Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

November 21, 2012

Drucilla's Little Helpers: Avoid common turkey missteps

By Drucilla Ray
Chronicle contributor

CROSSVILLE — As I write my column today, one part of me is sad and it's hard to write when your heart is sad. We just learned that George's Aunt Geneva Eldridge passed away last night. She was a sister to George's mother, Auda Ray. She and I used to have so much fun together. We always shared a laugh or two when I went by to visit. Sometimes I would fix her hair or George and I would bring her a big mess of  corn and green beans.

So many times my children and I — then later the grandchildren and I — would stop by to visit a while. She always offered us something to drink or eat. She had that gift of hospitality for anyone who came by. I will always remember what she taught me about making fried apple pies. She used to sell her fried pies at the country store at the fair. She made the best.

We had family parties and get-togethers. we laughed and sometimes we cried, because it was saying good-bye to a member of our family.  She always loved to read my column and she would share recipes with me.  One of her recipes, I put in my first cookbook in 2003.  Today I want to share it with you.  Every time I make this, I think of her. 

Aunt Geneva's Microwave Meatloaf

1 1/2 pounds  of hamburger meat

1 can of vegetable beef soup

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 cup oats

8 saltine cracker squares

1 slice of bread soaked in about 1/4 cup of milk

1 egg

1/2 cup ketchup

Aalt to taste

Mix all together (I use a potato masher). Shape into a loaf (sometimes I make two small loaves if I am in a hurry and need it to cook in hurry). Put in a microwave safe dish and bake 14 minutes. If you do not have the turntable in your microwave, then turn in seven minutes. Check in the center to make sure it is done. If you need to bake longer, cook two minutes at a time until done. It took about 18 minutes for mine to cook. The last five minutes I spread ketchup mixed with a little brown sugar on top. This can be baked in a regular oven. Just cook a little longer.

Thanks for the recipes, Aunt Geneva, and thanks for making good memories with our family. We will miss you.

We are getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving and if you are getting ready to cook that turkey, I have some tips for you.

There are five common mistakes people make when cooking a turkey. The first mistake is defrosting the turkey at room temperature. As the turkey starts to defrost, bacteria will grow on the surface of the turkey. Some kinds of bacteria and the toxins they produce are not easily destroyed, even by cooking. To safely defrost a turkey, use the refrigerator. Allow one day for every five pounds of turkey. For instance, a 15-pound turkey would take three days to defrost in the refrigerator. In case you forget to take your turkey out of the freezer early enough, you can use the cold-water method. This involves submerging your wrapped turkey in cold water and adding ice or cold water every 30 minutes.

A second mistake to avoid is stuffing the turkey the night before. This is a mistake because the cavity of the bird insulates the stuffing and may prevent it from cooling to a safe temperature.

Another common error is cooking the turkey at a low oven temperature overnight. Cooking a turkey below an oven temperature of 325 degrees F is unsafe because bacteria can grow inside the turkey where the temperature stays below 140 degrees F.

The fourth cooking method to avoid is partially cooking the turkey the day before. Interrupted cooking may increase bacterial growth.

And last, do not cook the turkey ahead of time and leave it whole in the refrigerator. Cooking a turkey ahead of time is fine. However, a cooked turkey is too big to cool quickly enough in a home refrigerator.

Instead, cook the turkey a day or two before the holiday, using a meat thermometer to make sure the turkey reaches 180 degrees F (stuffing should reach 165 F). Remove stuffing immediately after taking the turkey out of the oven. Before carving, allow the turkey to sit for 20 to 30 minutes to let the juices settle, then store the turkey slices in covered, shallow pans in the refrigerator. Reheat to 165 F before serving.

I hope these tips help you have a "food safe" holiday. Any questions, you may call me at (931) 839-2313 or email me at Happy Thanksgiving!