Memoir Contest Winner: Turkey Jerky by Cindy Briggs

by Matilda Butler on September 20, 2012

catnav-scrapmoir-active-3Post #193 – Women’s Memoirs, ScrapMoir – Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

Announcing Honorable Mention Winner in our Memoir Contest Winner – Gratitude is Evergreen Category

Last week, Women’s Memoirs published the first place winner in the Gratitude is Evergreen category of our Gratitude Contest. Today we beginning publishing the great stories that earned an Honorable Mention. We think you’ll enjoy each of them.

Today’s winner is Cindy Briggs with her story titled Turkey Jerky.

Congratulations Cindy on your award-winning story. You remind many of us of similar cooking disasters.

Turkey Jerky for Thanksgiving Dinner
By Cindy Briggs

Most of my Thanksgiving holidays have been spent sharing a delicious dinner with family and friends, catching up on who’s getting married, who’s divorcing, and who’s bringing the next new baby into the family.

But in 1967 I found myself living in Idaho Falls, Idaho, terribly homesick for my family living in the Pacific Northwest. To help lift my spirits, I decided to cook Thanksgiving dinner for three new friends who were equally lonely for their families.
“I’ve been watching Mom cook turkey dinners for years. I must have picked up some useful information!” I said with youthful optimism. “How hard can it be?”

My kitchen-dining room combination was larger than a postage stamp but smaller than the average sized walk-in closet. It had a two-burner apartment- size stove with a half-sized oven, and a refrigerator, circa 1941.

Someone had given me a set of pinkish brown Melamine dinnerware that had big pink flowers stamped in the center of each dinner plate. They’d even given me the matching cups and saucers. My flatware was a starter set from Goodwill Industries.
Macaroni and cheese with a side of canned French cut green beans was the mainstay of my diet, so I figured I had pots, pans and kitchen utensils to sufficiently handle cooking a full turkey dinner. How much more know-how and equipment could I possibly need to pull this off?               

memoir writing contest, writingMom had sent me a CARE package stuffed with cranberry orange conserve to serve with the turkey, 2 dozen pumpkin pie tarts for dessert and a fruitcake made without raisins just for me. “She remembered.” I squealed, upon opening the box.  

At 7 a.m. Thanksgiving morning I slid the aluminum wrapped bird into a preheated oven. Who needed roasting instructions?

Mom always started cooking the turkey about 5 a.m. and it was ready around 4 p.m., which was 11 hours, so 9-hours for my 9-pound turkey sounded about right. Besides, I felt luck was smiling down on me because my carefully chosen gobbler had a newfangled, built-in gizmo neatly tucked into its breast that popped-up when the bird was ready to eat.

I decided I’d start cooking the potatoes and heat the green beans (French cut of course) about 2 p.m. Everything was going to be succulent…the closest thing to one of Mom’s mouthwatering turkey dinners that I would get this year.

“This is gonna be easy. Is all I have to do is roast this bird until the little red thingamabob pops up. I can’t miss!”

The aroma of roasting turkey swimming in its own savory juices teased our taste buds. Around 3 p.m. I noticed my guests were fidgeting.

“The little red gizmo hasn’t popped up so it can’t be fully cooked yet.  Mom always roasted the turkey for 11 hours… so this one must be getting close to done,” I assured my nearly faint dinner guests from the kitchen.

“You all look starved; I’ll cut-up some fruitcake for us to snack on,” I said.

 Tick. Tick. Tick. Another hour went by.

“Okay, it might be done,” I conceded. “I’ll do the carving.”

Splitting cedar planks with a cold butter knife is the only way I can describe the texture of the meat. The neck and giblets, baked inside the bird’s cavity, were equally crispy. I named the entree Roast Turkey Splinters over Cranberry Orange Conserve.

To this day my face turns as crimson as the conserve, whenever I see packages of Turkey Jerky in the snack aisle. And when Thanksgiving rolls around each year, I remain thankful for early-in-life acquaintances that became part of my past, and for the CARE packages Mom faithfully sent to me after I left the nest. Along with those sweet memories, I wonder how my first Thanksgiving dinner might have turned out had Mom also sent a cookbook and a meat thermometer.
Cranberry Orange Conserve is a cinch to put together, it keeps well and you get a lot for your investment of time and money. I like to make it when fresh cranberries start showing up in the produce markets around October and November. I use these early batches for holiday meals and gift-giving. Then, sometime during the early winter months, while fresh cranberries are still available, I make an extra batch to put in my freezer.

Holiday Cranberry Orange Conserve

1 lb. fresh cranberries, washed, stemmed and sorted
2½ cups granulated sugar
1½ cups marmalade
1-cup walnuts, chopped
Place cranberries in large baking or roasting pan.  Sprinkle sugar over cranberries. Cover and bake at 350° for 1-hour. Stir twice during baking time. Remove from the oven. Stir in marmalade and chopped nuts. Cool slightly and pour into warm, sterilized jam jars. Seal each jar tightly and cool to room temperature. Keeps in refrigerator for 2 months or can be frozen.

Yield: 8-8 ounce jam jars

My Personal Recommendation: Cranberry Orange Conserve is an excellent accompaniment to roasted turkey, chicken, or pork. I also find it delicious slathered on peanut butter toast and drizzled over Waldorf salad.

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