Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Big Turkey in Small Oven

The two biggest problems for cooking are turkey are fitting it in the oven and getting it cooked without drying out. Boning the turkey can eliminate both of these. We have a small oven and I almost always bone the turkey.    

Not everyone who wants to cook a turkey has an oven big enough to cook it in.  One way to solve this problem is to get a bigger oven but it may be more practical to make the turkey smaller. The way I do that is to take the bones out so the meat is more compact -- it will cook more evenly and in a shorter time.    
It goes something like this:  Turn the bird breast down and with a sharp boning knife cut along the spine and start filleting the meat away from the rib cage.  The intent is to remove the bone from inside the meat leaving the meat attached to the skin.  separate the hip joint and work the knife along the thighbone to remove the meat.  
Here you have to make a decision to remove the leg bone, or drumstick, or leave it in.  Recently did a turkey like this and left the leg bone in and it went very well.  Read the rest of this to decide which you will try.
If you are removing the leg bones, continue as you did the with the thigh but you will encounter some bonelike tendons that must be cut away or pulled out with pliers.  Clip the wings first two joints away and then working from the inside remove the bone for the upper wing.  You will now have a sloppy slab of meat with skin on one side.   Rub the meat with salt, pepper, sage and rosemary at least.  There are three ways to proceed now: rolled and tied; stuffed, rolled, and tied; or flattened.  
A rolled and tied turkey is rolled, skin side out and tied within the butcher’s twine into something like a loaf of bread. This will firm up while roasting and slice like a beef or pork roast.  A rolled, stuffed, and tied turkey is done the same way by bread stuffing is prepared and wrapped in the center of your turkey rolled then tied.  Try to completely cover the meat with skin when rolling and tying to keep moisture in.    
The easiest way to handle the turkey is the third way that I call flattened.  Boned and seasoned, the turkey is placed meatside down in a roasting pan and sides pushed in so the meat is slightly mounded.  This works well if you want to leave the legs on.  When I use this technique I like put a good layer of stuffing in the bottom of the pan and then the turkey on top, or chunk up carrot,celery and onion to lie under the bird for a richer gravy.  
All three techniques are cooked the same way.  Rub the seasons on the skin (with a little butter or oil if you want).  Cover with foil and cook at 300-325 until done 1.5 to 2 hours.  Remove the foil about 1/2 through for browning.  
If this seems like entirely too much work.  Cut the turkey into quarters like you would a chicken then season and roast in a pan skinside up.   Note!  The breast will probably be cooked before the legs so pull them out early.

Stock for gravy:  If you bone your turkey, you can use the bones for a nice stock,  season, roast for a while  then simmer in water and vegetable trimmings for 4-6 hours.  Strain and skim the fat to get a rich stock for gravy. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Thursday, August 7, 2014

One August day In the Forest

     Took a walk in the woods today with my partner, Snape, who is getting used to being the sole dog on the property after we put down Old Nelson.  We walked down the road and onto the Iditarod Trail that runs along the south shore of the lake.  Not far down the trail we cut into the woods to follow a game trail with fresh moose tracks.  This was a trail stomped out by some fellows cutting firewood last year and the moose seem to take advantage of any such trace made through the devils club and deadfalls.   This is a mature forest of almost entirely spruce trees though there are a few mall hemlock as well with an understory of fern, blueberry, huckleberry, currants, and devils club with a few alders thrown in.  Anywhere the alders are thick is place that's been opened down to soil like an old road or trail.  Beneath all this green is a complex carpet of mosses and belly flowers.
     Snape and I found one spruce grouse, a young one, nearly eating size and a couple of good blueberry bushes, where I picked a couple handfuls for a snack.   It impossible for me to tell if the blueberries had were sparse or had already been gathered by bears or pickers.   Either way any berries out of these section of the forest would be well earned. Snape seemed a little nervous in the woods and seemed eager to get back to the main trail.  He doesn't range far into the woods unless there is a rich scent to something like the spruce grouse which he didn't notice until it was well up a tree and then he was ready to get after it.   Nelson always loved bushwhacking, and he let his nose lead him on great explorations well away from me, often leaving me frustrated while I waited for his return.   

     The loons returned yesterday and it reminded me to return to my writing here.    Solstice was quite a while ago.  We hadn't seen the loons for sometime and I wonder of they were at the other end of the lake, on their nest again or travel to visit neighbors, which loons are known to do.  I have watched visiting loons arrive here and at the Pear Lake to visit the resident pair.  The visits usually involve a lot of vocalizing, water dancing and short, circling flights around the host lake.  What I call water dance is a drama performance by one or two loons that rise up and run across the surface of the water flapping their wings and calling for thirty to fifty yards.  This is often repeated by other birds.  Noisy and dramatic,  this display of energy and force is a moving event to watch.   The lake is always dramatic, sometimes with the wildlife busy on, in and around it; sometimes with the weather lashing the water and the trees and sometimes with the placid silence of solitude.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


Breakup came early and easy this year and on May tenth the lake is free of ice for three days now and the loons, goldeneyes and swallows are busy mating nesting and feeding on the bounty of Bear Lake.
The temperature is 65 degrees and no snow is left in our yard.  Winter was little more than an interlude between fall and spring this year.  This morning the sun was shining in the north windows of the house will will for the next several weeks as we bath in nearly endless daylight that we don't have the energy to use.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Happy Solstice

     I'm a day late hitting a solstice post but for most people that is no big deal.  The vernal equinox brings light to our lake in great wave of sunshine pouring over the fridge of spruces onto the great open setting of the lake.  Uncharacteristically, we were ice skating on March twenty the day of the vernal equinox when usually we the ice is buried under several feet of snow.  Not in 2014.  This year we are looking at ice dusted lightly with snow like powdered sugar on coffee cake.  Strange snowmobile trails are imbedded in the ice from the days when the layer of slush was a playground for kids on sno-gos.  Now those trails treacherous mounds of ice.  Skiers still find fridges of along the lake edge where snow is thick enough to make ski tracks but between those bits of snow the skier must scoot across ice for sometimes for several hundred yards.

The ice has changed the character of the lake.  Fewer people venture out since it's too rough for most skating and lacks snow for skiing.  Some people and critters enjoy the easy walking for the ice is rough and not too slick to walk on.  A moose crossed this morning and yesterday two coyotes.   Firewood gathers can work easily in the woods along the lake haul their loads easily along the thin snow on the lake shore.   But it is the sun that makes the difference, the glorious spring light that is warm and bright with a promise of green leaves and wildlife soon to come.  Happy Solstice.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Return of Winter

After a warm and damp january that seemed more like dark form of April than the first month of the year, we past mid February and full into winter.  We have had close to two feet of snow in the last week and the skating days are long past.  Now we have a trail around the lake for skiing that is almost five miles long.   We pack and smooth the snow every time it snows so we can skate ski or classical. Madelyn and I also use the trail for skijoring.   We have two sled dogs for this sport and we just borrowed a third, Zena, a retired Iditarod champion.

Skijoring with Snape and Zena

Madelyn's comments:

Zena Iditarod Warrior Princess
   Well, now that we finally look like normal and have some snow, we decided we needed to add a dog to the team.  Without Loki, who we lost in May, and Nelson's advancing age (12-13 now) we definitely had a slow down, also made it difficult to travel when we need a sled.  So our buddy Travis Beals, Iditarod racer, loaned us Zena, a retired leader who wasn't getting out much, if at all.  She's been to nome at least 4 times, was a leader in Lance Mackey's heyday - 4 time winner.  He last trip to Nome will give you a chuckle.  Lance leased a team to the first Iditarod musher from Jamaica - sound familiar?  He stayed here and trained with Lance.  If memory serves, he didn't get clear to Nome, but had a good showing.
So if you tell anyone about our newest team member, just say she went to Nome several times on winning teams....they probably will think the rest is a joke.  She's only been here two days but she is settling in well and done everything we asked - easy keeper.  She probably hasn't run much since last summer when she put 1500 miles in on the glacier dogsled tour.  Photo taken in 2010 at Lance's kennel. 

Here's a video of Skijoring with a pulk.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Playing the Ice Drum

February 12, 2014   13 degrees F.  wind 9 mph.
Nordic Skates -- They attach to my skate ski boots
     I was out on the lake today just before dusk when the sun is behind the mountains and the warm of the day is past.  The dogs and I went out from the house down the dock that is still not covered with snow.  I put on my nordic skates and skated into the cold north wind with the dogs trotting along behind.  The snow is sparse here this winter, so I am ice skating in February, which is pretty rare.   We has a bit of snow last Friday but it came in on the wind and most of what fell on the lake blew away.  Today the lake is about 50/50 ice and snow with much of the snow so thin that I can skate through it easily on the Nordic skates.
     Nordic skates are a scandinavian invention that allows the skater to use their cross country ski boots or even hiking boots.  After suffering miserably as a child in stiff cold figure or  hockey skates, I lost interest in ice skating, an activity my wife really enjoyed.  When she got me the Nordic skates, I became a dedicated ice skater.  Not only are the skates more comfortable and easier to work with, the long straight blade cruises smoothly over rough ice, plows through snow and glides long and straight so that the skater doesn't need perfect smooth ice to have a good time.  These skates are fast! Here's a blog with some  video and narrative on the topic.   A web search for nordic skates will connect you with sites selling the skates.

This video is a good introduction to what Nordic Skating looks like. From Alexander Creek Alaska.

 I figure the trip down the lake and back is about four miles,probably more by the time we wander back and forth to take a break from facing into the wind for ice skating really gives one the a measure of the force of the wind.   Even a ten mph wind will make a skater really work going into it and coming home,  the wind will not only stop chilling your face it will scoot you along with little effort.
     During this evening's skate the dogs and I had the lake to ourselves, and one would think it would be quiet and peaceful.  The sky was clear and the mountains were silhouetted against a navy blue sky, beneath my feet however, the lake was in turmoil.   Look out over a froze lake and you will see a still bucolic scene of rigid silence, the water turned to stone.  But if you walk down to shore and listen you may hear the lake rumble and bubble, sometimes with a deep thrumming and sometime with a boom.  The ice  is contracting in some places and expanding in others.  If the snow hasn't hidden them, you will see cracks all over the lake ice, and some of these will be large fissures an inch or two wide.   Today I stopped on some ice that was window clear, and I could look down on the cracks that reaching deep into the ice.  The cracks are reassuring because the show ice to be at least a foot thick.  But, even knowing this, I am make uneasy when the ice rumbles beneath me.  Suddenly I feel less secure and my hearing tunes to the voice of the lake, which seems to bubble beneath me as if my weight is bowing the ice and it is groaning beneath me.
      Logic says this makes no sense, that one man can bow the ice of that thickness. But the fear is there and the lake is suddenly larger and louder.  I wonder if my skates are playing a great frozen drum ice as I pound across it, suddenly more eager to be on shore.  As I near home I relax and laugh at myself, but the lake rumbles as I do reminding me that caution is rarely a bad idea.
     If you get a chance to skate on frozen lake and experience the talking ice, your view of frozen lakes will change  forever.