Kickin’ it with Karen: Beyond Sauerkraut
For the past 12 years, Troy and I have ventured north to brave the cold and snow of Lake Superior’s North Shore. We do this because most everybody else in Minnesota travels south on Thanksgiving leaving us alone with the calming and rhythmic swells of the waves of Gitchi Gummi. Well, not exactly alone, each year we plan this tradition with Troy’s parents Deb and Phil. In truth, Deb and Phil started this tradition by inviting us up to “Gooseberry Cabins” with them to celebrate the holiday. We always complement this tradition with the tastiest of menus.
On our menu for this and most Thanksgivings is: Deep Fried Turkey, Collard Greens, Baked Macaroni & Cheese, Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes Pureé, Cranberry Sauce (out of the can – of course), Apple Pie, Apple Crisp, and plenty of Wine and Spirits!
Today, I will share two of these recipes with you: Palmen’s Collard Greens & my version of Bob Merrit’s “Best Fried Turkey Ever”.
My Collard Green Story – And I’m Sticking to It!
I lived in North Carolina for nearly ten years in the 80’s & ’90’s. When I arrived, my sister took me to a diner which served collard greens, sweet potatoes and fried chicken as their main entreé. Being from Scandinavian Minnesota, I had never seen collard greens, let alone tasted them.
I asked my sister, “What’s a collard green? She replied, “It’s kinda like cabbage, only different.” Soooooo Minnesotan…
I proceeded to order my lunch including the collard greens , and to my delight, they were not like cabbage (which I mostly didn’t like) they were delicious! Pungent and earthy, salty and full of a deep, rich, smokey pork flavor from the ham hocks – which I had never heard of in my life. I knew I had to learn to make collard greens! And, so for almost 10 years, I tasted everyone’s collards and mimicked what I like best until I came up with my own basic recipe which I will share right here with you now.
First of all, there is no exact recipe. I use the same basic ingredients each time, but forget the measuring! For me, it is “to taste” each time I make them. This recipe is more about technique and taste than it is about exactness. I use a layering technique. After I drop a layer of collards, I throw in a layer of herbs and spices. I do this until all of the collard greens are in the pot. I stir them UP from the BOTTOM every 30-45 minutes until they are done. That’s it. Simple. So , let’s do this.
Here’s what you will need:
8 bunches of collard greens
Either a package of smoked pork neck bones or smoked ham shank (I don’t use ham hocks because I don’t like the barnyard smell or flavor).
1 large onion – sliced
6-large garlic cloves – crushed
Salt (I prefer kosher salt)
Apple cider vinegar – homemade is better (for serving)
Louisiana Hot Sauce (for serving)
- A water basin or sink
- A large soup pot with a lid
- A colander for draining
- A long wooden spoon for stirring
- 30 minutes before you begin to clean your greens, Pour 2 inches of water into a pot with a lid and begin simmering your smoked pork. Then, get all your ingredients together and begin to clean your greens
Cleaning the greens: Clean 2 bunches at a time.
- Strip the leaves off the stems and tear into bite size pieces,
- After you have cleaned the first 2 bunches, drop them into a water basin, or your sink, filled with tepid water and 2 tablespoons of salt
- Swish them around in the water and let them sit while you clean the next two bunches of collards.
- When you have finished stripping and tearing the 3rd and 4th bunch of collards, swish the first 2 bunches in the water again to get any remaining sand or dirt to fall to the bottom of the water basin.
- Take them out of the water by the handful, shake them off vigorously and put them into the colander to drain.
- Repeat this until all bunch 1&2 are out of the water.
- Put the 3rd and 4th bunch in the water, sprinkle with a tablespoon of salt, swish them around and let them sit.
Onto the FRIED BIRD!
I first heard of Fried Turkey from a colleague at a middle school in North Carolina in 1996. I thought it sounded perfectly awful,. It for sure had to be greasy. Boy was I wrong. After I watched Alton Brown’s Good Eats Episode: “Alton’s Deep Fried Turkey” (2010), As crazy as it looked, I knew I had to try it!
Here’s what you will need:
When we are up north on the shores of Lake Superior, it’s cold enough to leave the covered container outside. However, I learned I must keep it out of the wind because there were a couple of years the brine froze on top and I had to break through a layer of ice in order to rescue my poor bird before it froze.
- “Place the turkey onto the fry pot stand, breast end down (legs up top) and continue to allow the turkey to come up to room temperature. Invert the wing tips and tuck them in tightly so they don´t get burnt up.
- Prepare to fry. You will need…fry pot with a high BTU burner, a full propane tank …a candy thermometer to measure oil temperature, a meat thermometer to test the turkey doneness and just in case, a fire extinguisher.
- Setup in an open flat area. DO NOT setup in your garage! Oil will pop and splatter, so you probably do not want to fry on your driveway either.
- Fill the pot to the previously marked water line with the peanut oil – no higher! The hot oil will expand about an inch in depth as the temperature rises to 350-400 degrees F.
- Light the burner and adjust for maximum heat output. The burner is usually hottest and most efficient when it sounds like a jet plane constantly taking off.
- Attach the candy thermometer and make sure its down into the oil. Observe as the temperature rises. DO NOT leave the pot untended! DO NOT allow pets or children to be in the area!
- Monitor the oil temperature, when it´s around 375 to 400 degrees: TURN THE BURNER OFF. You´re ready to SLOWLY lower the turkey into the pot. Slowly lowering a 16 pound turkey into 400 degree boiling oil may require two people. Expect vigorous boiling as the turkey goes in. If any moisture remains on the turkey it will cause the oil to splatter and pop. For safety, wear a long sleeve shirt. The oil temperature will drop to 325 to 350 degrees. Relight the burner.
- Monitor the oil temperature; never allow it to go above 400 degrees or a flash fire can result. Ideally keep the oil temperature between 350 to 375 degrees. Whole turkeys require 3 to 3 ½ minutes per pound to cook. A 15-pound turkey cooks in about 45 minutes!!We prefer to fry small turkeys between 12 to 13 pounds. It’s much safer and you don’t have to worry so much about the pot boiling over!
- Raise the turkey up out of the oil to check its temperature with a meat thermometer. When it´s about done, the temperature in breast should be 170 degrees and the thigh should be 180 degrees. If it´s not done, slowly lower it back into the oil. The turkey may start to float up a bit as it gets done.
- Remove the turkey when it´s done, turn off the burner and cover the oil. Allow the turkey to stand upright for about 15 minutes to drain the excess oil out of it.”
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Merritt, Bob. “Best Fried Turkey Ever.” Bob Merrit, Bob Merrit, 10 Nov. 2007, 10:14, bobmerritt.com/recipes/BestEverFriedTurkey.htm.
Brown, Alton. “Alton’s Deep Fried Turkey”. Food Network, YouTube, 27 Oct. 2010, youtu.be/u5a7gJ0_Fds.