Rock Hill students help prepare turkeys for community Thanksgiving

rsouthmayd@heraldonline.comNovember 22, 2013 

If you think preparing your Thanksgiving meal is a big job, it’s probably nothing compared to the work students at the Applied Technology Center have been doing under the guidance of teacher Suzanne Young.

Over the past week, Young and her culinary arts students have been preparing 75 turkeys, 438 batches of stuffing and 35 gallons of turkey stock (for cooking and for gravy) to help Christians Feed the Hungry ministry prepare for its annual Thanksgiving meal.

Some of the turkeys will be smoked by other volunteers, but dozens are being cooked by the students.

“It’s a big job,” Young said.

She and her ATC students also helped out last year, but this time around, she chose to restructure the way it was done.

“This year, we decided that we wanted to make it more curriculum-centered and have all the kids do it,” she said, “so we’re diversifying, and each day they do something different.”

And how exactly do you make an ATC Thanksgiving turkey?

Keep it simple, Young said.

Students let the birds thaw for a number of days, depending on their weight, then run cold water over them. They remove the bag on the inside with all those extra parts, prompting plenty of jokes about just how disgusting an activity that is and sparking a debate about the correct pronunciation of “giblets.”

Despite much discussion, Young said, the students are still divided on that matter.

To season the turkeys, the students just use olive oil, salt, pepper and poultry seasoning before covering them in foil, with a vent so the large convection oven fan doesn’t blow the foil off.

When they appear done and the little indicator has popped, the turkeys are removed and their temperature is double-checked with a meat thermometer.

“We always use a thermometer, because you never know if the one the turkey comes with has malfunctioned,” Young said.

Once the turkeys have cooled, the students get back to work, pulling meat from the bones and putting it into large trays so its easy to serve during the meal for thousands on Thanksgiving Day. On Wednesday afternoon, three students stood at one table pulling light meat, and three others stood at another pulling dark meat.

All the extra bits like bones and skin are then put into a large vat with onions, celery and water, and cooked down for hours to make stock.

Many of the students said the smell of turkey is getting old, but they’re glad they’re learning useful skills. When senior Malik McCreary was asked if he was going to help out at home cooking his family’s Thanksgiving meal, he said, “I’ll try.”

But it’s not just lessons in cooking the students are learning.

“We’re just giving back to the community,” said senior Amber Pheller. “It’s just good for us, because we learn community service and cooking for others, so it’s not just about us all the time.”

Classmate Antonio McCleod said he learned Thanksgiving was really about helping others, which in turn makes him happy.

“You can help someone else have a good holiday, too, in the process of making yourself have a good holiday,” he said.

Rachel Southmayd •  803-329-4072

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