Category: How-To

What’s YOUR Turkey?

Image by Flickr user Joyocity

Food means so much to us, in part because it’s delicious and in part because it’s so intimately connected to memory. That said, it’s also where we do some of our most delicious experimentation! In the spirit of the holidays, we love a roast turkey, but we also wanted to know what the alternatives are (especially because we might have so many guests that we can’t cook all the turkeys in our oven) – so here’s a few cool different ways to cook a bird:

 

  1. The traditional oven-roasted bird.
  2. Spatch-cocked. We’ve never done this, but our amazing butcher at The Sweet Potato will always happily spatchcock a bird for anyone, so we’re strongly considering it.
  3. Smoked. You don’t need an official smoker for this, you can do it on any bbq big enough to hold the bird (even a propane grill!)
  4. Deep fried. I know that sounds pretty extreme, but I have family who do this every year – they just set up outside with a big pot on a propane burner (like this one), and basically just sit around, enjoying a seasonal beverage, until it’s done.
  5. Poached! It might sound funny, but it’s guaranteed juicy, nearly impossible to overcook, and it’s a tremendously convenient way cook a second-turkey without a second oven.

If you try any of these, or you have your own atypical bird-cooking technique, we’d love to hear about it!  Let us know in the comments, below!

5 tips for starting the school year off right

Kiddo starting school for the first time this year? Make this the best school year ever with these simple tips.

 

  1. The Lunch Gear

Many TDSB schools are eco-school certified and committed to zero waste lunches. That means if you’re sending lunches and snacks to school in disposable packaging, you can expect garbage, recyclables and compost to boomerang back home.

New lunch gear makes it easier than ever to pack exciting foods your kids will actually eat while cutting down on packaging waste. Our family is partial to the bento style lunch boxes where we can divide foods up. It’s nice to keep the wet away from the crispy, while also ensuring green foods never touch red, obvi.

James, our in-house butcher and Red Seal Chef, packs his kids’ gorgeous charcuterie platters with these lunch kits. While my beigetarians enjoy yogurt with fruit for dipping and hummus with crackers and veggies for dipping in theirs. Boring, but nutricious! 

  1. Practice Makes Perfect

If you’ve got youngins just starting kindie or grade one, now’s the perfect time to get those water bottles, bento boxes, lunch bags and containers. Lunch hour’s bedlam. Truly, it’s unbridled chaos. Make sure your kids are pros at twisting open that thermos, inserting that straw, and opening and resealing that container. They may not have help when they need it (and ensuring they know how to pack up the leftovers, means less of a leaky mess for you when it comes home).

  1. Allergy Safe

The Sweet Potato Toronto - look for this logo when looking for certified peanut free foods for schoolsAll TDSB schools are nut-free zones. So as quintessential as PB and J are, they should be reserved for after school and weekends. In fact, if a classmate’s allergy is severe enough, families may be instructed to wash hands and brush teeth if they absolutely must consume nuts in the morning so as to best limit possible exposure in class. Some classrooms will have to ban other ingredients too for the safety of their students. Look for a notice at the beginning of the year from your budding scholar’s teacher. Everyone deserves to feel safe at school. 

  1. Handwashing

The Sweet Potato Toronto - handwashing social story for kindergarteners

The start of the school year, very much means the start of cold and flu season. If this is your youngin’s first year at school, be prepared for the kindergarten plague. Our eldest kiddo’s first year, we were sick ALL. YEAR. LONG. To limit the spread of germs now’s a really good time to brush up on good handwashing skills (15 seconds, lots of suds, get between fingers and don’t forget the nail beds.). My kindie aged kids and I sing the ABCs as we wash up. And tucking a travel-sized hand sanitizer into backpacks is a good idea too.

  1. Setting an intention before bed

Not every student is excited for September. Even those A-achieving social butterflies, get butterflies at the thought of school a new school year. Simple mindfulness activities before bed can help tame jitters and make the next morning a teensy bit easier. And it’s never too early to empower kids with the understanding that they can control their inner monologue.

6. The Eye Test!

The Sweet Potato Toronto - get your kids eyes tested before back to school. It's OHIP covered

Aaaaand, a bonus tip? Get kiddo’s eyes checked before the school year! Annual eye exams for kids are OHIP covered, and if your kindie-aged kiddo needs specs, there’s a free program for that too!

You’ve got this kiddo! You too, parentals!

Looking for more Back-to-School ideas? Check out these posts!

School Lunches Around the World

Quick After-School  Snacks to Keep the Hangries at Bay

Let’s Talk Turkey: To Brine or Not to Brine?

Let’s talk turkey.

 

Often the centrepiece of a big holiday meal, it’s kind of crucial. It’s also easy to overcook and/or underflavour. So what’s a cook to do? Brine the bird! Brining is your ticket to a moist, delicious turkey. Read on to learn the difference between wet and dry brining, and the pros and cons of each.

 

Option 1: Wet Brine

 

Advantages:

  • relatively easy
  • proven effective
  • relatively quick
  • communicates to nosy/snobby relatives that you’re working hard to make the best meal possible

 

Disadvantages:

  • requires a lot of space
  • cooling your large pot of brine outside in the city of trash pandas is risky business

 

Basically, wet brining (aka what almost everybody means when they talking about brining a bird) is the process of submerging the turkey in salted water for a few days. The bird stays moist and juicy during cooking, and is infused with the flavours of salt and whatever else you’ve added to the brine… and you don’t end up with a dry, bland turkey situation. In fact, for that extra turkey flavour, some people like to brine their turkey in turkey stock – so if you’re so inclined, you can pick up some fresh organic made in-house turkey stock and take things to the next level!

 

The trickiest part of a wet brine is finding a container big enough to contain the bird and the liquid, and then making sure you have enough room in your fridge for it. If you’ve got that sorted, you’re good to go!

 

  1. Place a cleaned (cleaned, dried, giblets removed) turkey into a pot big enough to hold it and 4 L of water.
  2. In another pot, warm 1 L of water and stir in 1 cup of kosher salt (or ¾ cup of table salt), until totally dissolved.
  3. When the water is cool enough to touch (you don’t want to scald the bird), pour it into the pot with the turkey. Add another 3 L of water, and any aromatics you want to include. We like to throw in a bunch of sage, black peppercorns, and a few bay leaves.
  4. Cover the pot (if the turkey is floating, weigh it down with a plate or something so it’s totally submerged), and leave it in the fridge for at least two and up to 24 hours.
  5. Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse it, and pat it dry.

 

Option 2: Dry Brine

 

Advantages:

  • a novel technique (impress your foodie friends)
  • takes up less space
  • doesn’t require any follow-up (is immediately ready to cook)

 

Disadvantages:

  • gives critical family something to pick on
  • involves leaving an uncovered raw turkey in your fridge for days – so if you have little kids who are old enough to open the fridge and grab things but not yet old enough to respect boundaries, you might have a problem

 

A dry brine is basically the same thing as a wet brine, only without the water! All you do is rub the salt and spices directly into the turkey, and then leave it in the fridge overnight or for up to three days.

 

  1. Clean and dry your bird. Remove the giblets.
  2. Mix together 3 tbsp salt, ¾ tbsp ground black pepper, and about another 1½ tsp dried spices (we like to go hard on sage and thyme, but you do you).
  3. Sprinkle 2 tsp of the salt mix into the cavity of the bird.
  4. If you’re feeling fancy, carefully lift the skin from the breast of the bird, and rub another 4 tsp of the salt mixture into the breasts (under the skin).
  5. Sprinkle the remaining salt mixture onto the skin of the bird, focusing on the breast and the legs.
  6. Place the turkey breast-side up on a baking sheet or roasting pan and leave it uncovered in the fridge for 12-72 hours.

 

After Brining:

 

Whichever technique you use, once you’re done with the brine you can cook your turkey as you usually would. Brining can often shorten cooking time (the salt helps to break down the muscle proteins, so the bird is less tough before it even goes into the oven), so we’d recommend checking for doneness (with a meat thermometer) about an hour earlier than you’d think.

 

In Conclusion:

 

These are both really good techniques, and I personally can’t wait until I have the opportunity to cook two turkeys simultaneously, so I can dry-brine one and wet-brine the other and decide for myself which is better.

 

Honestly though, one of the best things you can do is make sure you’re starting with a good, healthy animal. All of the turkeys we sell at The Sweet Potato are locally and humanely raised at Yorkshire Valley Farms, where they are pastured and raised without antibiotics or hormones (and eat GMO-Free feed). Combine a great organic bird with some good brining, and then serve it with some wild rice and quinoa stuffing, roasted brussels sprouts, and sweet potato pie and you’ve got yourself a recipe for success any way you brine it!