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Thanksgiving Turkey with Cornbread Dressing

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We are quickly approaching the time of the year to celebrate and give thanks with our families and friends. Giving thanks for me is not limited to just the holidays, but for the whole year. I try to be thankful every day. One way my husband and I show our love for our family is by planting a large garden. We are able to supply our family and others with fresh vegetables for the whole summer. Several fruit trees in our yard also allow us to share generously. This gives us a nice bounty and supply of beautiful and greatly nutritious food. We do not let any of it go to waste by sharing with others or by canning it or freezing it. We always work to find ways for storing it for the winter. This is part of our love for each other and why we give thanks every day for our family.  

Let’s talk about giving thanks for our Thanksgiving tradition. Our family has always had turkey stuffed with cornbread dressing. Have we tried to change up this menu? Of course, but we have quickly come back to the same old tradition. I’m sure for most of you Thanksgiving seems to be a whole week of cooking. I know it is for me, starting with making a list of what I’m going to be serving and then shopping for everything we will need. If I went through my whole to-do-list we would never get to the recipe I want to share with you today! 

Let’s get to the bird of honor for this Thanksgiving holiday. Normally I purchase a fresh turkey around 20-24 pounds, but there have been times that I have purchased a frozen turkey. If it is a frozen turkey, take it out of the freezer at least 2 days before you will be cooking it. Place it in the refrigerator and check it each day. After the first day, if it still feels hard, take it out of the refrigerator and put it in the kitchen sink overnight. By morning it will be close to thawed and can be put back in the refrigerator until you are ready to stuff it. A day before I’m going to stuff my turkey and make my dressing, I bake a 9 x 13 pan of cornbread. I guarantee that by the time you get around to making your dressing there will be a couple of pieces missing. Do I stuff my turkey? Yes, I put my stuffing into the cavity of the bird. I have found that when the turkey is cooked with the stuffing inside, the meat is always moist and never dry. The moist cornbread dressing will release steam in the cavity to help cook the meat while adding enough moisture to keep the bird from becoming dry. I also add a cup of brandy to the cavity and some butter before I stuff the cornbread dressing inside. Let’s start with the dressing.

Cornbread Dressing

1 large yellow onion, diced
6 stalks of celery, sliced
½ cup butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 9 x 13 pan of cornbread
1 bag bread dressing; remove the spice package
3 medium eggs, lightly beaten
3 tsp. poultry seasoning
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. black pepper
4-6 cups chicken broth
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
¾ cups raisins or 1 cup chopped apple (optional)

In a large skillet, melt the butter, then add diced onion, sliced celery and minced garlic. Cook until the onion becomes soft. Turn off the burner and set aside. In a very large bowl crumble up the cornbread. Open the bread dressing and add to the cornbread; do not use the spice packet. Add the softened onion and celery. Mix in the slightly beaten eggs, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper, pecans and raisins or apple. Mix and slowly add the broth, stirring after each cup. You want it moist but not soggy. Refrigerate until time to stuff the turkey.

Roasted Turkey

20-24 lb. turkey
½ cup butter, soft
Large roasting pan
Heavy duty aluminum foil
Turkey baster

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook the turkey 20 minutes for each pound of the bird’s weight. Remove the packaging from the bird. Empty the cavity of the turkey, removing the neck and organ bag. I use the neck and gizzard to make my gravy. Put the neck and gizzard into a quart pan of water and bring to a boil, turn it down and let simmer for 20 minutes. Set aside to use for gravy. Wash the turkey inside and out. Then start stuffing the bird under the neck flap.  Put 2 tablespoons of soft butter into the neck area, pour ½ cup brandy in the neck area and then fill with cornbread dressing. Gently flip over the turkey, add 2 more tablespoons of butter into the cavity and pour 1 cup of brandy in the cavity. Stuff with cornbread. Tie the legs to help hold in the dressing. Line your roasting pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil and gently add the turkey to the pan breast side up. Rub the remaining soft butter over the entire breast. You can sprinkle with additional salt and pepper at this time. Seal the foil and place into a 375-degree oven. Cook the bird 20 minutes for each pound of the turkey. After one hour, pull out the roasting pan, open the foil and pour another cup of brandy over the turkey. Seal the foil and return to the oven. Repeat this step after the next 30 minutes and again after the next 30 minutes. You have now created a great baste for the remainder of your cooking. Then baste every hour until the bird is done. During the last 20 minutes of cooking time, remove the foil from the top of the bird so that the skin will become golden brown. The breast temperature of the turkey should be 165 degrees. You can measure this with a meat thermometer.

We call this our drunken turkey. My mom used whiskey when I was a kid but I use brandy. It is moist, juicy and tender. Traditions are very important to have along with loving and taking care of your family. Even if my family can’t be with me, they will always be in my heart. Let me say I’m ready for some turkey this year. May God bless all of you and your families. From our family recipe box to your family, Happy Thanksgiving.