Q: I'd like to cook my turkey the day before Thanksgiving. Can I do that?
A: Sure you can. Sometimes it may be easier to prepare your turkey the day before you plan to serve it. If you choose to do so, here are some guidelines to follow:
¢ Wait about 20 minutes after removing turkey from the oven to allow the juices to distribute.
¢ Slice breast meat; legs and wings may be left whole. Place turkey in metal containers; limit depth to less than 2 inches. Metal containers cool faster than glass-type pans. Note: Wash your hands with soap and warm water for about 20 seconds before you begin slicing your turkey.
¢ Pour some of the broth over turkey to prevent drying. Then refrigerate, loosely covered. You can place loosely covered foods in the refrigerator while still warm; cover tightly when food is completely cooled.
¢ On the day of your meal, cover pan with an oven-proof lid or foil and reheat thoroughly in a 350-degree oven until hot and steaming throughout (165 degrees). Note: If you're planning to travel and bring the turkey, it's safest and easiest to travel with it pre-cooked and cold. Carry it in an insulated cooler with a lot of ice or frozen gel-packs to keep the cooler temperature under 40 degrees. Then reheat the turkey at your final destination.
¢ Either freeze leftover turkey or plan to eat cooked turkey within three to four days of the day it was originally prepared. Once removed from the oven, turkey shouldn't set at room temperature longer than two hours total time.
¢ If you make your gravy the day before, refrigerate it in a shallow container. Bring gravy to a rolling boil when reheating it. Eat gravy within one to two days of original preparation date.
Q: Can I prepare my pumpkin pie ahead of time?
A: If you'd like to prepare pumpkin pie ahead, it's easiest and safest to freeze just the crust. Add the filling to the frozen crust just before baking and bake as usual. It takes just a few minutes to mix together the ingredients. Or purchase a frozen prepared crust. Usually the directions for frozen pie crusts recommend placing a baking sheet in your oven and preheating the oven to the baking temperature given in your pie recipe, then placing the pie on the hot baking sheet and baking as usual.
A pumpkin pie is a form of custard and like custard must be kept in the refrigerator at 40 degrees or cooler. Foods which contain eggs, milk and a high moisture content, like custard and pumpkin pie, must be kept refrigerated. Bacteria love to grow in these types of foods. Avoid letting a pumpkin pie set at room temperature more than two hours.
Some commercial pumpkin pies can be left at room temperature; check the label on commercially baked pies for storage requirements. Some commercial pies that are purchased at room temperature may later need to be refrigerated.
If you feel adventurous (and your family is willing to break tradition), this might be the year to try a different pumpkin dessert. Here's a couple of possibilities. The first recipe shared comes from the new "Essence of Kansas Taste Three Centennial 4-H Cookbook" that is available to purchase for $15, at the K-State Research & Extension-Douglas County Office. A great cook, Trisha Cash, from the Kansas 4-H Foundation, submitted this recipe for the cookbook and says, "The Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cake is a delicious special occasion cake. Very impressive. It goes before the pumpkin pie."
Thanksgiving pumpkin cake
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour or 2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups vanilla wafer cookies, crushed
1 cup pecans, chopped
3/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 can (15-ounce) pumpkin
Buttery Cream Cheese Frosting:
2/3 cup butter, softened
1 package (3-ounce) cream cheese, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup caramel topping
1 cup pecan halves
Pumpkin candies (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour three round pans, 8- by-1 1/2 inches. Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, beat cookies, chopped pecans and butter with electric mixer on medium speed; scraping bowl frequently, until crumbly. Divide among pans; press evenly on bottoms of pans. In same bowl, beat sugar, oil, eggs and pumpkin on medium speed for 1 minute, scraping bowl constantly. Gradually beat flour mixture into pumpkin mixture on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour over pecan mixture in pans; spread evenly. Bake 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire rack. Cool completely.
Prepare Buttery Cream Cheese Frosting: Beat butter and cream cheese with electric mixer on low speed, scraping bowl frequently, until smooth. Beat in powdered sugar and vanilla on low speed until smooth and spreadable. Fill each layer with 1/3 cup of the frosting, place layers with pecan sides down. Frost side and top of cake with remaining frosting. Spread caramel topping over top edge of cake, allowing to drizzle down side. Arrange pecan halves and candies on top of cake. Store in refrigerator. Yield: 16 servings.