Hey! It’s November…time to talk turkey! Maxine, one of our faithful members has graciously come forward with her best effort regarding old dead turkeys and how best to deal with them!
We are so fortunate to have this information, particularly if we use Angel Food Ministries or have an EBT card from WIC or SNAP. Some of us are users of food commodities and some of us have goods from a food pantry. Still others are simply frugal and want the most for their food dollar-and who can blame them?
Here is what Maxine tells us:
“It’s November—let’s talk turkey!
I’ve got lots of good ideas, but I know you know things I haven’t even thought of…so, together, let’s write the definitive book!
I always buy at least two turkeys at Thanksgiving, when they are dirt cheap. Although we don’t normally eat turkey at Christmas, this is the time to buy the Christmas bird, because turkeys are never cheaper than they are at Thanksgiving.
If you don’t have a freezer, ask a friend or relative if they’ve got room for your extra bird.
Let’s talk first about what to buy. My in-laws, who were in the restaurant business, taught me that turkeys 20 lb. and larger are a much better buy because they have more meat relative to bone.
My mom taught me this: if the turkey is too big, have the meat cutter saw it in half for you. They can do this frozen. If the thingy that holds the feet together is metal, they can saw right down to it. When you get the turkey home, leave it on the counter for an hour or so, and you’ll be able to pull out the thingy with a pair of pliers before the bird thaws. Re-wrap and freeze.
I usually buy one big bird and one smaller one. Often I will cook a 13- to 15 lb. bird for Thanksgiving, and freeze both halves of a 20+ lb. turkey for later.
When it is time to cook the bird, what are you going to use for a pan? If you don’t have a roasting pan, don’t waste $5 on a disposable foil turkey pan. Discount stores will have roasting pans on sale that you can wash and use forever for as little as $10. They often have a rack inside, which is nice. If you don’t have $10, just use the broiler pan that came with your stove, and cover the bird with foil during part of the roasting time. I’ve done that a few times with great success.
I’m using the turkey pan my mom bought in the 1950s, and I expect my grandchildren will be roasting their turkeys in it, too.
Most turkeys come with a pop-up timer to tell you when the turkey is done. The one I bought last year didn’t have one, and I couldn’t find my meat thermometer. A friend who was visiting told me she always just follows the roasting times printed on the turkey label. That’s what we did—and that turkey was perfect! So don’t sweat it if you don’t have a meat thermometer Or can’t find it.
We’ve bought the bird-and an extra, too-and roasted it…what’s next?
Eating it, of course! Here’s to the big Thanksgiving feast, and many more to come! I’ll let you choose your own menu.
By the time dinner is over, you may find yourself getting nervous about the leftovers. Dealing with the leftovers needn’t be daunting. You just need a plan.
The first thing to do is to strip the meat off the bones. I do this while I am cleaning the kitchen after dinner. Some men are good about this—makes ‘em feel like Attila the Hun or Henry the Eighth–so if you get an offer of help, don’t turn it down. I try to remove the breast in one big piece. It’s nicer for slicing.
Once you’ve removed all of the meat you can, put the bones and skin in a stock pot, cover with water, add onion and celery, and simmer until the meat literally falls off the bones. If you don’t have a stock pot, use your roasting pan and make the stock in the oven. A big Crock Pot works really well, too. You might have to break the breast bones to make them fit in your pot.
When the stock is done, cool it and remove the bones, meat and skin. Skim the fat from the broth, either by refrigerating it overnight and removing the hardened fat from the top, or by using a gravy separator-one of those plastic cups with the spout coming up from the bottom.
- Pour off a small amount of broth and save it to make extra gravy. Just use flour and water thickening. No, it isn’t quite as good as gravy made from the pan drippings, but it’s waaaaaaaaaay better than what you can buy in a jar or foil envelope, and a heckuva lot cheaper. I freeze a couple of cottage cheese cartons full of broth for this purpose—another tip I learned from my mother.
- Pick the meat from the bones and discard the bones and skin. Use the meat and the rest of the stock to make a vat of turkey soup. We like turkey noodle, turkey rice, turkey vegetable…you name it, we like it. You might have enough meat for a batch of turkey and dumplings.
Sometimes I get started on the stock while I’m doing the Thanksgiving dishes, and sometimes I make it the next morning. Sometimes it takes all day for me to get everything done. No worries—I’m just puttering, not putting forth any serious effort. I’ve found the really important thing is to start dealing with it right away, before anyone has the opportunity to get tired of the leftovers.
You’ve still got a ton of turkey meat, right? Save out enough for another meal and maybe a few sandwiches. Then, before anyone has the opportunity to get sick of turkey, cube all of the leftover meat and freeze it in 2-cup packages. Why two cups? Nearly all recipes call for 2 cups of chicken or turkey. Thanks to PaulaF at The Frugalista Files for this tip! If you’ve got a small or extra-large family and typically use less or more in your recipes, that’s how much to put in each package.
I use quart-size zippy freezer bags for my turkey. You can make a decent vacuum by sticking a straw in the top, closing the zipper to either side of the straw, and sucking out all of the air. Pull out the straw and seal the bag the rest of the way.
In addition to Thanksgiving dinner, we will typically eat leftovers on Saturday and make clubhouse sandwiches on Friday or Sunday. Then we are done with the bird, until I start using what is in the freezer. Often I will freeze all of the soup, too, although sometimes we eat it with the clubhouse sandwiches: turkey, bacon, lettuce and tomato between 3 slices of bread, cut in quarters and held together with a toothpick.
I would hate to guess how much turkey gets thrown away in this country because people put the carcass in the refrigerator, eat on it intermittently for about a week, and throw away what is left. Shoot, I’ve done that myself! But never again. Now I view that soup and those packages of cubed meat as money in the bank. Especially toward the end of the month.
Just a reminder that you can substitute cubed turkey in any recipe calling for chicken, and that turkey makes excellent Mexican food!
Now it’s your turn to share more tips and recipes!”
Jeepers! Creepers! What a boatload of info! Even seasoned cooks can find many good tips in this message! THANK YOU SO MUCH, MAXINE! For those of you who have not yet cruised on over to visit Maxine at Frugalista Files, please treat yourself and do so today!
Mother Connie has some off the topic notes for you, as well. My good blogger pal from iamtheworkingpoor has a contest going on. I so hope you will cruise on over to HER adorable blog and get in on the fun! She has some interesting books that will appeal to those who are interested in living frugally as prizes, so please visit her at your earliest convenience, won’t you?
Well, we offer three cheers and a toast to Maxine for all her wisdom and for sharing here today. I just can’t WAIT to see all the tips and ideas the rest of you pour into the mailbox: firstname.lastname@example.org
Enjoy the ride, kids! Life is so short…
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