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by Haydn S. Pearson
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by Mary Lou Healy
In our corner of the country, we learn something new almost everyday. We know about Adopt-A-Greyhound and Adopt-A-Highway programs, but then there's Adopt-A-Turkey. A turkey, no kidding! And not for Thanksgiving dinner, either. Wattle they think of next?
The folks behind Adopt-A-Turkey are really out there beating their drumsticks for turkey rights. A turkey, the group feels, is entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of old age. In this pursuit, they need the help and support of humans who have room in their hearts for a turkey¹without gravy and stuffing.
Amidst all the Thanksgiving hullaballoo¹publications bursting with turkey recipes; Turkey Talk Lines standing by for your crisis call¹these people are lone voices crying in the wilderness, "Save A Turkey!"
If turkeys pluck your tenderer heartstrings, you may contact The Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, N.Y. and let them give you the bird. For fifteen dollars, you can sponsor a turkey. You'll receive a photo of "your" bird, adoption papers, and the heartwarming feeling of knowing that one more turkey will receive a lifetime of loving care.
Maybe there's something lacking in me. As a child, growing up on a farm, I never had a chance to bond with a turkey or to develop warm maternal impulses toward the breed. We've raised plenty of chickens, guinea fowl, ducks, geese and one haughty peacock, but never turkeys. My father always said they were too much trouble.
We did have neighbors who raised them. As I vaguely remember, they needed to be kept up off the ground for reasons having to do with turkey susceptibility to various ailments.
Those turkeys embarked on their great adventure by the hundreds come holiday season but in those practical times there were no picketers carrying Adopt-A-Turkey signs. Most people were just delighted to be able to afford a turkey for the Thanksgiving table.
But these are kinder, gentler times. If we're frank about it, these are also slightly kookier times. That some of these folks are sincere, I have no doubt but maybe some are also one kernel short of a full ear. At any rate, they obviously have time to kill. Perhaps their motto should be, "Kill Time, Not Turkeys!"
The possibility of adopting one of these orphans raises some interesting questions. Would the adoption papers be gobbledygook? Would a counselor check on whether we were nurturing types¹and vegetarians? What kind of quarters would be required for housing? (I prefer leg quarters, myself.)
Would our adoptee be traumatized by the sight of Pepperidge Farm Stuffing on my kitchen shelf? Would he be offended if we had any of his distant relatives over for dinner? On the table, not at it. Finally, will we be inviting a turkey for dinner this very Thanksgiving? You'd Butterballieve it!
"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven." I'm here to say that Tom Turkey's season is Thanksgiving and his purpose is to brighten the holiday for a lot of folks in our corner of the country.
Mary Lou Healy, an "umpteenth generation" New Englander, is a frequent contributor to our journal.
Food Safety For Thanksgiving
With all the time, effort, and planning that goes into Thanksgiving dinner, it's tempting to take a few short cuts when it comes to preparing the meal. But don't, as the end result may be a case of food-borne illness.
Karen Schneider, a regional University of Vermont Extension food safety specialist, explains that there are right and wrong ways to thaw, stuff, cook, and store a turkey. Breaking food safety rules can led to food spoilage or possible food poisoning.Thawing the Turkey
"Food safety starts at the supermarket," she says. "When selecting a frozen turkey, make sure it is frozen solid. Avoid buying a bird that is stacked above the top of the store's refrigerator case as it will not have been stored at the proper temperature and may contain dangerous levels of bacteria."
Schneider adds that thorough cooking will kill some types of bacteria but not necessarily all of them.
Fresh turkeys should be purchased only one or two days before cooking. Check the sell-by date on the label. The turkey will remain at optimum quality and safety for one or two days after this date. It's best to order ahead for last-minute pick-up.
Refrigerate your turkey at 40 degrees F or below as soon as you get home. If you don't plan to use it within 72 hours, freeze it.
"Keep safety in mind when thawing a frozen turkey," Schneider says. "The key to preventing excessive bacterial growth is to keep the turkey cold until the moment it goes into the oven. This means no thawing on the kitchen counter since room temperatures fall within the danger zone of 40 to 140 degrees F, which promotes active growth of bacteria."
Instead, thaw the bird in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. One word of caution: If using the microwave, cook the turkey immediately since the lukewarm cooking temperatures have started the cooking process.
Stuff Just Before Cooking
Schneider also recommends not stuffing the turkey until it's time to cook it although ingredients may be prepared in advance provided perishables like butter, oysters, sausage, cooked celery and onion, and broth are refrigerated. Wet and dry ingredients should be combined just prior to stuffing the turkey. Or better yet, cook the stuffing separately.
For safe cooking of the Thanksgiving bird, maintain a minimum cooking temperature of 325 degrees F. Cook the meat until the temperature of the inner thigh reaches 180 to 185 degrees F, and do not interrupt the cooking cycle. In other words, don't start cooking the turkey one day and finish it the next. This encourages growth of spoilage bacteria. Stuffing should reach a temperature of 165 degrees F.
"Refrigerate turkey leftovers as soon as possible after removing the stuffing from the carcass," Schneider says. "Remember the two-hour rule, making sure that food-turkey and all the trimmings-does not sit out more than two hours after coming out of the oven."