Waldorf salad, slices dipped in dulche de leche, sweet cider, apples fried with onions, oatmeal cookies with apple filling, and on and on, and it gets later in the year, and the raccoons and crows do their share, and the damned tree keeps taunting me with more and more perfectly good apples and my compost heap is almost over the top.

I have an annoying juicer and two three-gallon carboys which do not have plum wine in them this year because my plum tree was seized by dispair.

Googling is getting me unsatisfactory methods.

#152 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 08:11 PM:

I've never used a juicer -- not having an apple tree -- but if you can get the juice, all you need is some champagne yeast, mixed in the usual warm water way. (Not using tap water, or any other chlorinated water, is important.)

If the apples are particularly tart, or if the more carbonated results are to your taste, you can put some honey in, dissolved; a kilo to a litre of water is usually about right, and if you wind up with as much honey water, or nearly, as apple juice you get apple mead instead of hard cider. (You can go to about two liters of water per kilo if you want to thin the whole thing out a bit, as is sometimes desirable with apples that have lots of pectin.)

The really basic version for hard cider is a half packet of champagne yeast into a gallon plastic jug with either a balloon over the mouth or a pinhole in the handle (which you tape over when it stops hissing) to deal with the outgassing, but that isn't likely to have really good results.

So if I was going for six gallons, I'd want five gallons of apply juice, two litres of (spring, distilled...) water with two kilos of honey dissolved in it (two and a half pounds in a half gallon) and to put the champagne yeast in when the result of putting the honey water in the apple juice in was only warm, and not hot, then the usual gas locks.

Adding honey isn't really required; you can put champagne yeast in the cider and see what happens, too, but I found that some more sugar and some water were a big help in getting something that didn't have one good day, and heaven help you if you missed it.

#153 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2005, 09:08 PM:

Hm, I'm grateful MC doesn't sell pie by the slice. I suspect I'd acquire yet another bad eating habit.

I've never been tempted by store-bought pie before, but I had to watch this darned Food Channel program on MC. :sigh: Start watching Alton Brown, and look where it leads...

#154 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 12:49 AM:

Bill Humphries: That works, although using the Calculator program or Google Calculator still seems easier to me.

#156 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 05:59 AM:

Lucy: I make no claims for this particular recipe, not having tried it, but the other ones I've attempted from this book (Homemade Root Beer and Soda Pop by Stephen Cresswell) have turned out nicely. The starter yeasts for the carbonation/fermentation process are whatever wild strains come along with the raisins; organics would presumably be preferable.

Harvest Beer (p. 78, lengthy preamble omitted):

4 lbs apples, grated
1/2 lb raisins, chopped
2 gallons cold water
2 3/4 lbs sugar
2" stick cinnamon
1 tsp whole cloves

Combine the grated apples, chopped raisins, and water in a crock; cover with cheesecloth and stir once daily. After a week, strain the liquid and pour it over the sugar and spices; stir well, cover, and let stand for 12 hrs before straining again and pouring into bottles. Leave the bottles at room temperature for about 2 days (all the previous steps were likely to've been at room temperature as well) or until sufficiently carbonated, then refrigerate them.

When I was still nursing along a sourdough culture, I had some success using it to make ginger ale/beer; the result was a bit cloudy, but still produced an admirable quantity of fizz and froth. Bread yeasts tend to die off at a relatively low alcohol concentration (~2-3% iirc), but since I have a low tolerance for grog, that suited me just fine.

#157 ::: La Gringa ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 07:28 AM:

Who knew you'd need a degree in advanced math to time the cooking of a turkey? This is why God invented Fresh Direct.


#158 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 09:00 AM:

Did God also invent the Buffet? On Turkey Day, it's just Sue and me here and it's just not worth the mess to try and cook even a chicken so we go to a Buffet held at a local hotel on the occasion.

#159 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 10:15 AM:

Julie, Graydon: thanks, but I'm looking for directions with a bit more -- power, I think: I'm not going to use wild yeasts, for example and while I'mm not going to buy a hygrometer at this stage I'm going to want to be a little more in charge of things.

Before dawn I remembered the brewing cooperative downtown but I don't think they're open today.

I just noticed, too, that the later in the year it gets, the sweeter and blander the apples get -- they were way tart in September, now they taste almost like a commercial apple, and I think I'm going to have to do some blending with boughten ones that are sourer (or maybe crabapples or quinces?)

#160 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 10:27 AM:

Lucy --

Cider is wildly dependent on the water content and the sugar content of your apples.

If you test for those after you've got the juice, you can do something specific right away to get what you want, but that gets into the 'reference text' end of things. I don't have those to hand.

"Tart" is tannins and other stuff which inhibit fermentation -- apples are a mutalist fruit, subject to selection pressure towards high sugar content and not being eaten by wasps -- and which generally contribute to vile tastes when fermentation happens anyway, which is why cider apples don't taste like much. What you're getting is an increasing sugar content as you get later in the season, so making cider should work better now than at the start of the season.

If you want apple sharpness, what the commercial cider folks out in BC do to get, for instance, "Granny Smith" cider, is make cider and put relatively eensy amounts of juice into it for flavour. If you make cider directly from Granny Smiths, the result is likely to be horrible.

#161 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 10:54 AM:

For the math-impaired with a calculator: You can get a natural log value of x from a common-log function: it would be [log (x)] / [ log (2.71828)]

(Things you learn well in comp sci, where you get a lot of the base 2 log.)

#162 ::: P J Evans finds comment spam on Jon Singer's Turkey Algorithm ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 02:40 PM:

Ah, liberal spam! (This one posts all over Huffington's site too.)

#163 ::: Lisa Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 05:15 PM:

I agree with someone up thread who sang the praises of "cooks illustrated". They have a thankgiving website with info about brining at

Even if you don't like brining turkey, gotta love the url :)


#164 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 05:19 PM:

I thought Dickens' bird-of-holiday in _A Christmas Carol_ was a goose, though, not a turkey. Am I just confused?

#165 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 05:28 PM:


The Cratchits' feast, depicted in the Ghost of Christmas Present's tour, includes a goose, but in the last chapter Scrooge arranges to get them something bigger:

‘Do you know the poulterer’s in the next street but one, at the corner?’ Scrooge enquired.

‘I should hope I did,’ replied the lad.

‘An intelligent boy!’ said Scrooge. ‘A remarkable boy! Do you know whether they’ve sold the prize turkey that was hanging up there? — Not the little prize turkey: the big one?’

‘What! the one as big as me?’ returned the boy.

‘What a delightful boy!’ said Scrooge. ‘It’s a pleasure to talk to him. Yes, my buck!’

‘It’s hanging there now,’ replied the boy.

‘Is it?’ said Scrooge. ‘Go and buy it.’

Scrooge goes on to muse that it is twice the size of Tiny Tim, which makes the poor boy awful small or perhaps the poulterer actually had an emu on display.

#166 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 05:47 PM:

Scrooge sends a boy to buy the enormous prize turkey in a shop window. "What, the one as big as me?" the boy says, and no matter how small he may be, a goose that big would be pretty darn scary. (Indeed, one imagines its ghost being led around by Jacob Marley's, to better put the fear of Thorstein Veblen in all the living.)

Around the middle of "The Blue Carbuncle," Sherlock Holmes tells a visitor that he prefers a goose at Christmas. There's probably a (penny) dreadful crossover yarn in this, in which Holmes investigates Marley's abrupt death ("You see, Watson, but you do not observe. The independent facts that the poker is bent near double and that the deceased has several deep occipital creases add to precisely nothing." [...] "Mr. Holmes, they were the clawprints of a gigantic turkey."), but let's not go there. Anyway, there is a perfectly fine such story: "The Adventure of the Laughing Jarvey," by Stephen Fry.

#167 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 06:16 PM:

Lucy, ask Darkhawk, she makes lots of things like that.

Melissa, I'm not a sweets person, so no danger to have pie slices in the freezer. However, there are no chips or fries or anything like that in the house.

#168 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 06:42 PM:

Scrooge sends a boy to buy the enormous prize turkey in a shop window. "What, the one as big as me?" the boy says, and no matter how small he may be, a goose that big would be pretty darn scary. (Indeed, one imagines its ghost being led around by Jacob Marley's, to better put the fear of Thorstein Veblen in all the living.) more bones were unearthed it became apparent they were "definitely geese of some kind". The fossils are located at Alcoota, about 150 kilometers (95 miles) north east of the central Australian town of Alice Springs. Murray said there were three species of giant goose at the site; two smaller types weighing between 150 kilograms and 200 kilograms, and the larger Dromornis Stirtoni, which tipped the scales at a massive 500 kilograms.

It's a pity that it isn't known specifically what they ate; they have really impressive beaks, but not conventionally carnivorous ones.

Mass estimates for the Giant Swan of Malta are lamentably scarce on the web, though I suppose it unlikely that the poulter had one for sale.

#169 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 07:09 PM:

It's a pity that it isn't known specifically what they ate . . .

Homo floresiensis. The last Dromornis fossil's crop contained fingerbones and a circular metal object, on which it apparently choked.

Some myths grow in the telling. On the other hand, "there were giants in those days" loses a certain something if you're actually talking about poultry.

#170 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 07:16 PM:

"Anybody here have experience making hard cider?"

Find your local homebrew supply shop. (Or go the mail-order route with the one in my neighborhood.) They will have all the gear you need for making commercial quality hard cider at home. There are all kinds of home-brew recipes that are really easy. Hard cider is one of the easiest. All the bother is basically in the bottling process.

You can use one-gallon glass apple-juice bottles as fermenters. Buy the airlocks and rubber stoppers from the supply shop. Use a sanitizer, and be sure the only yeast you are allowing into your must is the cultivated kind. Wild yeast will almost certainly make your hard cider cloudy and/or taste like sourdough bread. Not good. Sanitize everything. Especially your bottles.

Be sure you leave yourself enough time to ferment. If you want your cider sparkling, then bottle it like you would beer. Otherwise, just pour it from a ventilated pitcher. If you want it without bubbles, but you want to store it for any length of time, you'll need to kill the yeast with sulfites before you bottle it. You can get those at a homebrew supply store too.

#171 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 07:20 PM:

Giant turkeys... Wasn't there a scene about that in the movie version of Mysterious Island? Okay, it's wasn't really a turkey but one of those prehistoric birdies that look like flightless parrots, but the effect is close enough.

#172 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 08:33 PM:

Serge - you must be thinking of the giant chickens from Woody Allen's classic, Sleeper.

#173 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 08:38 PM:

Avian megafauna. Hmmmm.

#174 ::: Kylee Peterson ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 09:10 PM:

For flipping last year's turkey, I found that plain yellow dishwashing gloves provided the best compromise among protection from heat, protection from juice, and the all-important dexterity. (The silicone oven mitt performed pretty well, but the dex penalties are noticeable and there's only one of it in the house.)

For Christmas we do appetizers and desserts, and that's all. Everyone loves it.

#175 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 10:32 PM:

To bring Alton Brown back into it (as kitchen gadget geeks will), he speaks well of his aluminized carbon/Kevlar mitts, which will work up to 1200°, in case you need to deliver some carry-out to the Space Shuttle at the absolute last minute. My favorite lab-supply place has these (along with Class A hazmat suits, in case you've gotta work with raw chicken, and infrared pistol thermometers with laser sights), but they do cost about $70 a pair.

For a little farther down the temp scale, he recommends Duncan's heatproof gloves (, which are water-repellent, good to 500°F, and cost from $15 to $25 depending on cuff length. They also make hot pads and handle sleeves, and a pretty cool apron and chef's toque.

Looking around a bit, I see that Chuck Williams has "Orka Silicone Mitts," which sound like they're from Cooking With Skeletor but are clear, so they probably look really stefnal in use.

#176 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 11:33 PM:

Graydon: I'm working without references here, but from what I recall I would be surprised if adding honey in the amount you suggest does anything more than increase the alcohol content of the cider, especially when pitched with champagne yeast (which keeps chewing sugar into alcohol when other yeasts have been poisoned by their own waste). The sugars in apples and honey are completely fermentable, unlike those produced by mashing grain; commercial sweet cider involves killing the yeast, possibly early, and possibly adding sugar (see ingredients on most bottles).

I've had homemade cyser (fermented cider+honey); the one that was sweet was also potent -- somewhere in the teens where even strong cider is only high single digits.

#177 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2005, 11:36 PM:

Our local upscale department store (which may turn into a Macy's soon since it was bought by Federated Stores a while back) occasionally has Really Good sales, which is why we keep their credit card, usually virginally free of payments.

They had a Thanksgiving eve sale that included some really good kitchen things, including the Orca gloves for about $10 apiece. We now have two, and if you wear both you'll look like an alien landing signalling crew, one's day-glo orange and the other is same value light green. We also got a Really Nice roasting pan with a rack and accessories that weren't advertised (gloves, carving set and a therometer) for a net of about $17. And a small Santoruku (sp? one of those downturned nose knives that they use on Food Network) knife for $10. I got a larger one at the Leavenworth semiannual base sale, it's German made and really sweet (and $5, the girl who sold it to me acted like she was scared of knives), but wanted one for smaller tasks.

All in all a kitchen bonanza. Used some of it all over the weekend.

#178 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 09:36 AM:

My favorite lab-supply place has these (along with Class A hazmat suits, in case you've gotta work with raw chicken, and infrared pistol thermometers with laser sights),

Oh, John! Does your fav lab supply place have a website? Oh, please?

#179 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 09:41 AM:

No, Larry, I wasn't thinking of Woody Allen. There really was a giant fowl in the very unfaithful movie version of Mysterious Island. Nasty-looking too.

#180 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 09:41 AM:

The feasting is done,
The leftovers diminished.
What's for sandwiches
When the turkey's finished?

#181 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 10:50 AM:

"Does this work in a gas oven? I'm rather worried about, say, the bag bursting into flames." [from far upthread]

I'm glad I wasn't the only one thinking "Do not preheat the oven to Farenheit 451. . ."

from slightly lower in the thread:

For blacksmithing* , plain leather work gloves work just fine. I will admit that, when blacksmithing, you aren't really supposed to actually touch 400-degree metal- at least not for long. [I love the phrase "black heat", ie just below red heat, and have insufficient opportunity to use it. ] Leather gloves, at $10 a pair or so, are fairly disposable. And I have a not-too-burnt pair already- well, a clean new left one and a not-too-burnt right one.

*I have smithed three times. I really liked it but I'm lazy with my hobbies, and it's not exactly. . .convenient.

#182 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 11:54 AM:

Cooks Illustrated reviewed gloves earlier this year. It was interesting: the best gloves that they found weren't the expensive ones. (But then, any magazine that drop-tests measuring cups is thorough.)

#183 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 02:27 PM:

Lin Daniel: sure. Lab Safety Supply is at They have enormous paper catalogs (the "Safety Supplies" book is nearly 1200 pp, and the "Lab Supplies" is about as long), and I get them regularly even though my orders are quite modest compared to, say, KBR.

#184 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 02:42 PM:

Our neighbors came back from their Thanksgiving trip last night. They did something that involves deep-frying the turkey. This approach is NOT recommended if you might be under the influence, even slightly, as the risk of exploding flames is quite high.

#185 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 07:03 PM:

The local news noted that we had two deck/house fires caused by turkey frying on the decks.

#186 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 07:13 PM:

I'm not surprised, Marilee. The other warning given by my neighbors about deep-frying a turkey is to do it in the middle of the yard's concrete surface.

(I keep thinking there's 'meat' there for the MythBusters, who still have their air-pressure turkey-launching canon. Somehow, I love the idea of San Francisco's sky being criss-crossed by firebirds...)

#187 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 07:35 PM:

A friend of my mother's once told me the story of the first time her daughter hosted Thanksgiving. Her husband announced that he would handle the turkey, and decided to deep-fry it. He made a bit deal out of how this was the best method, no fussing about with ovens, a real man's way of cooking, etc. He chose to do this on the kitchen counter.

Sadly, it never occured to him to defrost the turkey. It was described as a very loud exposion, followed by a fountain of boiling oil. She said she had never before understood why boiling oil was a deterent, but after most of the family spent Thanksgiving in the emergency room with serious burns she certainly did. (No one was permanently hurt, I'm happy to say.)

#188 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 09:25 PM:

One year, my cousins set up their smoker and slow-cooked the bird - pretty much for a whole day. The results were amazing, and much safer than the fryer. Although frying does sound like fun, if done in a carefully quarrantined area.

#189 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 09:50 PM:

Although frying does sound like fun, if done in a carefully quarrantined area.

Thanksgiving, Infernokrusher-style.

#190 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 10:00 PM:

This is just to say

I exploded
the birds
that were in
the White House

and which
you were probably
for pardon

Forgive me
they were unworthy
so oily
and so aflame.

#191 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2005, 10:08 PM:

One should be aware of the size limitation of one's fryer. One year at Pennsic we had two turkeys to fry. The smaller was a 20 pounder. The larger caused what has been referred to as the Great Turkey Conflagration. A pillar of fire ascended to the heavens.

Fortunately, the fryer had been set up in the firepit, so no destruction ensued. Next evening's campfire was......interesting.

#192 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2005, 12:44 AM:

You know how my apple tree was taunting me with too many apples no matter what I did?

I went and bought the six-dollar English cider yeast and started to get ready, sent my firstborn to get the rest of the apples . . .

and the tree had been bluffing. There was only enough left for a pie (and some more apple butter).

Having invested in the cider yeast, I think I'm going ahead with it, further investing in bottled juice (local, Gravenstein and whatever else is there)

#193 ::: Dawno ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2005, 12:48 AM:

Re: the Orca Silicon Mitt (mentioned above by John Ford) Has anyone ever read the Amazon review by The Good Doctor of Devestation about the mitt?

#194 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2005, 06:33 AM:

"...frying does sound like fun..."

I don't know about that, Larry. I think my cholesterol level shot up just from my neighbor's description of the process.

#195 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2005, 08:33 AM:

"By the Turkey's Red Glare..."

(Heck, Ben Franklin wanted the national bird to be a turkey, didn't he?)

#196 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2005, 10:53 AM:

sky being criss-crossed by firebirds

ROFL! (and it could be any place's sky)

#197 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2005, 11:09 AM:

sky being criss-crossed by firebirds
Mmm. Tastes like phoenix.

#198 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2005, 11:28 AM:

Avian megafauna! Yum yum!

#199 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2005, 11:50 AM:

I made my tofu pate this year, as I do every year. This time the hobbit Thanksgiving group was split between Montreal and Hoboken, so I made a double batch. Extra-firm tofu, tamari, garlic, black pepper, carmelized onions.

#200 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2005, 12:22 PM:

When you cook an apatosaur, you build the fire inside it, don't you?

#201 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2005, 01:28 PM:

You'd probably need a smoke hole. And you'd have to do something about the undercooked legs.

#202 ::: LeeAnn ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2005, 02:45 PM:

re: silicone mitts - they make great gifts for people with arthritis or reduced hand strength. My grandmother uses them to open jars - the non-slip pattern provides great traction. Also great for spastic candy-makers like myself. Cloth mitts provide little protection from flying melted sugar.

#203 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2005, 03:33 PM:

For Christmas we do appetizers and desserts, and that's all. Everyone loves it.

That's new years for us but it is fantastic. Christmas this year will be brisquet.

#204 ::: Stephan Zielinski ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2005, 10:40 PM:

Re: building the fire inside the apatosaur:

Given that Deutscher won the election-- twice-- I'm picking up my 12.7mm SoniBronto and going after whoever shot it.

#205 ::: Janet McConnaughey ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2005, 12:03 AM:

Lucy -

After a couple tries, I found an Advanced Google combo that seems to offer a variety of hard cider recipes:

ALL of the words: cups brew
EXACT PHRASE: hard cider
with AT LEAST ONE of the words: tbsps tablespoons tbsp

Me, I almost always set Advanced Google to show 100 results per page, for faster skimming.


Mike -

as for how the turkey came to be that way, was it Thurber who claimed to have started a news story

Dead. That's what he was.


Oh, turkey, 'tis of thee,
Ben's bird of liberty,
Of thee I sing.
Stewed, roasted, even fried,
Stuffed or with stuff outside,
You've turned me to a double-wide
Who will sleep till spring.

#207 ::: jon singer ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2008, 12:28 PM:

Once again, I must stress that this is NOT my algorithm (!). It was worked out by the late Mike Fellinger, and should be attributed to him.

Cheers --

Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

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