LEOMINSTER – It’s that time of year again. Jack-o’-lanterns are starting to rot on the front steps, and stepping on the sidewalk creates that woosh woosh sound produced by walking through the leaves in the crisp, crisp fall air. Sunday football resonates on televisions as the timeless ritual of the harvest descends upon us. It reminds busy people to be grateful and gives farmers one last chance to recoup the investment of a year’s work.

Apples and pumpkins are the first foods that come to mind when the leaves change color. Maybe it’s those golden hues of gold and orange that match a pumpkin’s skin that’s driving people crazy about pumpkin. Beer, coffee, pancakes, and donuts are just a few of the foods that take on that fall personality. Fall actors in a seasonal play leading us all to the big day, the Super Bowl of food, Thanksgiving.

Like a true American holiday, this festive day has dark origins that aid the divisive energy present on this day. If you’ve ever worried about dinner or guests on the third Thursday of November, you understand how emotional the day can be.

Dealing with family members who rub us the wrong way or old friends who demand our attention is stressful enough, not to mention trying to create a feast for all those people and the kids. Oh, kids.

It’s hard to rejoice in the growth of a niece or a cousin’s new husband trying to clean the brussels sprouts and make sure the potatoes don’t overcook, especially when people are getting busy. refrain from coming into the kitchen. If you’re the organized person who doesn’t feel the anxiety or stress of Thanksgiving, kudos to you. For all my stressed out turkey day pals, meal prep folks, we’re going to tackle the crown jewel of Thanksgiving – the bird.

“Bbb-bird bird, bird is the word,” as the old Trashmen song goes.

This is your new guide to making the perfect bird. But first, a bit of history.

When Roots Kitchen was being developed, turkey was the last thing on my mind. The whole concept and menu went through many changes and modifications as we tried to figure out what made the most sense to serve our healthy community and appeal to people who otherwise might not have put feet in a health food store.

Back in Massachusetts from the nation’s first gluten-free state, California, sandwiches never crossed my mind. Bowls, salads, whole grains and raw nuts seemed a natural choice. Granted, the one thing Central Massachusetts didn’t need was another substore.

Well, several arguments, discussions and revisions later, I started experimenting with my turkey recipe.

Marieke Cormier, owner of Roots Natural Foods and Chantal Langford, who was the general manager at the time, convinced me that the sandwiches I created would make an impression and attract people.

The summer before it opened, I tried making turkey in so many ways. Dry Rub, Wet Rub, Marinade and Dry Roast.

I knew that a good roast turkey breast, roasted on the bone, could equal a boar’s head turkey breast, which was the benchmark in Twin City sandwich circles. I wanted no additives, no preservatives, the best turkey meat ever.

Rotisserie roast and pot roast have all been tried in hopes of making the perfect bird. I soon learned the truth, uncovered the plot, and saw the light. That perfect turkey on the cover of the magazine, golden, shiny, firm and supple. Perfect, crispy skin.

This turkey was, how can I say that… not a lie… but dry! It’s true, just like the tough human bodies we’ve seen on magazine covers, photoshopped to perfection, this “ideal” wasn’t real.

Let me explain.

Having a perfectly cooked golden turkey that smells of heaven means nothing. The goal is not to make it look perfect, but taste perfect. The truth is we break down the turkey to eat it and the real test is in the taste.

When all is well, take a second for yourself.

Engage in any libation that makes you want to talk well and eat well. A shower will wash away worries and put you in a happy place. Feeling confident and looking cute will make people want your food more.

If you’re still stressed out, those emotions will carry over to dinner and stop the vibes.

Thank the Earth for growing it, the farmer for harvesting it, and the cook for making it! (it’s you!)

“And here’s your flavortown map,” as chef Guy Fieri would say.

How to cook the perfect turkey

Step 1: Secure the bird. The shortages this year are real. Most turkeys are sold frozen and are expected to sell this year. That might be a whole lot of hype, but why take the risk. If you have room in your freezer, the sooner the better. Organic birds are often pasture raised, which means better flavor. Heritage birds go one step further. Their flavor is full-bodied and earthy, almost gamey. It’s a wonderful rich flavor but can be very strong for some. It’s all a matter of preference and after giving it the love we give it, it will taste amazing no matter what.

This is also a good time to think about what you are going to cook this feast in. Do you have a pan? A good pan is worth investing in. The sides should be at least four inches deep, but the deeper the better. A giant aluminum pan isn’t a bad idea either. You can throw it away at the end of the day. Green is always better but if there’s already a ton on your plate, cleanup can be a nightmare. Just be sure to recycle.

2nd step: To make room. Ideally, your turkey’s vacation will include three days and two nights in a luxurious bucket. A five gallon bucket, so baby will need space. If you don’t have room in your fridge like most others, find a safe place in the garage or back porch, even the basement works as long as it’s cold, clean and safe. I always use the back porch and worry about squirrels or dogs getting into the buckets, but a tight seal with a big rock on top is as safe as Fort Worth as far as critters go. The turkey is usually frozen and this helps keep it cold, but don’t go above 45 degrees during the day and never in direct sunlight. Keep some ice handy to throw in your bucket as global warming sets in and the months of November get hotter and hotter.

Step 3: Prepare the brine. For some reason, when people hear the word brine, they think of pickles. So, let’s go for a second. Imagine a cucumber — crunchy — with no real flavor other than a vague taste of fresh or green. It’s the perfect ship. Brine is a salty, sweet, herbaceous liquid with magical properties. Reverse osmosis is driving this train to, you guessed it, the city of flavors.

In other words, reverse osmosis, the chemical reaction, is what makes pickling so special. Taste at the end. It should be a bit too much of everything but delicious and balanced. Make sure the salt and sugar have melted/dissolved. If you see a bunch of sugar and salt granules at the bottom, it’s best to reheat and let it melt.

Step 4: Overwhelm the beast. In an ideal world, you want your bird fully thawed and your brine at room temperature. If the brine is a little warm and the turkey a little frozen, it’s fine. Drop her off at the pool. Straight into the bucket. If your bucket has this warning sign, of a baby stepping into a bucket with this part of the Ghostbusters logo around it, saying “Don’t do it”, remember you have a bird not a baby. But treat her well. You’ve already made room, so all you have to worry about is seating arrangements, any other sides for dinner, how to keep Uncle John from talking politics, where the kids will be seated and what to do with dogs. I’m giving you a few (three) days to take care of everything else while Sheila, can we call her Shelia? Get the full spa treatment.

Step 5: Today is the day. Today, all you want is to get Sheila in first. Preheat the oven and get it ready early. Our half-week brine will keep everything nice and juicy. I like to have onions, apples, garlic, and fresh herbs like sage, rosemary, and thyme for this last step. If it takes her a long time to get ready and look beautiful, we want to give her the time she needs. Start by cutting the apples and onions and peeling the garlic. The idea is that we are going to put half under the turkey in the pan and the other half in the cavity.

Now here is my little secret: Flip the bird! Flip your whole turkey.

When this is done we will pour the remaining brine into a large measuring cup. A large sheet metal tray should be placed under your rotisserie to catch the mess we will make later. Place Sheila in the oven and pour in the brine to just over half. Halfway through the cooking process comes the biggest challenge of this whole ordeal. Return your baby to brown. I use tongs and a spoon. Use the pliers to grab the top of the cavity and start flipping your masterpiece. Place the spoon in the corner of the leg and go back the rest of the way. Try not to puncture the top skin. Two tongs to a friend (not your partner!) and maybe a spoon can also work. The leaf tray should catch any access liquid, but clean up any messes immediately. Now roast until golden brown. 165 degrees. It’s ready when the leg drops when pulling or when the juices run clear when cutting.

Cook everything else while the smell of turkey fills the air. Cut once cooled a little and put it back in a roasted pan with the cooking juices. Bake covered to reheat 10 minutes before serving if necessary.