My mother left when I was young, and I took over cooking holiday meals for our little family of three. At the holidays, we would turn into a family of 8 or 10!
In the 16+ years that I have been in charge of family dinners, I have learned a thing or two about a thing or two... and turkey is one of those things.
First off: Brine is your friend. I know a whole, raw turkey can seem gross to some people, but let that bad boy hang around for a while and you will be pleasantly surprised.
I use a big rubbermaid bin, or any one of those plastic bins with a lid.
Line it with three clean garbage bags inside each other. Into that, place your turkey. I usually leave my turkey frozen until 3 days before the holiday, and place it frozen into the brine. Don't worry about taking out the giblets or organs at this point.
In a medium saucepan, bring to a boil the following:
1 cup molasses (Not blackstrap)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup salt
2 tbsp black pepper
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs rosemary
a handful of fresh thyme.
2 sprigs fresh sage
8 cup of water
20 cloves crushed garlic
6 tbsp poultry seasoning
Set aside to cool.
Once cool, pour 2 cups of the brine over the turkey. Fill up with water until the turkey is half covered, and top up with ice.
Cover, and set aside in a cool place (garage etc).
Each day, Drain the liquid, and replace with another 2 cups of brine, more water, and ice.
This will keep the turkey at a safe temperature while allowing it to thaw, and the brine will penetrate into the meat, making it tender, flavourful and moist.
On the day of cooking, in a roasting pan combine 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 cloves crushed garlic, 1/2 cup water, and a whole bunch of fresh herbs.
Sprinkle with black pepper and poultry seasoning.
Lay your turkey lifter over this mixture and set the turkey on top of it. now, remove any giblets and organs inside the bird. Combine these, and the neck, in a saucepan of water on the stove and put on medium heat.
Roughly chop 5 carrots and 2 onions, along with 4 stalks of celery.
Place 3/4 of these veg around the turkey, and stuff some inside too.
Place the other 1/4 of the veg into the pot with the organs and neck. As this simmers, it becomes our basting liquid, which turns into gravy. Yummmmmy!
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Yep, 450. not a typo.
Meanwhile, rub butter liberally under the skin of the bird, and pat the skin dry on top with paper towel.
Tent the bird with greased foil. Personally, I like "Alcan" brand "Slide" tinfoil. Nothing sticks! And I use less fat.
Put bird in the oven, and immediately turn the heat down to 325 degrees. You will need 15 minutes per lb of turkey, so an 18 lb turkey will need to cook for 4.5 to 5 hours, and rest for 2 hours.
When serving, pour some of the hot juice over the meat, then tent the meat. This will warm up the turkey without drying it out and will keep the meat super moist.
Sieve the juice, and bring to a boil in a saucepan.
Make a whitewash of 1 cup flour to 3 cups water and stir that into the juice, whisking continually.
This makes the gravy!