{thanksgiving} Our Family Tradition…Brining Willie Bird

Thanksgiving….it is one of the holidays that revolve around tradition.  All week we have been talking about what our family traditions are when it comes to Thanksgiving.

My family loves this holiday.  My husband loves to entertain, cook and he especially enjoys preparing the annual turkey that we refer to as “Willie Bird”.  The kids love preparing the table, getting out all the fancy “stuff”, entertaining  and welcoming the guests when they arrive. Aren’t I one lucky girl!!!

For the past three years, Eric has been brining our turkey.  (Brining is a technique used before cooking the bird where the bird is soaked in a seasoned saltwater mixture.) The first year I thought he was crazy and it was certainly going to be a disaster.  There was no trial run.  Lucky for us Willie Bird was…. AMAZING, DELICIOUS, OUTSTANDING, OUT OF THIS WORLD and the only way the Thanksgiving bird is prepared now!  Check out below on how we brine our turkey.  There’s still time to make this one of your family traditions.

Over the past several years our Thanksgiving traditions have evolved.  Since we have had children Thanksgiving has been held at our homestead.   One of the unique traditions our family has is that each guest brings an item that is meaningful to them and their Thanksgiving Tradition.

Let me explain.  Each guest brings the one “thing” that they grew up with for Thanksgiving.  For example my uncle brings oysters, my mother bakes all the pies, my mother in-law makes cranberry relish, and on and on.  Each one of these items has significant meaning for each guest.  So you can imagine we have a lot of food.  Some items only the guest eats, let’s say those creamed oysters…yeah nobody else eats them except my uncle but they MUST be on the table!  And every year we tell the same stories about the food….remember the one year I forgot the milk in the oysters……and on and on.  The nice thing is my husband only has to worry about perfecting Willie Bird, the stuffing and dressing (Do you know what the difference is?) the mashed potatoes and squash.

Because of the wonderful selection of root vegetables from local Kilpatrick Family Farm I will be preparing roasted vegetables this year.  All of our vegetables are coming from Kilpatrick Farm.  This week Kilpatrick sent out an order form to pre-order your vegetables.  They box them and will have them waiting to pick up at the market on Saturday (one of the busiest market days of the year).  How quick and easy is that?  THANK YOU Kilpatrick!

Like Leslie’s family, “Willie Bird” this year is coming straight from Sap Bush Hollow Farm. The turkey will be weighing in at a whooping 24 pounds.  This makes my hubby soooo happy!  Check out Leslie’s post this week about Sap Bush Hollow Farm. 

This year a brand new exciting tradition will begin.  My husband and I will be running in The Troy Turkey Trot along with fellow From Scratch members, Chris and Sarah.  I can’t think of a better way to kick of this wonderful holiday then meeting up with close friends early in the morning and going for a run!!  I hope this is a tradition that will continue and eventually involve our children.

So from our table to yours….I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.

Brining of Willie Bird:


Instructions on the back of the jar reads:

“In a large pot over high heat, combine 1 jar of turkey brine with 1 gallon water; bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the brine.  Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until well chilled.

In a 5 gallon container, combine the brining solution with 1 gallon plus 2 cups ice water and 6 cups apple cider, or with 1 ½ gallons ice water only.  Add a thawed turkey.  Cover and refrigerate for 12-36 hours, turning the turkey over one halfway through the brining time.  Just before roasting, remove turkey from the brine, rinse well with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.”


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Sarah F says:

    1) Yum. Your turkey pics make me hungry even though it’s 7:30 in the morning.
    2) I love your traditions. I think it’s so incredible to sit around the table and tell stories, especially when they are the same stories every year. So fun!
    3) Can’t wait to start our new Turkey Trot tradition this year. It will certainly involve our kids in the very near future.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family Amanda! Great post.

  2. Sarah Holdaway says:

    Love the pic of Eric! I am going to attempt to make your mom’s pumpkin pie this year. I am going for a trial run this weekend. One of my favorite thanksgiving memories is eating your mom’s pie for breakfast the morning after Thanksgiving!

    Happy Thanksgiving to the entire Zenner/Sheehan Clan!

    1. Ann P says:

      Hi Amanda,
      My husband Tom has been brining the bird for several years now. He has developed his own brine recipe by modifying one he found in a cooking magazine. The beauty is that he can control the amount of salt to our taste. I will get his recipe and send it to you through Sarah F.

      Have fun at the Turkey Trot and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  3. SallyA says:

    Your table looks just beautiful. Your guest is lovely, too!

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