Last updated: February 19. 2013 4:39PM - 661 Views

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The gourds and pumpkins are still decorating our homes. The scarecrows and ghosts have been replaced by turkeys. Thanksgiving and the holiday season are almost here!

For those who like trivia, Virginians claim to have celebrated the first Thanksgiving on December 4, 1619, at Berkeley Plantation located just southeast of Richmond on the James River. But most people associate the holiday with the pilgrims who ate their famous harvest meal with the Indians in 1621. They did not eat turkey. Examples of what they did eat are wild duck, geese (otherwise known as fowl), venison, cod, sea bass and some say even lobster!

Almost all of us will eat hen turkeys this Thanksgiving. Tom turkeys are four weeks older and weigh almost twice as much. And if you are in the woods and see a turkey, remember; only male turkeys gobble. Hens make a clicking sound.

Although the sweet potato was not introduced to the pilgrims, on our table we usually fine them prepared in many different ways. To settle the family discussion, The African word nyami refers to the orange flesh sweet potatoes. Yams in the US are actually sweet potatoes with relatively moist texture and orange flesh. USDA requires that the label yam always be accompanied by sweet potato.

Some of the more serious side of the holiday is ensuing that no one gets sick! Keep in mind these food safety tips!

Turkey Tip #1

Find space for a #20 pound turkey before you buy it! Food safety experts recommend only defrosting a turkey in the refrigerator. It takes approximately one day to defrost 5 pounds of meat. So if you have a 20 pound turkey, it will take a minimum of four days to defrost. That means it needs to be in the refrigerator by Sunday to be thawing for roasting on Thursday. If you do not have room in the refrigerator for that size turkey, maybe a 5# turkey breast would be a better selection.

Turkey Tip #2

Purchase a food grade chef thermometer. This type of thermometer does not stay in the oven in the turkey. You can check the temperature by pulling the pan out of the oven and inserting it into the meatiest part of the breast. Be careful not to touch the turkey bone with the tip of the thermometer. A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degree. For a brochure on how to use one properly, email mre2@psu.edu<mailto: mre2@psu.edu>.

Turkey Tip #3

Check your oven temperature. Experts recommend roasting a turkey at 325°, no lower. Use an oven thermometer to ensure that your oven is working properly at least 3 days before Thanksgiving! Once it reaches 165 degrees, take the turkey out of the oven and let the turkey stand for 20 minutes before carving to allow the juices to set. This will make carving easier.

Turkey Tip #4

Refrigerate any leftovers within two hours. Finish carving the turkey and if you plan to make turkey soup, refrigerate the carcass within two hours also. Taking any leftover meat off the bones will reduce the time it takes to cool the meat down to the recommended 40 degrees. Although this is tough to do with a house full of company, it is important to cool down any leftovers quickly.

Turkey Tip #5

Bake stuffing separate from the turkey. Some folks place the stuffing in the oven on 350 degrees right after the turkey reaches 165 degrees and comes out of the oven.

Call or email mre2@psu.edu<mailto: mre2@psu.edu> for a fact sheet on cooking a Thanksgiving turkey and or a copy of Penn State Extension Recipes for Thanksgiving. Here is a favorite muffin recipe from our recipe booklet.

Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins

2 cups flour (may substitute white whole wheat flour)

3/4 cup sugar

3 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon allspice

1/3 cup canola oil

2 large eggs or 4 egg whites

3/4 cup canned pumpkin

2 cups fresh or frozen chopped cranberries

Preheat oven to 400° F. In a large bowl, sift together dry ingredients (flour through allspice) and set aside. In a separate bowl, beat oil, eggs, and pumpkin together until well blended.

Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients all at once. Stir until moistened. Fold in chopped cranberries. Spoon into paper lined muffin cups. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Makes 12 muffins

For more educational materials please visit our web site at www. http://luzerne.extension.psu.edu.

Mary R. Ehret, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., is with Penn State Cooperative Extension, Luzerne County, 16 Luzerne Ave., West Pittston, Pa., 18643. (570) 825-1701/602-0600. Fax (570) 825-1709. mre2@psu.edu.

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