“Take all the turkey you want, but leave the ham.” Each Thanksgiving, that was my dad’s useless instruction to my sister, Sue, and me. We always ignored his request and fixed to-go bags of both entrees.

If the Hallmark Channel can start Christmas movies 24/7 the day after Halloween, we can surely talk about Thanksgiving the first couple of weeks in November. Today, let’s talk turkey.

I write this turkey tip every year, and every year, I hear from cooks who say they finally took my suggestion and wish they had done so years earlier. That’s the same thing my mother told me the first year she cooked her turkey the day before Thanksgiving.

Simply roast your turkey as you normally would and when you carve it, place it in a roasting pan and top with the juices. Cover tightly and refrigerate.

For Thanksgiving dinner, keep it covered with foil and reheat in the oven. It’s so quick and less stress and you won’t know it was cooked ahead of time.

Don’t skip the step to pat dry the bird before cooking. Get some paper towels and dry well.

Turkey can sometimes be dry, and the best way to assure juicy meat is to brine it before roasting. At a minimum, the brine should contain water and salt, but there’s no reason not to add flavors. They can make a big difference in taste and moistness.

Today’s recipe from Taste of Home brines in a cooking bag and roasts uncovered. My mother used the uncovered method while That Joplin Woman always used a cooking bag. Both were always delicious, and it’s a matter of personal preference.

But brining in the bag is genius.

There is no need for a huge container to assure the turkey is covered. Consider brining if you haven’t done so before. And consider fixing your turkey the day before serving for an easier day for the cook.

Coming soon, my most-requested and best-loved recipe for make-ahead mashed potatoes — another great idea for making Thanksgiving dinner easier.

Have a wonderful week, and happy eating.

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Citrus-scented brined turkey

11 garlic cloves, peeled

6 cups unsweetened apple juice

1 cup kosher salt

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup soy sauce

3 tablespoons fresh ginger root

4 bay leaves

6 cups cold water

1 (12- to 14-pound) turkey

1 lemon, orange and onion, cut into wedges

4 sprigs fresh thyme

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Mince five garlic cloves; halve the remaining cloves and set aside.

In large kettle, combine minced garlic with next six ingredients. Bring to a boil; cook and stir until salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from heat and add cold water to bring to room temperature.

Remove giblets from turkey. Place turkey-size oven roasting bag inside another bag and add turkey. Pour cooled brine in bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible. Seal bags and turn to coat. Place in roasting pan and refrigerate 18 to 24 hours, turning several times.

Drain and discard the brine. Rinse turkey under cold water and pat dry. Place the lemon, orange, onion and thyme in cavity. Rub oil over skin. Skewer turkey openings and tie drumsticks together. Twist wing tips under back.

Place turkey, breast side up, on rack in roasting pan. Bake, uncovered, at 325 degrees, for 4 to 4 1/2 hours or until meat thermometer inserted in thigh registers 180 degrees. Baste occasionally is desired. Cover lightly with foil if skin browns too quickly. Let stand 20 minutes before removing cavity contents and carving. Yields 12 to 14 servings.

Address correspondence to Cheryle Finley, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.

Cheryle Finley is a food columnist for The Joplin Globe. Address correspondence to Cheryle Finley, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.

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