Crazy Jar Lady
Damn Dead Bird
Mom was a good cook. She helped me with the basics and let me run with it at a very young age. I never got the impression she truly enjoyed cooking, it was definitely more of an obligation for her. I still use a few of her recipes often (she wrote nothing down), the Goulash and Chili recipes are hers. I took over most of the cooking at home when I was about 7.
Holiday meals were definitely part of the obligation for Mom. Thanksgiving was turkey and Christmas was ham. Both were cooked the same way. Both exited the roaster oven with similar results.
Bird was thawed in the kitchen sink. About midnight on T-day morning, bird was extracted from it's wrappings, set in the roaster pan and set to cook. Until lunchtime. Didn't matter how big the turkey was. Didn't matter if the popup timer popped. That oven would not be shut off until it was time to pull apart what was left of it and put it on a platter. You can imagine what the texture and flavor of a 12 hour baked turkey was...... Remember that scene in "Christmas Vacation"? Yeah, almost that....
I don't remember what year I finally convinced her I could handle cooking the "damn dead bird" as she called it.
I knew I had to find a different way, so I used all the resources I had to prepare for a better outcome. I was pretty young to be calling the Butterball turkey line (as seen on TV) and I think the lady on the other end probably thought it was a prank. But she answered my questions and I took notes. I read the tag and the instructions on the packaging. I also called my Aunt for advice, she was a master cook. (This was before Google.) Bird was still thawing in the sink.
At midnight, Mom banged on the newel post at the bottom of the stairs (my alarm system). "WHEN ARE YOU COMING DOWN TO START THIS DAMN DEAD BIRD?" I'm not, Mom. I went back to bed and got up at my usual 6ish. She was right ontop of me; "WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO START THIS DAMN DEAD BIRD?" It's not ready yet Mom. She stood right there in the kitchen, in her nightgown, a frown on her face, a glare in her eyes. When Mom laughed, her face would light up and was so pretty; when she got stern like this, it was like a tornado was about to be unleashed. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO THE DAMN DEAD BIRD?" "YOU HAVE TO GET GOING ON THIS OR WE'RE NEVER GOING TO EAT TODAY."
I kept my cool. I greased the roaster pan, unwrapped the bird and took out the giblets. I rinsed off the bird and it's parts. I then rubbed olive oil all over and inside the bird and placed it in the roaster pan. I placed the giblets next to it and added some chunks of carrot, celery, onion. "I DON'T KNOW WHY YOU'RE DOING ALL THIS, I DON'T DO ALL THIS!" Dad was in his spot in the rocking chair next to the countertop. I then sprinkled some parsley and pepper all over the bird and veggies. I slid the pan into the oven and added water in the bottom. I set the lid on and set the temp on the oven. It was maybe 7am at this point. There were still some ice crystals from inside the bird and she saw them inside the wrapper. "IT'S NOT THAWED, WE ARE NEVER GOING TO EAT TODAY."
Cue 11am, D.D.B. is smelling pretty good. Getting a little golden ontop. Popup timer hasn't popped yet. I'm nervous. People are starting to show up with more food. My job was the bird, I'm trusting my research and the notes I took. My Aunt comes in and declared the bird done, popup timer has popped. She takes it out of the oven and starts to carve the bird for dinner. She made gravy from the drippings. Everyone else raved over the D.D.B. Mom ate a little bit of it but was just too afraid that it wasn't cooked long enough to "kill the salmonella". After that year, it was my job to roast the bird for T-day. Mom started eating the turkey and the year Dad passed away; she complimented me on it and we had a good laugh. To this day, if I'm going to roast any kind of poultry, I prepare and roast it this way. It worked and there's been no real reason to change it. And I still call it the "damn dead bird".
Fast forward a few years and here I am with a few pressure cookers/canners and some turkeys needing jarred....