Deep fried turkey, anyone? Thanksgiving dinner, West Virginia style

Dublin woman Patricia Hopper has picked up some unusual traditions after 40 years in the US

 

The trees are almost bare, the smell of snow is in the air, and American football and hunting season are taking over. Thanksgiving is here.

I married an American Airforce man. He is from West Virginia, and I’ve been here almost 40 years now. I go home to Ireland about twice a year, so my children are as much at home in Dublin as they are here.

An unusual way to cook Thanksgiving turkey (for this Irish emigrant at least) is to deep fry it, which has been the method of choice in our household for the past few years, done by my son and son-in-law out on our deck in the freezing cold. It’s a much faster method than roasting. It also leaves more room in the oven for all those other things you have to cook.

Turkey frying originated in the South, but is now done nationwide, mostly in rural areas. West Virginia is a mostly rural state, so a lot of old rural traditions prevail here.

To deep fry the turkey, we use a special turkey fryer, which operates off a propane tank similar to an outdoor grill. The canister is filled with canola or peanut oil, enough to cover the whole turkey, which has to be bubbling hot. My son injects a marinade into the meat before cooking. A hook goes through the turkey from top to bottom, before it is lowered into the boiling oil.

It takes about four minutes per pound to cook, meaning our turkey is usually done in just 45 minutes. A thermometer registers when the bird is completely cooked, before you pull it from the oil, put it on a plate and leave to rest before carving.

The difference between a deep-fried and roasted turkey is the succulence of the meat: the deep-fried turkey is crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside.

We serve ours with sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, a selection of our favorite vegetables, and pumpkin pie for dessert with whipped cream.

It took time to Americanise the way I cook, but you tend to substitute what you’re used to for what’s readily available. I still like to make apple pies the Irish way, and I can do this because all kinds of apples grow in West Virginia. Thanksgiving is such an American tradition that I don’t incorporate much Irish food into the dinner, like I would at Christmas. Though I do love Brussels sprouts, so we will probably have these today.

The one thing I never gave up is tea. Barry’s tea, sold in our local grocery store, will be the perfect accompaniment to a slice of my pumkin pie.

Recipe: Pumpkin Pie

½ - 1 cup (120-240g) sugar (depending on how sweet you like it; I only use a half cup)

1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

3 Eggs

I Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice (or a mixture of ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon)

1 ½ cups (360g) canned pumpkin, or mashed, cooked pumpkin

1 cup (240g) evaporated milk

1 unbaked 9-inch (22cm) pie crust (you can use shop-bought shortcrust pastry, or make your own)

Whipped cream to serve

Preheat oven to 400F (200C). Combine the sugar, flour, pumpkin pie spice and salt in large bowl. Beat in eggs until well blended. Stir in pumpkin and evaporated milk until smooth. Pour into pie crust. Bake for 50 minutes or until knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Serve with whipped cream.

As they say in West Virginia, Happy Turkey Day!

Patricia Hopper Patteson’s debut novel Kilpara is published by Bygone Era Books. patriciahopperpatteson.com

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