November 17, 2010

The Maine Ingredient: Time to talk cranberries, and turkey


A friend called recently and asked what would be local and suitable to bring to a brunch with pancakes or french toast. Local fruit in Maine? In November? Cranberries, of course! And perfect for around Thanksgiving.

click image to enlarge

For confit, break down your turkey and cook it in fat a week ahead for the perfect make-ahead meal for entertaining.

Elizabeth Poisson

After giving her the basics over the phone, I got the creative bug and decided to make pancakes for the girls the next morning, and test the cranberry syrup recipe while I was at it. A few days later I made a quick french toast to pair, again, with the cranberry syrup. Some leftover, stale baguette, one egg, a little milk, a sprinkle of sugar, soak the bread, butter into the pan and ta da pretty picture. And my lunch. Yum.

The interesting bit of discovery that came from making the syrup is that when it cooled, it was more like jam. When I heated it up again, it became more of a liquid. The way it set up indicated that cranberries have a lot of pectin in them, the thickening agent often used in jams and jellies.

It would probably make a great mate with other berries in a jam project, although I've never tried it because cranberries are not in season when other berries are.

All of these recipes were tested on locally raised turkey, and I encourage you to seek one out for your family celebration. It certainly solves the problem of how to defrost a big turkey over several days, and tastes so much better!

If you are interested in how to break down a whole turkey yourself or in some interesting stuffing recipes, both can be found on my blog,

Many happy meals to you and your family as you keep traditions, create memories and enjoy each other this Thanksgiving holiday.


This is the perfect make-ahead meal for entertaining. Make at least one week ahead for the best flavor.

If you don't care to break down your own turkey, it's easy enough to ask your butcher to provide these pieces for you. I know it's not common to have 4 cups of rendered fat hanging around most households, but again, your butcher can provide this for you. I used pork fat rendered from a whole pig broken down last winter. It was delicious.

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon fresh black pepper

5 tablespoons minced sage and rosemary

Legs, wings and thighs from a 12- to 14-pound turkey

4 cups duck fat, port fat or lard (don't think about it)

Pulverize the salt, pepper and herbs in a food processor or spice grinder with a few pulses. Rub the exterior of the turkey pieces and place on a platter with sides high enough to catch any liquid that will drain from the turkey. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place the turkey and fat in a Dutch oven or other oven-proof pot with a lid. Bake for 3 to 3 1/2 hours until the meat is so tender it is almost (but not) falling off the bones.

To preserve for any length of time, make sure that any meat juice is separated from the fat (the meat juice is what will cause confit to spoil), and pour the warm fat over the turkey until the level is 1/2 inch above the last piece of turkey. I've found that the half-gallon ball jars work really well.

The confit will keep in the refrigerator for at least 3 months. This is a terrific way to preserve meat, although it never lasts that long at my house.

Refrigerate until you are ready to use it, and then bake on a roasting pan at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until the meat is warm. Raise the temperature of the oven, and bake until the skin is crisp. Serve immediately, and enjoy how the skin is crispy and the meat just falls off the bone.

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