GO SMOKE YOUR TURKEY!
Thanksgiving Holiday isn't that far away in terms of planning for the feast.
I have a long time tradition of smoking a turkey for the holiday and although most of my extended family are not big "smoked meat" fans, there are enough of us to make it worth the extra effort. My favorite part is the Smoked Turkey Noodle Soup to follow. The apple sweet/apple smoky flavor is heaven in a bowl.
On Monday before make a tea of the apple cider and dry spices, simmer for 5 minutes, leave to steep, covered, for 1 hour and chill. This is used for the marinade.
I marinate the holiday bird in a brine of cold apple cider, sugar, salt, dry oregano, and dry basil starting mid-day Tuesday in a 5 gallon bucket in the 'fridge.
Early Thursday (read 4 a.m.) the bird gets rinsed and is set to dry while the smoker gets going.
I prefer to smoke poultry over straight apple wood, but it seems to get harder to find the shredded 100% apple wood every year. Sometimes if I don't start searching early enough I settle for a mix of alder and apple. Really, there is only a subtle difference with the mix and 100% alder is fine for poultry. 3 to 4 hours of cold smoke raises the bird's temperature to 90-95of and leaves the skin a beautiful mahogany color.
The cavity is stuffed loosely with 2 parts apples to 1 part onions, 1 part celery. Apples in 16ths (apple wedged into eighths and cut them in half), onions in the same 16ths and separate most layers.
Stand the bird on end and pour the pieces in. Don't pack them in. Two big apples and one big onion is good for a medium bird. Any extra goes in the roasting pan.
Slip some fresh oregano sprigs under the skin.
Take a double layer of aluminum foil and make a preformed cover for the breast. Leave some extra along the side to tuck under the drumstick. You may need this near the of cooking to prevent the breast from over browning.
Roast with 1/2 gallon apple cider, extra apples, extra onions, carrot chunks and other root veggies as you prefer in the pan, i.e., turnips, parsnips, rutabagas, golden beets, and small potatoes. No red beets. Plenty of veggies because you want some to go in the stock and some to serve.
Roast breast side down until the last hour. Flip the bird over and cook to 165of in the thigh meat. You can baste with the pan juices or not. I find little difference to justify the extra effort.
A remote thermometer is a great investment as it gives you the temp. without having to open the door which lets the heat out and makes the cooking that much longer. Your oven can drop 50o or more each time you open the door and it takes at least 20 minutes to reach the set temp. again.
Check to make sure the breast isn't getting too brown. Use your pre-made cover if needed.
When done [remove from the oven,cover the bird with foil and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes. Resist the urge to begin cutting or you will end up with a pan full of juice and a bone dry bird.
IS IT SOUP YET ?
Remove remaining meat from the carcass. Refrigerate.
Take the bird carcass, skin and everything else except any leftover potatoes in the pan and cover with cold water. Bring up to a slow simmer and cook for
1-1/2 to 2 hours, uncovered. Do not boil. This creates lots of small particles of protein that make your stock cloudy.
Allow to cool to a safe temperature and strain through a metal colander to separate out the big pieces then strain out the small stuff through cheesecloth or a flour sack towel. Do not squeeze out the towel. Discard everything you strained out.
You have cooked out all that nature has to offer.
Taste the stock. If you feel it is weak, simmer it to reduce the volume.
You may pressure can the clear stock @ 10 pounds pressure for 20 minutes for pints, 25 minutes for quarts, adjusting time for altitude. See the NCHFP.org website http://nchfp.uga.edu/ for details.
For soup you need the vegetables of your choice. Onions, carrots, turnips, parsnips, and potatoes come to mind. Cook to almost tender.
You need precooked al dente egg noodles. I like extra wide. If you cook the noodles in the stock the volume will be reduced by the absorption of the noodles. Your choice.
I think it is easier to control the texture of the noodles if I cook them separate and add them in at the last minute. I don't like overcooked noodles.
Add the meat. Season to taste. Enjoy.