Christmas Dinner – Turkey

In England, the evolution of the main course into turkey did not take place for years, or even centuries. At first, in medieval England, the main course was either a peacock or a boar, the boar usually the mainstay. The turkey appeared on Christmas tables in England in the 16th century, and popular history tells of King Henry VIII being first English monarch to have turkey for Christmas. The tradition of turkey at Christmas rapidly spread throughout England in the 17th century, and it also became common to serve goose which remained the predominant roast until the Victorian era. A famous Christmas dinner scene appears in  A Christmas Carol (1843), where Scrooge sends a large turkey to Bob Cratchit’s house.

  • 2 teaspoons rubbed sage
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 pinch dried thyme
  • 1 (16 pound) whole turkey, neck and giblets removed
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup orange marmalade
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 orange, peeled, sectioned, and cut into bite-size pieces

Preheat an oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).

Combine sage, salt, and thyme in a small bowl. Rub half of the sage mixture all over the turkey, then place the turkey in a large roasting pan. Set remaining sage mixture aside. Bring butter, orange juice, orange marmalade, honey, and orange sections to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until thickened, stirring occasionally, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the remaining sage mixture. Brush the turkey with the glaze.

Put the bird in a covered roasting pan, you know the type, that enameled monstrosity that Grandma uses. Bake the turkey in the preheated oven for 5 hours and 30 minutes, basting every so often. I say this because I just don’t find that basting makes a whole lot of difference, and just releases the heat from the oven.

An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, near the bone should read 180 degrees F (82 degrees C). Remove the turkey from the oven, cover with a doubled sheet of aluminum foil, and allow to rest in a warm area 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.

Letting the meat rest is the most important part of getting good slices of turkey. If the bird don’t rest, you don’t get good carving.

So, let us all rest… and have some turkey with friends!