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Commissaries Ready to "talk turkey"

By Rick Brink
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORT LEE, Va., Nov. 4, 2002, Nov. 4, 2002 – Commissary shoppers around the world might as well plan now to loosen their belts because there's plenty of food - like 8 million pounds of turkey - ready to be bought for Thanksgiving.

Commissary management specialists here project 6 million pounds of frozen whole turkeys and 800,000 pounds of fresh whole turkeys will be sold in commissaries this year. Add to that 850,000 pounds of frozen turkey breast meat and 130,000 pounds of fresh turkey breast meat and the total reaches nearly 8 million pounds, all sold at great prices in DeCA's 275 stores.

"Nothing says Thanksgiving like turkey, and every year during this American holiday we take special pride in providing what we like to call 'A Taste of Home' to our military service members around the world," said Bob Vitikacs, DeCA's director of operations and product support.

Sharing with others is a big part of Thanksgiving and DeCA's new gift certificate program makes it possible for service members to easily receive a gift of groceries. The certificates are available through DeCA's Internet site, http://www.commissaries.com. Authorized shoppers can then redeem the certificates at any commissary worldwide.

As the traditional rush to stock up for the holidays begins this month, those who like to bake stock up on flour, sugar, baking soda, spices and other cook-from-scratch ingredients while those who like to bake more quickly stock up on ready-made frozen desserts and pop-in-the-oven refrigerated crescent rolls and cookie dough.

For those who'd prefer beef, pork, lamb and veal for the holidays, the commissary is the perfect place to shop because of the "Meat Made Easy" program. Meats sold in the commissary are merchandised by cooking method with signs, labels and even recipes. The program helps inexperienced as well as experienced cooks discover new ways to prepare that special rib roast, sirloin roast, beef tenderloin roast, crown roast of pork or leg of lamb.

Those who buy turkey will find cooking instructions on the packaging, and there are many Web sites that offer recipes and hints on how to prepare a crowd-pleasing turkey.

Here are a few tips:

o How much turkey? Buy about a pound per dinner guest and you'll have enough for seconds and leftovers.

o How do you defrost a frozen turkey? Always thaw turkey in the refrigerator, never at room temperature. Allow 24-hours for every five pounds. That means a 13-pound turkey will take nearly three days so plan your purchase accordingly and make room in your refrigerator.

o How do you carve a cooked turkey? Let it stand at least 20 minutes before carving to allow the juices to retract back into the meat. It will not cool off during this standing time.

(Editor's note: Brink is a public affairs specialist at the Defense Commissary Agency)

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