I'll never forget the Thanksgiving when our family's turkey went missing. If it had been a living turkey then maybe my mother wouldn't have been so perplexed, but it wasn’t. The turkey was already butchered and thawed, waiting to be roasted.

Turns out my father had other plans for this turkey.

He and a neighbor had decided to inject our main dish with Cajun seasoning and deep fry it. Long story short, no one was really frying turkeys at the time and the idea of not seasoning it with traditional spices was considered very progressive. We didn’t know it at the time, but my father was a fried turkey pioneer.

My father was able to commandeer the turkey early that morning because my mother had it in the fridge defrosting so that it was ready for the oven. Cooking a turkey doesn’t require any special skill as much as it takes careful planning.

Here are a few tips to consider when planning your holiday meal:


Plan on 1 pound of turkey per person. Sure that sounds like a lot, but you need to factor in bones.
If you are buying a frozen turkey, keep in mind that for every 5 pounds your turkey weighs it requires 24 hours of thaw time in the fridge. The average turkey is going to need a minimum of two days to thaw.
Brining is definitely for the birds. Soaking your bird overnight in a simple brining solution will ensure a turkey bursting with moisture and flavor. For every gallon of water, add 1 cup of kosher salt boiled with fresh traditional herbs like parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. The average 12-14 pound turkey will require approximately 3 gallons of water, 3 cups of salt and a sprig of each of the aforementioned fresh herbs.
Keep the stuffing on the side. Too many things can go wrong when you stuff your turkey with dressing. Make a separate dish and use the drippings to create a flavorful broth to make your dressing.

I have fond memories of Thanksgiving when I was growing up. Each year my family never disappoints in making new happy memories, but for many Thanksgiving is a lonely time.

My heart always goes out to people who will spend the holidays alone, so imagine my joy when I learned of a group dedicated to ensuring that local people, who would otherwise be alone during the holidays, are surrounded by friends, food and community.

Feed The Soul was established by Beth Duckworth in 2016 with the simple goal of feeding the homeless. Her mission and focus grew to include anyone in the local area who would otherwise be alone during major holidays.

This Thanksgiving Feed The Soul will be providing a traditional hot buffet of turkey, ham and side dishes. The buffet will be set up at 1 p.m Nov. 22 at Ferran Park in Eustis.

The meal is made possible through donations and volunteers. It is truly a grassroots event totally dependent on the kindness and generosity of others.

Ducksworth said the need always outweighs their efforts and that last year they ran out of food within the hour, so this year they are going to need twice as much. She is looking for donations of fully cooked turkey, ham and side dishes along with canned and bottled drinks.

During the Christmas holiday, along with food donations, they also accept toy donations for local children. Last Christmas they were able to help 17 children who fell through the cracks receive toys.

If you would like to donate or volunteer, call 352-409-0654.

 

Ze Carter is a food columnist for the Daily Commercial. Email her at zecarter12@gmail.com.