This is a merging of two recipes in my old Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cook Book (1961): “Cranberry-Orange Muffins” (p. 88) and “Oatmeal Muffins” (p. 90). The recipes are so similar in amounts of ingredients, that it didn’t take much to combine them. The only big decision I had to make was whether to use white or brown sugar, so I compromised and used half of each. Oatmeal takes the place of half the flour in the cranberry muffins, a formula you can use to add oatmeal to a variety of muffin recipes.
If you’ve been reading my posts recently, you knew this was coming. I did debone a 15 lb turkey and successfully rolled and roasted it. Very pleasantly surprised, especially since my oven has ruined several recent holidays by refusing to cook a whole turkey all the way through. It was a great meal, but much of it will have to go in the freezer, because the two of us just can’t eat like we used to.
There were a few things different, though, about deboning a turkey compared to a chicken:
It was bigger than a chicken, obviously, so that might have been the easier part, since all the parts were bigger.
The wing and leg bones seemed harder to remove for reasons I can’t quite explain. Anyway, I got them out and only sliced one thumb, requiring a slight break in the activity while I cleaned up. Remember to keep alcohol and bandages around when working with sharp knives.
Then there were the bone-like leg tendons. I was not strong enough to pull them out with needle-nose pliers as all the video chefs do. The best I could do was hold one end with the pliers and scrape them out with the knife edge.
The dark meat end was a hot mess, but I just kept sticking in the ends and bits I could and didn’t worry about the ones that refused to go. I’ll figure that out next year.
It sliced much better than the chickens; not sure why.
The stuffing was delightful. I used about a cup of my oven-dried cranberries in the stuffing, with some chopped walnuts and a country-style sage sausage. I think I will always use fruit and nuts in future stuffings, and sausage when I want a savory sweetness. For a change, and to save me more work, I used packaged stuffing cubes for the base.
There really isn’t a recipe for the turkey that’s different from the videos I’ve shown in this previous post, but here are the roasting details for my 15 lb turkey:
Preheat oven to 450°; lightly oil a large roasting pan (I wish I had a heavy stainless steel roaster, Santa).
Place stuffed, rolled, and trussed turkey in pan. Rub the roll with oil and season with lots of salt and pepper.
Roast at this high heat for about 15 minutes to get browning started.
Without opening oven door, reduce heat to 325° and roast until internal temperature reaches 165°, about 1 1/2 hours.
You can save time by deboning the turkey earlier in the day and keeping it in the fridge until ready to stuff. Plus, it gives you time to make a stock from the bones. We ate late in the day.
1 14 oz package seasoned stuffing cubes (mine were sage and onion)
2 medium onions, chopped
1 celery heart, about 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced
1 1/2 sticks butter
1 cup dried, unsweetened cranberries
1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1 lb sage sausage (mine was Jimmy Dean®), lightly browned
about 1 1/2 cups turkey or chicken stock
In a large bowl, combine stuffing cubes, cranberries, walnuts, and cooked sausage.
In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and celery, cooking until translucent.
Pour butter and vegetables over stuffing and mix well.
Add turkey stock, stirring until all the bread is moistened. If you are using fresh bread, you might not need this mush stock. You want moistened bread that is not pasty.
Not only was the stuffing great, but it made the pan drippings in the roaster very flavorful, so that the gravy was exceptional. You could taste a little tartness in the stuffing from the berries and savory sweetness from the sausage. The walnuts retained a little chewiness after cooking.
Most of the stuffing went into a buttered 13″ x 9″ casserole to bake for 30 mins covered and 20 mins uncovered.
I want to put dried cranberries and sausage in my Thanksgiving turkey roll, but I don’t really need the extra sugar used in commercially dried cranberries, and the unsweetened kind are not available in any local stores I know of. Ideally, I would use a dehydrator, which I have wanted for years, but I don’t have one now, so I have to use the oven method. There seem to be two schools of thought on preparing the cranberries before drying: (1) cut the cranberries in half to prevent little berry explosions in the oven, or (2) pop the skins quickly in boiling water. After breaking the skins, methods vary on additives—sugar or artificial sweeteners to combat tartness, oils to moisten and prevent clumping—and on how to use the oven. I’m going to add an artificial sweetener plus vegetable oil to one batch and nothing to the other batch.
Preheat oven to 200°; line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Rinse one 12 oz bag of cranberries and dry on a towel. Remove any stems.
Cut berries in half and place in a large bowl.
Stir in 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and 2 tablespoons of agave syrup—you could use other artificial sweeteners, but I think liquids would work better than powders. The source suggests no-sugar-added fruit syrups, also.
Spread out cranberries on baking sheet and dry in oven for about 2 hours. The source recommends 2-3 hours, but I think even 2 hours was too long. I pulled them when it looked like a few might burn, probably the result of the oil and sweetener. At first some were a little crunchy, but after sitting in an airtight container for a few hours, they took on the right chewiness—also probably the result of the oil and sweetener.
All in all, I recommend this method, but you need to watch the berries carefully in the oven after the first hour. I didn’t add a lot of sweetener, but I think it had a small effect that would make them good for snacking, and as soon as this post is done, I’m putting some in a bowl with almonds for just that purpose. After they cool, put them in an airtight container to develop chewiness.
Preheat oven to 350° about 10 minutes before freezing period is done; line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Rinse and remove stems of one 12 oz bag of cranberries; pour in strainer that fits in a large mixing bowl.
Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Pour water over berries and let sit for a few minutes until skins pop. You will hear the skins pop as soon as you begin pouring the water over them. When the popping quits, lift the strainer, draining the berries as much as possible.
Spread out the berries on the baking sheet and place in freezer for 2 hours.
Preheat oven 10 minutes before taking berries out of freezer.
Place sheet of frozen berries in oven, then turn the oven off and let the berries sit in the oven *overnight.
*What is overnight? For me it would be 8 hours; for others it might be 4-5, so this step is not clear. Maybe it means at least 4 hours (?). I don’t know, but I know that my gas oven goes stone cold long before 8 hours, and I have a hard time believing that the berries dry without heat. So, I took them out after 4 hours and they were going nowhere. Maybe the idea of freezing them for two hours works if you are using a dehydrator, but I’m thinking that most of the initial heat in the oven went to thawing my berries. So, I ended up doing steps 4-5 two more times, turning the oven on to 200° for the last round.
I don’t recommend this method using the oven. Maybe it would be different in a dehydrator. Popping the skins in boiling water results in crispy balls of air after drying. I threw them away.
A side-by-side comparison of the first two tries:
One More Try: Freezing the Berries First
So, I’m going to do both methods again, at the same time, but with adjustments. I had two more bags of cranberries, but they were in the freezer where I usually store cranberries. Note to self: get some more. I let them thaw for an hour, then proceeded with the above methods.
I cut one group in half and coated them with just 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, but no sweetener. I don’t see why I need them to be sweetened either for the stuffing or to use in baked goods.
I popped the skins of the second group in boiling water.
Both went into the 200° oven on separate sheets.
After one hour, I checked them every half hour and took them out after 2 1/2 hours.
Thawed frozen berries are wet and squishy to begin with, so cutting some in half required a thin, sharp serrated knife. Those berries, with a little oil, came out similar to the ones that weren’t frozen, with some chewiness. Clearly, it’s the oil.
Pouring boiling water over thawed berries seemed to make them lose even more of their interior. When you lift them out of the bowl and the remaining water is pink, you know a lot of your flavor is lost. These were even crunchier than the first batch. I can’t recommend the boiling water method at all.
Just for fun (?), I tried reconstituting some of each to see if they react like raisins and plump up. The halved ones did, but the other ones were still like leather, hollow leather.
Results of the oven drying
Results of reconstituting
I have to question why so many sites suggest the method of popping the skins in boiling water first, and I wonder if it’s one of those recipes that people repeat without testing first. As I said, maybe it would work in a dehydrator, but it does not work well in the oven, at least not for cranberries.
I bought cranberries early in the holiday season and put them directly in the freezer, like I always do, but just didn’t run into the need to use them. With just two of us, I don’t make a lot of extras for holiday meals. Now that those days are over, I am getting around to using those cranberries while it is still winter. They seem like a winter fruit, bright red and tart to compliment that cold, stark snow outside. Last week I made some cranberry muffins, but I have to say that it just didn’t seem like the right time for muffins. I think I associate muffins with spring. I prefer a cookie, maybe because they keep well, almost getting better over time, and that seems like a winter thing. They seem less decadent than most desserts, although I know that’s a false sense.
I adapted a recipe, using half the called-for butter, adding solid shortening for the other half, and I used White Lily® flour, which made them more tender than a regular, all-purpose flour. I used a large scoop (about 2 tablespoons), so my yield was lower than the original, and my cookies larger. I did not glaze the cookies, as the original recipe suggests, but I did add vanilla to the batter.
1 teaspoon grated fresh or dried orange zest (a jar of dried orange zest is very handy to keep in the pantry)
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used a soft wheat flour, which changes the cookie texture)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups chopped cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Cream the butter, shortening, and sugars. Beat in the egg, orange zest, orange juice, and vanilla. Mix the flour, salt, and baking soda and mix into the wet batter. Mix in the cranberries and walnuts. Place scoops of cookie dough about 2 inches apart on parchment-lined cookie sheets. One tablespoon scoops make small cookies; 2 tablespoon scoops make large cookies.
Bake at 375° for 12-14 minutes; I used the longer time for my large cookies.