This year I bought one of Martha Stewart’s turkeys. Martha seems to be slowly making her way into the food market, so I was interested to try her turkeys. Martha’s turkeys are described as organic (although not certified), pasture fed and humanely treated – three things that are important to me. Last year I bought an organic turkey at my supermarket, but it was not pasture fed nor humanely treated, so I jumped at the chance to buy one of Martha’s. The cost made me choke a bit. I paid $85.51 (including shipping and AFTER a $15 discount) for a 12 lb turkey. That is quite steep.
The turkey arrived frozen on the day scheduled. I left it in the fridge to defrost. This took much longer than Martha said it would. I got the turkey exactly one week before Thanksgiving and it was not fully defrosted until the day before.
I did a wet brine this year (last year I tried Martha’s dry brine). I used 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup salt, 2 oranges quartered, 2 lemons quartered, fresh thyme and rosemary and about 6 peppercorns. I added this to 2 gallons of water and brought it to a boil and then cooled it before adding the turkey. I ended up adding about another gallon of water to get the turkey completely covered. I let it brine for about 16 hours.
When we took the turkey out of the brine to get it ready for the oven, we realized it was missing part of a wing! Martha would NOT approve of this.
I decided to attempt Martha’s cheesecloth method of turkey roasting (which was described in the instructions included with the turkey). You soak a piece of cheesecloth in butter (Martha says to use wine also but I didn’t use wine). You rub the turkey with butter and salt and pepper it (I also added some fresh sage, rosemary and thyme). Then you lay the cheesecloth over the turkey and bake at 425 for 30 minutes. Then brush it with the butter and reduce heat to 350, brushing with butter every 30 minutes for 2 hours.
After two hours, you remove the cheesecloth, baste with pan juices and continue to cook until the turkey reaches 165 (Martha says about 1 to 1 and a half hours). Ours was done in about an hour.
I did stuff my turkey- regular stuffing in one end and cornbread in the other end. We got a little excited after we took the turkey out and it rested – we didn’t remember to take a photo until after we scooped out the stuffing.
This was absolutely the BEST turkey we’ve ever had. It was moist, tender, flavorful, and it just about melted in your mouth. I am sure the quality of the turkey itself played a large part in that, but I also think the brining and the cheesecloth added to the taste and texture. I will definitely use this method again next year. I would love to buy Martha’s turkey again next year, but I hope I can find a local organic turkey that is pasture fed and humanely treated instead (not to mention less expensive – the shipping alone on this was $30). If not, I might end up with Martha’s again.
One other tidbit – I bought a potato masher – one of those handheld thingies you smush the potatoes with (highly recommended by Martha) and tried that for the mashed potatoes. I was surprised at how quickly they did smash up with it. However, I did not like the texture. It was too grainy. So I quickly got out the mixer and whizzed it with that – then it had the creamy texture we like. So the potato masher was a failure!
Oh the potato masher! Making the mashed potatoes was always my job as a kid and I approached it with gusto, starting with the potato masher. Thanks for the fond memory!
My grandmothers never used mashers – always it was the mixer, so this was new to me!
I read this report with more and more admiration. I had never heard of the brine method of preparation, so will have to try that next year. $85 is way over my turkey budget so hopefully I can find a local substitute, too.
I still can’t believe the shipping was $30. But I guess it was second day air.
We got our turkey at a local farm. He was a pastured, natural turkey. The farm follows organic practices but is not certified. We paid 60 bucks for a 15-pounder, definitely more than a Butterball! I dry-brined mine (following a Martha recipe from last year) and it came out great, almost as moist as a wet-brine and less of the hassle. I’m so glad yours turned out well!!! Yay! A Martha recipe that went right! As for the mashed potatoes I use a mixer too 🙂
Organic turkeys just cost more, which I am ok with, but this one cost way too much I think. I’m going to have to do some serious research next year to find a local one. I did the dry brine last year but felt it left the turkey way too salty. I’m glad it worked for you!
We have also been experimenting with brined turkeys in my family (confession: I’m not actually the turkey chef) and I really like them; moister than regular turkeys, in my opinion. I really admire your ingenious approach with the double-stuffing method, as no one in my family can ever agree about stuffing; we’ll try this next year!
That’s some expensive turkey, there, Martha! LOL
I’m glad the price was worth the taste. Even if it wasn’t, you would have gotten a blog post out of it. But still…
I have a hand-held potato masher that I use for smaller batches of mashed potatoes but not for Thanksgiving. For the holidays, I always break out the mixer. I prefer the creamier texture as well.
the potato masher in out house is — one of the big heavy forks from my grandmother’s wedding silver, one of the few pieces that have survived into this branch of the family. we like chunky potatoes and it’s fun to use– and she’d approve.
That’s nice that you are able to use a family heirloom.
I’m glad it all turned out so well–especially with all of the practicing you’ve been doing these past few weeks. I’ve yet to cook a turkey. Weird, eh? I’m just scared of possibly ruining the main course on a big day. But I’m keen on trying everything you mention here, so perhaps I’ll do it on a non-big day and see how it all goes.
Turkeys are not hard. I know it sounds like I did a lot for this, but there wasn’t anything challenging about it really.