It’s all Ruthie’s fault. And Christina’s.
We were at Certain Man’s sister, Ruth and her husband, Andrew’s house almost two months ago. On Sunday morning, while we were getting ready for church, their youngest daughter, Charity, was responsible for lunch preparations. Ruthie sent her out to the garage refrigerator for “the chicken” that was to be put into the oven. Charity brought in the most naked chicken you would ever want to see. It was all big and white and just plain ordinary. She put it into a roaster that just a little bit bigger than the chicken was, and then Ruthie said, “Put a half a cup of water on it, put the lid on it and put it into the oven until we go at 350 and then turn it back to 275 for while we are in church.”
Now I was watching out of the corner of my eye to see what else they were going to do with it. And that was exactly NOTHING. Charity poured a half a cup of water on that chicken, plopped the lid on top and shoved it into the oven. No seasoning, no nothing. Just that naked chicken in a pot. I felt sorry for it. Well, maybe I felt sorry for US. Sure did wonder what was going to happen when we got home.
We went to church, had the usual service for that area of the country, visited with old friends, talked to some new ones, and then it was time to come home. We walked into the back door at Andrew’s house to the most unbelievably delectable smell you could imagine. It smelled just plain wonderful! We all helped to set the table and the food around, and that chicken– THAT CHICKEN!!! It was falling off the bone, tender, juicy, and tasted like it had been tenderly smoked over a hickory fire for hours. There were ten of us around that table and that one roaster chicken fed us all, not only adequately, but thoroughly.
Sitting around the table we got to talking about the chicken, and somehow, there mention made of a “brine” or of a recipe, or of a particular Farmhouse Cookbook that every cook should have, and eventually, someone got around to mentioning that this wonderful chicken that we had all enjoyed had been soaked in a brine that was made from a recipe in this particular cookbook. Ruthie said that they had put it into the brine on Wednesday, drained it off on Saturday, threw it all solitary into the pot and cooked it on Sunday. I was all ears. And all about obtaining this recipe. And all about finding out where I could buy the cookbook. I was really, (really!) interested in trying this method at my own house on some hapless victims.
And so, before leaving New York, I went to a store owned by a group of Horning Mennonites close to where another one of Certain Man’s sisters lives (Rachel), and found a Farmhouse Cookbook. Finding the right recipe was an exercise in wit and wonders, but finally I found the right one and discovered that the magic ingredient was something called “Tender Quick” that is manufactured by Morton. Only I had not ever seen any before. (Not that I had any occasion to want to see any before, but I digress.) However, I did think that if this store sold the Farmhouse Cookbook, it just MIGHT sell the Tender Quick. I hunted up and down the aisle until I spied it. They really did have it! So I bought a bag that weighed a pound and and I bought the cookbook, and almost couldn’t wait to try it.
Life goes on, I’ve come to notice, and there just didn’t seem to be a good opportunity to try out my wonderful recipe. There were several times when I thought that if I had only thawed out a roaster, it would be a good choice for a meal, but it never materialized. Suddenly, the holiday season was almost upon us, and I still hadn’t tried it.
But then it came to pass that I was going to have some people for lunch later this week, and I thought and thought about what to fix. Eldest Daughter was complaining that the fact that there was a surplus of turkeys in her freezer, so the other day, I broached with her the subject about maybe using one of her turkeys and trying out this new procedure. Now these turkeys were gifts from Burris Foods to their employees for faithful service, given out at holidays and I had heard Jesse saying that he had rummaged through the pile for one of the smaller ones. So, since this wasn’t to be that big a meal, I wondered aloud to Christina if she thought we could use one of those turkeys. She was eager to donate to the cause. I asked her to get it out at the end of last week so it would have a chance to thaw safely, and she and Beloved Son in Law were agreeable to it. However, because of some shortage of refrigerator space, they asked on Saturday if they could bring it down to our garage fridge. BSIL and Love Bug came in here on Saturday afternoon toting a turkey so big I did a double take.
“What in the world?!?! That is some turkey!” I finally managed to say.
“Yep, it’s a big one,” said Jesse as he struggled to lift it up onto the cupboard. I noticed that it was no easy feat.
“How much does it weigh?” I queried, dubiously
“I don’t know,” said Jesse cheerfully. “I tried to find out, but it doesn’t seem to be on there anywhere.”
I got ahold of neck of the big mesh bag then, and drug it over to the scales in the laundry room, plopped it down on top and steadied it. A whopping 29 pounds of frozen turkey.
What am I going to do with a 29 pound turkey???
Well, I got it thawed, and I mixed the brine and I put it into it tonight. I’m supposed to go out there every day and turn the turkey. But now, after doing all this, and having things moving, I’m reading all sorts of information, and it sounds like I maybe shouldn’t marinate it in the brine for more than 24 hours. Ruthie said 72. It sounds like I could have gotten by with a lot less Tenderquick, but I made things the way the recipe in the Farmhouse Cookbook says to make it. One of the sites says to be careful how much tenderquick you put in, or it might be too salty. I put in three cups of tenderquick for at least 40 cups of water. I think what the recipe calls for is 1 cup of tenderquick to 10 cups of water.
I am really feeling a bit anxious here. What if the brine is too salty? Or not salty enough? What it the turkey shouldn’t be in the brine for three days? What if 24 hours is all it should be? What if my company doesn’t like it? What if it doesn’t taste the same and I don’t like it?
And for pity’s sake! What am I gonna do with all them thar leftovers???
Well, for one thing, on this, day 13 of being thankful, here is something for which I am truly thankful. I’m thankful for the high-carb diets that some of my family are on right now and their promise to take the leftover turkey off my hands.
And I’m glad for Certain Man’s strong arms that have helped to lug that lummox of a turkey in its salty brine to the garage refrigerator to await the roasting pan.
Keep tuned for the next chapter.
But if this doesn’t turn out okay, it’s all Ruthie’s fault. For making this all sound so simple, and serving that wonderful chicken.
And Christina’s. For sending me that big old gobbler.
And yet, my heart gives grateful praise.