Thanksgiving …hmmmm..where do i start?It is an American tradition which i have grown to LOVE.For the lack of growing up with thanksgiving,i have advantage of making my own thanksgiving tradition,from what i hear, see and perceive unhinged !When i hear my American friend saying that my mom always made this dish for us on thanksgiving or this was my grandmother’s fav dish or i remember how fun it was growing up with thanksgiving or we did this or that..i think of Holi, Diwali ,Dusherra,some of the indian festivals that i grew up with.
So this year,we started a “thankful” tree.I will admit that we were not able to keep up with adding leaves on daily basis but nonetheless we “Thanked” everyday for the bountiful of blessing that God,our Father, has blessed us with.We talked to our children and i would want to say that our children understood it.
Our pastor said,”Thankfulness comes after humility“.So our goal is to inculcate that in our children.We may or may not have more fuller ‘thankful’ tree in coming years but we are THANKFUL to OUR LORD in ways above and beyond,not only for the materialistic things but the non tangible things that we are blessed with as believer of the cross and the eternal assurance of salvation that we have through Him.
I happen to be the part of Ladies Bible study this year.Our Bible teacher Jane,shared with us during one of the study, as she gets up early to cook big turkey for the family,she takes some time to ponder and write all that she has been thankful for that year, while family is still sleeping in the early morning hours and the house is quiet.She has done it for more then two decades.Well,i did not get up early to cook up turkey like Jane did and i had too much in mind on thanksgiving day,so this morning as the activity had settled down,i decided to hand write the blessings and when i counted in the end,i had jotted down 41 blessings so easily.I will keep up with this personal traditions of mine i think :-).Thank you Jane for this jewel of the idea!
Next is food. I remember Indian Holidays with assortment of food.Most households have some common dishes.Similarly is thanksgiving.My understanding is when first thanksgiving was celebrated,Turkey was NOT the part of the meal but thats the part of other discussion.Today,Thanksgiving food is identified with EATING TURKEY along with assortment of common side dishes such as cranberry sauce, corn bread dressing/stuffing, pies of different kind, green beans,corn, sweet potato dish of some sort.
So we will talk TURKEY here :-).When i first came to know about eating this bird on thanksgiving,i didn’t know all too well about in how many ways this bird can be cooked.So i asked my sweet husband,who did grew up with Thanksgiving.He enlightened me by saying that he grew up with roasted turkey however he LOVES the flavor of smoked turkey. Thats when a new word ‘smoking’ was added to my culinary vocabulary 🙂
For years,smoker has sat on our back porch lonely.More then a decade precisely.I hardly ever paid attention to the big barrel.It was very intimidating to look at.So for past couple of years we have roasted turkey or ordered smoked turkey.We have liked them all.This year was our first thanksgiving in our new home and i wanted a change and i wanted it memorable in some new,some first time aspects.I don’t wanted to buy cooked turkey and i knew my husband liked the smoked turkey,so i was willing to take a chance to smoke it.So it all began.
My good friend Emily convinced me that the most delicious turkey she has tasted is the turkey her husband smoked.So i poked around for tips from experienced Turkey smokers,her husband and some friends who has smoked.Watched Alton Brown and Neeleys and spent couple more hour browsing you tube videos.I decided that i will do the trial run with small 7 lb turkey.
..So the trial began.I could not have chosen the WORST TIME for my turkey smoking trial.We had cold front coming and rain was in forecast.Little mercury dip may not be a big deal for those who get blizzard and snow regularly but here in Texas we are not used to of cold weather and by cold i mean 50F and below.It was in lower 40s that evening with drizzle.
I had already put turkey for brining and bought charcoal and all that stuff for trial smoking,there was no looking back.The day was full of activities with added doctor’s appointment (from cancellation) and long planned meeting a sweet friend.I cleaned that big barrel in cold night,hosed,soaped,washed and dried for more then 1 hour and SMOKED.HARD WORK PEOPLE ! This is what i learnt during this trial run.
- Please do not have your first time ever trial run a week before thanksgiving,you run a risk of ‘turkeying out’ your family.My husband had warned me against it.
- Make sure you know the weather forecast,more so if you get cold easily.I looked ridiculous ,covered top to bottom,cleaning with cold water.For the record,i am ALWAYS cold.
- Do not fill up your days with activities.Rest during the day,if you are smoking in the night.Waking up at 2 A.M alarm clock to check the fire was not pretty.
- Know your CHARCOAL.The type and amount you will need.Very important.I ran out of charcoal and my turkey was not cooked.
- DO NOT GIVE UP.
I was not super confident when the fire died but i wasn’t gonna throw away that half smoked the turkey so i warmed up the oven to 400F and finished cooking until temperature reached 165F. Result was DELICIOUS TURKEY.It had all the smokiness for sitting out in smoker and it was roasted to perfection later on.
So for thanksgiving,i was ready to put use of all that i have learnt from the trial run.This is how
- I decided i will NOT smoke turkey in the night time,i can NOT pretend to be nocturnal even for a day.So we started in the afternoon before thanksgiving day.
- We preferred Charcoal Lumps NOT charcoal briquettes for Thanksgiving smoking. We had used charcoal briquettes during the trial run.It took us forever to get the fire going and keep it going.I blame it partly to our inexperience and partly to charcoal. .All in all i wasn’t happy with the process and time it took us personally.Charcoal briquettes(easy start or any kind) may be the good choice for grilling hot dogs and burger,which takes only couple of minutes to cook.Not so much for long couple of hours of smoking.
- I am happy with charcoal lumps however i am willing to experiment with smoke lumps/hardwood in future.We used 16 lbs of charcoal lumps for around 7-1/2 to 8 hrs.Started with 10 lbs and added more lumps every every 2 hour.
- Mesquite and Hickory are popular smoking wood choices in this part of Texas.I used Mesquite Charcoal lumps.
- Wood chip(from fruit)such as apple/cherry adds extra punch to smokiness.I used apple chips soaked in water for 1 hr.
- Surface thermometer is must ,if your smoker doesn’t have the built-in thermometer and so is the meat thermometer.
- You will need partially water filled aluminum foil pan underneath the grates.It catches the juices and water keeps the juice from burning up.
- You must wait until fire stops smoking.It should be glowing red before you put the turkey to smoke.
- We smoked the turkey night before and kept it covered in aluminum foil.It was still lukewarm until morning.Before the guest arrived.I put it in oven at 400F for an hour and double checked the temperature using meat thermometer.
- If you think your turkey is not smoked-cooked completely,transfer it to the oven, to finish cooking.It works wonderfully.You get the smoky flavor and you are not worried about uncooked meat,if it is taking too long of a time.I will use this strategy if i have bigger then 15 lb turkey.
- Smoking may sound long and intimidating process but remember you are NOT doing all the steps at once,there is LONG gap between each step and i may not smoke for everyday small amount of cooking but its worth the effort for big occasion like thanksgiving.
BRINING is MUST ,no MATTER if you are roasting,smoking,frying,grilling whatever.It seasons the INSIDE of the meat and keeps is moist.I tend to brine everyday meat (chicken),if i am not in hurry.You will not go back to NOT BRINING ,once you do.I don’t have a picture of this process.Lets just say,i had quite a day and i wasn’t in a mood of taking pictures.
- You can make your own vegetable stock or buy it and use that in combination with water.I forgot that i bought vegetable stock and used only water.
- Up to 14 lb is good turkey weight to smoke,i think if its big over 18 lb,i will keep it from smoking perhaps.