One thing to note about this cocktail, especially if you make it at home and find you really enjoy it, is that the Gewürztraminer you choose for the syrup has a profound effect on the final creation. It’s surprising just how much of a difference you’ll find between a Columbia or Willamette Valley and an Alsatian Gewürztraminer, given how little wine makes it into the cocktail, compared to the other ingredients. I suggest you try a few, or just head down to Beaker and Flask to order one, and be sure to ask what they made the syrup with.
Here is the hourly schedule for Turkey Tracker. All times are PST. Turkey smoking will continue throughout these segments. Please remember that we’re doing all this live, and some things can be unpredictable and may preempt this schedule.
9 – 9:30 AM: Turkey in the smoker, broadcast starts.
10 AM: Gobble Gobble Hey? – We answer your questions.
11 AM: Turkey Toast & Technocrati Talk – A Discussion of the Technology Behind Turkey Tracker. This hour is sponsored by New Seasons Market.
12 PM: Kevin Ludwig from Beaker and Flask presents a cocktail in honor of Turkey Tracker. (pre-taped)
1 PM: Beers to compliment your Thanksgiving meal. Q&A.
2 PM : Kevin Ludwig from Beaker and Flask presents a cocktail in honor of Turkey Tracker. (pre-taped) followed by dedications.
3 PM: Wines to compliment your Thanksgiving meal. Q&A.
4 PM: Kevin Ludwig from Beaker and Flask presents a cocktail in honor of Turkey Tracker. (pre-taped) followed by more Gobble Gobble, Hey?
5 PM: Parade of Appetizers
6 PM: Kevin Ludwig from Beaker and Flask presents a cocktail in honor of Turkey Tracker. (pre-taped) followed by Prize Drawing.
6:30 – 7 PM: Turkey is done!
A few months ago, I asked Kevin Ludwig, owner of Beaker and Flask, if he’d be interested in making a special Thanksgiving cocktail for Turkey Tracker. He said “yes,” and last week I had the joy of tasting it for the first time. It’s a delicious apéritif, which you’ll have the pleasure of learning to make from Kevin himself during the Turkey Tracker broadcast.
We’re not going to post the recipe until it airs on Thanksgiving, but we will tell you what ingredients you need, so you’ll be all ready to play along at home.
Ingredients for Beaker and Flask’s Turkey Tracker inspired cocktail:
Wild Turkey Rye
Martini and Rossi Bianco Vermouth
Cynar (an Italian liqueur made with artichoke leaves)
Gewürztraminer Syrup (1 part dry gewürztraminer, 1 part water and 2 parts sugar, cooked into a simple syrup)
You’ll also need a cocktail shaker, and some way to zest the orange.
This is a seriously good cocktail, and if you’re at all inclined towards mixology that goes beyond ice, whiskey and coke, I urge you to get these ingredients and tune in to see how it’s done from the master himself.
If you’re wondering what you’ll do with the Cynar (probably the most surprising ingredient) after making this cocktail, I promise to post more Cynar recipes to the blog to help you use it up, or come to your house and take if off your hands.
Dish: Smoked Turkey
Beer: Ommegang Curiex or Tripel Karmelite
Style: Barrel Aged or with notes of Caramel Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Beer: Heater Allen, Upright #6, or Paulaner Salvator
Style: Dunkelweizen, or quasi sweet Bock
Beer: Upright Rustica #4 or Saison De Pipaix
Style: Rustic Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Beer: Elysian Night Owl
Style: Pumpkin Ale
Dish: Stuffing with Raisins
Beer: Dupont Avec les bons Voeux
Style: Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Dish: Salad/Cream Dressing
Beer: Victory Pilsner
Style: German Pilsener
Beer: Upright Wit or Upright #4
Dish: French Onion Green Bean Casserole
Beer: Old Peculiar or Oskar Blues Old Chub
Style: Scottish Ale
Beer: Oud Beersel or Liefmans Framboise
Style: Sweet to tart berry Lambic – fruit
If you’re near Portland, many of these beers are available at Belmont Station or on tap at various establishments around town. Search Taplister.com as it can help you in your search to find these on tap, or ask your local beer steward at Belmont Station to get your hands on these tasty brews.
Beer Geek Disclaimer:
Palates may vary and we don’t condone drinking all these in one day, you know your palate best and these are merely suggestions to get your tastebuds excited about the Holiday season, Cheers! Drink safely! -Scott@Taplister.com
This year we really want to see a lot of people pledge to help the Oregon Food Bank, so we’ve decided to take advantage of one of the oldest tricks in the book: bribery!
If 100 people (or more) pledge to help the Oregon Food Back by donating a few cents per Turkey Tracker viewer, we will give one randomly selected pledger a brand new 8GB iPod Touch.
Go here to pledge.
We’re only handling the list of pledges; you’ll make your donation directly to OFB, after we tally up the number of viewers and tell you what your total pledge comes to. Your donation should be tax deductible, to the extent allowed by law.
There are fewer than three weeks til Thanksgiving, and we’ve been hard at work to make this the most exciting Turkey Tracker yet.
We wanted to let you in on some of what we’ve been working on, and give you an idea of what to expect this Thanksgiving.
Last year, I mentioned that we were considering a new smoker, due to the flareups that have frustrated us with this one. We ultimately decided that going for a new smoker was unnecessary, and that we needed to address our smoking approach instead. This year, we’ve switched from the wood chunks we had been using the last few years, back to wood chips. The wood mix is still pecan and oak, and it’s still entirely natural wood, they’re just smaller pieces. Our reasoning is that the woodchips can be soaked effectively (hardwood chunks can sit in water for days and only get wet about a 1/4″ in from the edge) and if woodchips do catch fire, they will flame out quickly. So far, in our dry-run chicken smokings, we’ve managed to avoid flareups, and we’ve still produced delicious, smokey fowl.
A Better Show
The first two Turkey Trackers were mostly a camera trained on the smoker, and us periodically popping into the frame. Last year, you gave us lots of enthusiastic suggestions (more dog shots, parade of appetizers, etc.), which we did our best to accommodate. Now that we know what you want, we’re planning ahead of time so that the show is more exciting and informative. As we near Thanksgiving, we’ll be posting a full schedule for the broadcast, but in the meantime I can tell you that there will be two dogs running around, we will have a formal parade of appetizers, you’ll be invited to join us in the Turkey Toast, and we’ll have some short talks about Thanksgiving food and beverage pairings.
Ways You Can Participate
There are a few things you can do to be a part of Turkey Tracker this year. Just by tuning in, you add to the fun. There’s also the chat, which gets lively, there’s a link for it right under the video stream. It will open up a little chat room in a new window, so you can talk with us and other Turkey Tracker viewers.
If you have a digital camera, we highly recommend you join the Turkey Tracker Fanclub Flickr Group and post photos of your Thanksgiving. The photos you post will appear on our site for everyone to see.
If you’re on Twitter, you should follow @turkeytracker. We’ll also be using the hashtag #TT09 to tag tweets about Turkey Tracker, so please try to use it if you want to say something about the show.
Finally, you can join us in supporting the Oregon Food Bank this year. The Oregon Food Bank is the largest hunger relief organization in Oregon, and this year they’ve experienced a 20% increase in families requesting food. We’ve decided that it’s in the spirit of Thanksgiving to help them help needy families by raising money through Turkey Tracker. We’re asking anyone who can to please pledge a few cents per viewer (like a Walkathon) to the Oregon Food Bank. If you decide to pledge, we’ll let you know after the show how many viewers we had, and then you can make your donation directly to OFB. 100% of what you give will go to fight hunger. Everyone who pledges will get a hand written, signed Thank You note. You can pledge here. Thank you.
Below, in all its glory, is the story of this year’s Turkey, along with some historical info about each step.
This year’s turkey came from Sheridan Fruit Company, a wonderful local grocery. It’s a natural, free range turkey, meaning that it got to walk around and eat bugs and stuff, in addition to turkey feed. That also means that it isn’t a shockingly large-breasted, brine injected bird-in-a-bag that enjoyed a life of antibiotics and hormones prior to being our dinner. Not quite the same as ordering a Heritage Turkey a year in advance, or hunting our own from the area’s recent wild turkey infestation, but a decent start. We order an additional pair of legs, because drumsticks are popular with the cooking crew. At least one of the butchers at Sheridan actually remembers this order from year to year.
Wednesday morning, the bird went into a brine made with:
1 cup Morton’s pickling salt
1-cup apple cider vinegar
3 carrot sticks chopped in 1-inch pieces
3 celery stalks chopped in 1-inch pieces
1 bunch radishes, whole with ends sliced off
1 yellow onion sliced in eighths
1 white onion sliced in eighths
Water to fill the pot
The bird was in the brine for about 20 hours, after which it was rinsed and prepped for cooking.
We’ve brined the bird with an apple cider vinegar and salt mixture for the past 4 years, if I recall correctly. This is the first year that the vegetables were included. I got that idea from a friend, who mentioned that a friend of his would basically make a soup as a brine. Next year, at my mother’s recommendation, I’ll cook the mix first, so that the vegetable flavors get into the water more.
We don’t cook stuffing in the bird, because that would take much too long, and risk the stuffing not getting fully cooked. We do, however, place sliced apples in the cavity to add to the flavor and because the apples come out tasting a bit like apple pie chutney and are tasty with the bird. This bird took 3 green apples, sliced.
We use approximately half pecan and half white oak to smoke the bird. The pecan delivers a satisfying bacon flavor, similar to apple wood smoked bacon, while the oak delivers a traditional BBQ flavor to the bird. We hit on this combo last year after trying many things, including cherry wood with mesquite charcoal, apple wood with mesquite charcoal, and a hazelnut shell smoking mix. If I had to rank these, I’d place pecan/oak in first, apple/mesquite second, cherry/mesquite third (though this is top notch for smoking pork) and the hazelnut stuff last.
The bird smoked for about 8 hours between 200° and 225° F, until the last 20 minutes or so, when we took advantage of the gas burner to bump the temperature up to around 350° F to finish the bird. The past two or three years we’ve finished the bird in the oven, and before that we finished it on a grill, which added drama, but not a lot of flavor. The first year that Wil and I cooked the turkey, we actually didn’t have a smoker, and we did a combo of the oven to start, and the grill with smoking chips added to finish it.
The baste is a mix of 1-pint Old Crow Bourbon, 1-cup honey and 2 sticks butter. We don’t baste on a schedule, but try to hit it a couple times an hour.
The baste is a little funny. The first year I was making it, I heard a Garrison Keilor skit about Thanksgiving where he mentioned making the baste with 4 sticks of butter. Never having made turkey before, I went ahead with that, not realizing that it was Midwestern exageration. Before you imagine that the turkey comes out soaked in that much butter, keep in mind that most of it drips off the bird and into the water pan below it, and never touches anyone’s lips.
Our Thanksgiving was wonderful. All the food was delicious, the turkey smoked for eight hours and was succulent and smokey and the table was packed tight with friends and family. Turkey Tracker turned out better than any of us expected. My hope was that we would peak at 150 viewers, and maybe see 3-500 people over the course of the day. When the dust settled, it turned out we had about 170 viewers at our peak, and a total of 15,585 unique viewers over the course of the day. Much of this can be attributed to Ustream.tv deciding to feature us on their front page many times over the day. We can’t thank them enough. TurkeyTracker.com had 997 visitors, according to Google Analytics, while Ustream brought in the additional 14,588.
A particular highlight was an early evening surge in Canadian viewers, pointed to the site by a great piece on the CBC’s As it Happens, which I’m told is akin to All Things Considered on NPR. Even though they enjoyed their turkey dinners over a month ago, a bunch of our Northern neighbors decided to get into the fun, last Thursday.
Here are links to the pieces about us, in the order they appeared:
The CBC’s As it Happens (Audio file, we’re the last 3 minutes or so)
We also want to thank all the folks who mentioned us on Twitter and shared the link with their friends and readers, and especially the folks at Ustream for finding us and reaching out to give us a big push. Next year I promise we’ll call you first.
We’re certainly looking forward to next year’s Turkey Tracker, and we plan to add some things to make it bigger and better. Among the possibilities:
– A better smoker. Honestly, we’ve been a touch disappointed with the one we have now, and a bigger, better unit may be in order.
– A call-in portion. Setting up a VoIP number and doing a talk-show bit would be fun. We could schedule a couple turkey chats over the course of the day. We tried to get people in front of the camera (and our lovely dog Petra) and we did a nice parade of appetizers and sides, but this was pretty much all put together on the fly as folks requested it. Now that we know what you want to see, we can better plan it out and show it to you.
– Charity Sponsors. This one really excites me. I’d like to get one or more companies (or individuals) to sponsor the feed by pledging to donate $1 to a food bank for every viewer we have. Anyone who’d like to do this should not hesitate to get in touch with us.
If you have other ideas for what would make Turkey Tracker more fun, please contact us and let us know.
This morning I placed our bird, along with two extra drumsticks into a very large pot, and filled it with water, 1 cup of salt, 1 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1 cup of whiskey, 1 bunch of radishes, 1 yellow onion, 1 white onion, 3 sliced carrots and 3 chopped celery stalks. The pot is now covered in the garage and packed in ice. Here’s a picture of the whole thing before I took it out back to sit til tomorrow morning.
Our FAQ probably answers most of your questions about the why and how of Turkey Tracker, but I wanted to share a bit about our temperature tracking system. From the FAQ:
Our ambient and smoker temperature sensors are bolt-on thermocouples with glass-insulated wire rated to 480degC (900degF). The probe for the turkey itself is a custom ordered probe that has a advanced ceramic insulation made by 3M that’s rated to 1200degC (2200degF). The thermocouples generate a current proportional to the temperature, which we amplify with an Analog Devices AD595 chip. The AD595 is then connected to an Arduino microcontroller board that is programmed to output the temperature, in Celsius, over USB. We have a ruby script that collects the data on the serial line and converts it to Fahrenheit. For graphing, we use RRDTool. The data is polled every minute. The steps you see in the graph also depict minute intervals.
Here’s a picture of the finished product:
Last year, we didn’t have the high temperature wires, and we lost our sensors when they touched the shell of the smoker. We track the bird temperature (looking for 160° in the breast), the air in the smoker (we want to keep it between 200° and 225°) and the ambient temperature (we can expect about 50° to 55°). We will probably move the bird to the oven for finishing, so that we can eat at a reasonable hour, when it hits about 140°.
In addition to graphing the temperature, the data collection script also sends updates for major events and warnings if one of the temperatures veers outside the norm so that we can quickly address the situation. Standing in 50° weather with smoke billowing out into your face is tough to keep up, even when it’s sunny out.