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Hardy Jackson’s Alabama

Mama’s perfect Christmas turkey

As we enter the Christmas season, many of you are looking back on a Thanksgiving and thinking, “I wished I had baked a turkey.”

You know why you didn’t.

Turkey baking is a daunting task.

The bird is big.

You have only one chance to get it right.

All sorts of things can go wrong. And if wrong they go, the blame falls on the cook.

You are the cook.

Full of dread at the prospect of disaster, you went out and bought one of those easy-bake turkey breasts, which are an anathema to dark-meat lovers like me, and passed it off on family and friends with a casual “a whole turkey is so, you know, passé.”

And everyone looked at you “that way.”

So you sulked back to the kitchen, knowing that you have failed as a host/hostess, and that those who gather around your table hope that come Christmas, they get an invitation from a more competent cook.

Well friends, and you are my friends, I am here to help you.

Knowing how much Alabama Living readers love recipes, Old Hardy is gonna pass on to you the method my sainted Mother, the Queen of the Kitchen, followed to make sure that Thanksgiving, Christmas, and even Easter, would be celebrated with perfect Turkey.

First be warned. THIS ONLY WORKS WITH AN ELECTRIC OVEN – which, being a member of the electric co-op, you obviously have.

Also, we have never tried it with a turkey weighing over 20 pounds. Might work. Might not. Don’t want to risk a big bird? Get one smaller.

Here we go:

The day before Thanksgiving, or whatever holiday on which you are feasting, thaw the turkey. Remove the giblets and save them for gravy. Wash and salt the bird.

Around two hours before bedtime the evening before the holiday (assuming you go to bed at a decent hour, like 9 p.m.) pre-heat your oven to 500 degrees.

Get out your graniteware baking pan, the kind with a lid, the kind your Mama used.

Place the bird breast down in the baking pan.

If you don’t have a baking pan, get one of those big old throw-away roasting pans you can buy at the grocery store.

Add one quart of cold water.

Cover the bird with the lid or with heavy duty aluminum foil – make sure whatever covers it seals the bird completely – and tightly. That is very important.

Place the bird in the 500-degree oven and cook one hour, undisturbed.

After one hour, turn the oven off.

Do not open the oven.

Let the oven cool completely overnight. Do not open. No peeking. Self-restraint is required.

In the morning, when you open the oven, the bird will be ready to carve.

But remember.

Make sure you turn the oven off after an hour. The electric stove will hold the heat and the turkey will slowly cook overnight.

If you forget to turn the oven off, and if the bird cooks at 500 degrees, all night long…on Thanksgiving Day you will feast on turkey jerky.

Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at hjackson@cableone.net.