Thanksgiving Myths and Tips
The Thanksgiving Holiday is almost upon us. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, full of good food and friends. Every year we have quite a big group at my house. We typically cook 2 turkeys. One in the oven and the other Thanksgiving turkey is smoked outside.
As I think about thanksgiving, its hard not to think about the Pilgrims. Especially when you live so close to Plimoth Plantation. So I decided to do a little web search on Thanksgiving and see what I came up that I might share with you. At the End of this I will give you some useful information on how to cook your Thanksgiving turkey and share with you how I like to cook the turkey.
Here are a portion of that article…
Top 10 Myths About Thanksgiving
By Rick Shenkman
MYTH # 1
The Pilgrims Held the First Thanksgiving
To see what the first Thanksgiving was like you have to go to: Texas. Texans claim the first Thanksgiving in America actually took place in little San Elizario, a community near El Paso, in 1598 — twenty-three years before the Pilgrims’ festival. For several years they have staged a reenactment of the event that culminated in the Thanksgiving celebration: the arrival of Spanish explorer Juan de Onate on the banks of the Rio Grande. De Onate is said to have held a big Thanksgiving festival after leading hundreds of settlers on a grueling 350-mile long trek across the Mexican desert.
Then again, you may want to go to Virginia.. At the Berkeley Plantation on the James River they claim the first Thanksgiving in America was held there on December 4th, 1619….two years before the Pilgrims’ festival….and every year since 1958 they have reenacted the event. In their view it’s not the Mayflower we should remember, it’s the Margaret, the little ship which brought 38 English settlers to the plantation in 1619. The story is that the settlers had been ordered by the London company that sponsored them to commemorate the ship’s arrival with an annual day of Thanksgiving. Hardly anybody outside Virginia has ever heard of this Thanksgiving, but in 1963 President Kennedy officially recognized the plantation’s claim.
MYTH # 2
Thanksgiving Was About Family
If by Thanksgiving, you have in mind the Pilgrim festival, forget about it being a family holiday. Put away your Norman Rockwell paintings. Turn off Bing Crosby. Thanksgiving was a multicultural community event. If it had been about family, the Pilgrims never would have invited the Indians to join them.
MYTH # 3
Thanksgiving Was About Religion
No it wasn’t. Paraphrasing the answer provided above, if Thanksgiving had been about religion, the Pilgrims never would have invited the Indians to join them. Besides, the Pilgrims would never have tolerated festivities at a true religious event. Indeed, what we think of as Thanksgiving was really a harvest festival. Actual “Thanksgivings” were religious affairs; everybody spent the day praying. Incidentally, these Pilgrim Thanksgivings occurred at different times of the year, not just in November.
MYTH # 4
The Pilgrims Ate Turkey
What did the Pilgrims eat at their Thanksgiving festival? They didn’t have corn on the cob, apples, pears, potatoes or even cranberries. No one knows if they had turkey, although they were used to eating turkey. The only food we know they had for sure was deer. (And they didn’t eat the deer with a fork; they didn’t have forks back then.)
So how did we get the idea that you have turkey and cranberry and such on Thanksgiving? It was because the Victorians prepared Thanksgiving that way. And they’re the ones who made Thanksgiving a national holiday, beginning in 1863, when Abe Lincoln issued his presidential Thanksgiving proclamations…two of them: one to celebrate Thanksgiving in August, a second one in November. Before Lincoln Americans outside New England did not usually celebrate the holiday. (The Pilgrims, incidentally, didn’t become part of the holiday until late in the nineteenth century. Until then, Thanksgiving was simply a day of thanks, not a day to remember the Pilgrims.)
MYTH # 5
The Pilgrims Landed on Plymouth Rock
According to historian George Willison, who devoted his life to the subject, the story about the rock is all malarkey, a public relations stunt pulled off by townsfolk to attract attention. What Willison found out is that the Plymouth Rock legend rests entirely on the dubious testimony of Thomas Faunce, a ninety-five year old man, who told the story more than a century after the Mayflower landed. Unfortunately, not too many people ever heard how we came by the story of Plymouth Rock. Willison’s book came out at the end of World War II and Americans had more on their minds than Pilgrims then. So we’ve all just gone merrily along repeating the same old story as if it’s true when it’s not. And anyway, the Pilgrims didn’t land in Plymouth first. They first made landfall at Provincetown. Of course, the people of Plymouth stick by their tradition. Tour guides insist that Plymouth Rock is THE rock.
MYTH # 6
Pilgrims Lived in Log Cabins
No Pilgrim ever lived in a log cabin. The log cabin did not appear in America until late in the seventeenth century, when it was introduced by Germans and Swedes. The very term “log cabin” cannot be found in print until the 1770s. Log cabins were virtually unknown in England at the time the Pilgrims arrived in America. So what kind of dwellings did the Pilgrims inhabit? As you can see if you visit Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts, the Pilgrims lived in wood clapboard houses made from sawed lumber.
MYTH # 7
Pilgrims Dressed in Black
Not only did they not dress in black, they did not wear those funny buckles, weird shoes, or black steeple hats. So how did we get the idea of the buckles? Plimoth Plantation historian James W. Baker explains that in the nineteenth century, when the popular image of the Pilgrims was formed, buckles served as a kind of emblem of quaintness. That’s the reason illustrators gave Santa buckles. Even the blunderbuss, with which Pilgrims are identified, was a symbol of quaintness. The blunderbuss was mainly used to control crowds. It wasn’t a hunting rifle. But it looks out of date and fits the Pilgrim stereotype.
How Long To Safely Cook Your Thanksgiving Turkey
At my House, we always wonder how long to cook the turkey. Here is some very useful information on how to Cook a Turkey…
Consumer Information From USDA
Slightly Revised November 1998
Turkey Basics: Safe Cooking
Turkeys Are Cooking Faster Than Before
But “timing’s NOT everything.” Recommended cooking techniques must also be followed. A meat thermometer should be used to ensure a sufficient internal temperature has been reached to destroy bacteria and prevent foodborne illness — as well as to prevent overcooking.
Many variables can affect the roasting time of the whole bird:
- A partially frozen bird requires longer cooking.
- Dark roasting pans cook faster than shiny metals.
- The depth and size of the pan can reduce heat circulation to all areas of the bird.
- The use of a foil tent for the entire time can slow cooking.
- Use of the roasting pan’s lid speeds cooking.
- An oven cooking bag can accelerate cooking time.
- A stuffed bird takes longer to cook.
- Oven may heat food unevenly.
- Calibration of the oven’s thermostat may be inaccurate.
- The rack position can have an effect on even cooking and heat circulation.
- A turkey or its pan may be too large for the oven, thus blocking heat circulation.
ROASTING INSTRUCTIONS FOR SAFETY AND DONENESS:
1. Set the oven temperature no lower than 325 °F. Preheating is not necessary.
2. Be sure the turkey is completely thawed. Times are based on fresh or completely thawed frozen birds at a refrigerator temperature of 40 °F or below.
3. Place turkey breast-side up on a flat wire rack in a shallow roasting pan 2 to 2 1/2 inches deep.
- Tuck wing tips back under shoulders of bird (called “akimbo”).
- Add 1/2 cup water to the bottom of the pan.
- In the beginning, a tent of aluminum foil may be placed loosely over the breast of the turkey for the first 1 to 1 1/2 hours, then removed for browning. Or, a tent of foil may be placed over the turkey after the turkey has reached the desired golden brown.
4. If a meat thermometer is not available, cook stuffing in a casserole. Mix ingredients just before stuffing a turkey; stuff loosely. Additional time is required for the turkey and stuffing to reach a safe internal temperature (see chart below).
5. For safety and doneness, the internal temperature should be checked with a meat thermometer.
The temperature must reach 180 °F in the thigh of a whole turkey (center of the stuffing should reach 165 °F) before removing it from the oven. Cook a turkey breast to 170 °F.
6. Juices should be clear. In the absence of a meat thermometer, pierce an unstuffed turkey with a fork in several places; juices should be clear with no trace of pink.
7. Let the bird stand 20 minutes before removing stuffing and carving.
APPROXIMATE COOKING TIMES
- 4 to 6 lb breast…..1 1/2 to 2 1/4 hrs
- 6 to 8 lb breast…2 1/4 to 3 1/4 hrs
- 8 to 12 lbs…………….2 3/4 to 3 hrs
- 12 to 14 lbs…………..3 to 3 3/4 hrs
- 14 to 18 lbs……..3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hrs
- 18 to 20 lbs……..4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hrs
- 20 to 24 lbs…………..4 1/2 to 5 hrs
- 8 to 12 lbs……………3 to 3 1/2 hrs
- 12 to 14 lbs…………..3 1/2 to 4 hrs
- 14 to 18 lbs…………..4 to 4 1/4 hrs
- 18 to 20 lbs……..4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hrs
- 20 to 24 lbs……..4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hrs
For Further Information Contact:
FSIS Food Safety Education and Communications Staff
Meat and Poultry Hotline:
- 1-800-535-4555 (Tollfree Nationwide)
- (202) 720-3333 (Washington, DC area)
- 1-800-256-7072 (TDD/TTY)
Food Safety and Inspection Service,
Food Safety Education & Communications Staff
(202) 720-7943; Fax (202) 720-9063
The 911 Line for Thanksgiving Turkey
Butterball is the nations largest turkey producer. They have run a hotline for many years. Where you can call and get help. They are very good.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org now
Weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
CST (Central Standard Time)
The Butterball Calculator
My Favorite Way to Cook a Turkey
My Grandmother always cooked the turkey in a paper bag. That is a tradition that I have not continued. I found it hard to find Brown Paper Bags with out any ink imprint on them. I Prefer to Brine my Turkey for a 1-2 days. I create a brine and then soak my Turkey in it. Here is my brine recipe:
Brine Ingredients (Based Upon 20lb-24lb Turkey)
3 Quarts Apple Cider
4 Quarts Water
1.5 Cups Coarse Sea Salt
1.5 Pounds Dark Brown Suga
4 Oranges Quartered
6 Ounces Fresh Ginger
20 Cloves Chopped
9 Fresh Bay Leaves
9 Large Garlic Cloves
In Large Sauce Pan: Over High Heat. Bring the Cider, Brown Sugar and Salt to a Boil.
Make sure You stir to dissolve the sugar and Salt. Cook for 1 minute, remove from heat. Allow Mixture to Cool.
In 5 Gallon Bucket or Pan.: Combine the water, oranges, ginger, Cloves, Bay Leaves & Garlic. I squeeze the oranges and put skin and all into mix. Then Add what you heated into the sauce pan to this bucket.
Prepare Turkey: Remove and discard fat from Turkey Cavity. Submerge Turkey in Brine. Place heavy weight on turkey to make sure its submerged. (24+ Hours in Refrigerator) I do 2-3 days. I also fill up a one Gallon Zip lock bag wth water and use at the weights to hold turkey down.
Remove Turkey from Brine: Pat down with Paper Towel till dry. Lightly brush turkey with Vegetable Oil.
Then place in oven and cook. I prefer to smoke it. I put it in a pan. I add some water to the pan. Then use Apple, Cherry and very little mesquite to wood.
I always use a thermometer to make sure turkey is cooked all the way through.
I hope you have enjoyed this blog. May you and your family have a happy and Healty Thanksgiving
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