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Preparation key to golden turkey

A successful holiday begins with planning, Mrs.

Wednesday, November 24, 1999

A successful holiday begins with planning, Mrs. Jenkins said.

Her week began Monday, when she took her 14-pound turkey out of the freezer and let it thaw in her refrigerator for the big day.

At 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, before her family gets up and dressed for the day, the oven will be turned on, and the first step to a successful Thanksgiving Day dinner will begin.

"I love to cook," Mrs. Jenkins said. "And I like to entertain. I’m 87 years old and I think sewing, cooking, keeping busy and doing things for others is what keeps me going."

And all of Mrs. Jenkins’s family will be satisfied with the day because of her experienced and perfected way of preparing the star of the meal – the turkey.

"When you get your turkey, the first thing you do is take the giblets out – they’re in the neck," Mrs. Jenkins said.

But don’t throw the giblets out. They can be used later for other traditional Thanksgiving fare.

Just set them aside, and wash the turkey, Mrs. Jenkins said.

"Wash the turkey in cold water," she said. "And I always turn it up to let the cold water run all the way through to get what I call the blood out."

Once the turkey is clean, dry it – a paper towel will work, Mrs. Jenkins said.

And if stuffing the turkey itself, Mrs. Jenkins said she has a special trick.

"I take some softened butter and salt, put it in my hand and I go up and grease the inside of the turkey," she said. "Then you oil the outside, with butter or Crisco. That’s what makes it brown."

Even though it is important to cook a turkey thoroughly and make sure it tastes good, appearance also plays a role in having a successful holiday dinner, Mrs. Jenkins said.

"I take the legs and tuck them under the skin at the tail of the turkey," she said. "Then I take the wing and put it under the back of it. That way, when you’re baking it, the wings don’t separate and stick to the side of the roaster."

Now the time has come to actually put the turkey in the oven, Mrs. Jenkins said.

"I start my turkey on 325 degrees," she said. "If you use a meat thermometer, you should let it get to 185 degrees. I don’t use a thermometer, though."

Without a thermometer it might be difficult to tell when the turkey is done, but Mrs. Jenkins has a way.

"When about four and a half hours are up, I take the legs of the turkey and pull," she said. "If they work good and are loose, the turkey’s done. I like my meat done."

But there’s more to a turkey than leaving it in the oven for four hours, Mrs. Jenkins said.

To make an attractive turkey, a cook must keep a careful eye on the oven.

"If the turkey is browning too fast, I put aluminum foil over it," Mrs. Jenkins said. "But don’t press it down, keep it loose over the turkey. If you press it down, it will touch the skin and it wouldn’t be pretty and brown when it’s done. It would be messy looking."

A lot of people also baste their turkeys, but Mrs. Jenkins said she doesn’t.

"I do keep an eye on it, though, to make sure there’s plenty of liquid because you need it to make the dressing and gravy," she said.

Cooking a delicious Thanksgiving Day turkey takes patience and time. And getting in too big of a hurry toward the end could spoil the final product, Mrs. Jenkins said.

"When the turkey’s done and out of the oven don’t take it out of the roaster while it cools," she said. "Remove all the broth from it while it cools in the roaster, though, so the liquid does not get absorbed while the turkey cools."

After the turkey cools, there is just one final step, Mrs. Jenkins said.

"I put it on the turkey platter and it’s ready to carve," she said.