11/24/10 — Intimidated by the turkey? There are other options

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Intimidated by the turkey? There are other options

By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 24, 2010 1:46 PM

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Linda Herring, deli manager at the Mount Olive Piggly Wiggly, checks on some of the turkeys being cooked at the store on Tuesday. The deli cooks the turkeys, as well as hams, for people who want a holiday meal without fuss.

Cooks don't like to share their recipe secrets -- especially if that secret is a Thanksgiving Day meal prepared by people like Linda Herring and her cooking crew at the Mount Olive Piggly Wiggly deli or by cooks at the K&W Cafeteria in Goldsboro.

Rather than spending hours in the kitchen and then having to spend even more hours cleaning up, people like Robin Griffin of the Beautancus community and Jimmy Harper of Mount Olive leave some of their cooking to others.

Ms. Griffin was in the deli Tuesday afternoon to pick out a cooked ham, while Harper was in search of a custard pie.

Along with the hams and desserts, the deli provides full turkey meals, preparing more than 125 turkeys between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The K&W also sees a spike in its number of customers who either eat at the restaurant or pick up a carry-out meal. The restaurant is preparing enough food to serve between 2,000 to 2,500 people for Thanksgiving, general manager Chris Riley said.

For $6.49, people can order a turkey dinner with two vegetables, bread, dessert and tea. The restaurant will be open Thanksgiving Day until 6 p.m.

"This is the most stressful week for a K&W manager," Riley said. "It is a big deal."

Both Riley and Mrs. Herring agree it is mainly a matter of convenience.

"As far as the purchase price, they would probably come out better on the purchase price, but then you have got spend a day in that kitchen preparing your dressing your gravy and everything," Mrs. Herring said. "It is time-consuming.

"Probably these ladies have worked to 5 o'clock on Wednesday afternoon. They'll burn a little midnight oil trying to get that (cooking) done. But we do it in large quantities so it is easier for us than just doing one dinner."

The air in the deli was thick Tuesday evening with the aroma of freshly cooked and cooking hams and turkeys. The ovens were full and the cooking was expected to continue though Tuesday evening. The meats were cooled and placed in refrigerators until they could be picked up Wednesday since the store will be closed Thursday.

"We will have someone here most of the night cooking the turkeys," Mrs. Herring said. "There is a lot involved in that they have to be checked routinely. They are cooked by temperature to make sure they registered the correct temperature. It is sort of involved.

"We fill our ovens several times. Then on Wednesday, we will make the gravy and the dressing."

The staff also had stayed busy ensuring the desserts areas were stocked with a variety of favorites like German chocolate, carrot and pound cakes and pecan, pumpkin, sweet potato and coconut custard pies.

There are a lot of repeat customers.

"We do a lot of work for the elderly ladies. Family is coming in and they are at a point in their life that they are just not able to cook anymore," Mrs. Herring said. "With the family coming, they just need a little help."

Having the store prepare the meal is a matter of convenience for some people and plus they don't have to clean up after cooking, she said.

"Some people don't know how to cook a turkey," she said. "Probably convenience is No. 1. I have been here 20 years and (the deli was) doing it when I came, so I am sure it has been 30 years at least.

"We offer a full range of turkey dinners that includes the turkey, the dressing and the gravy, cranberry sauce. Or we can do a ham for you. We do smoked picnics which are a favorite and we also do that big sugar-cured ham. Our special is a 12-14 pound meal that is $32.99 completely cooked. All you have to do is heat and serve. The hams range, the smoked picnic from $2.79 per pound and the sugar-cured are $3.49 per pound."

"We offer vegetables," she said. "We have collards, the favorite, butterbeans, yams and all available for people to purchase in whatever quantity they need. If they just need a serving, we can provide that. If they need a gallon, we can provide that."

Normally the vegetables are on the deli serving line, but to ensure they will get them, customers are encouraged to order them in advance, she said.

"We cook our collards seasoned with country ham hocks, which makes them fantastic," she said. "We do butterbeans and also season those well. The yams are sugar and cinnamon."

For people who do not need a turkey that large, a fully cooked turkey breast costs $16.99.

"All that is fully cooked and all you have to do is heat and serve," she said. "If they want dressing with that order, we can add it or anything else they want to include. Right now (Monday) we have orders for about 60 dinners. During the month of December, families get together the whole month. It is not just all sold on Christmas Eve.

"We provide turkey dinners for office parties, families that get together earlier in the month, church events -- anytime during December we are cooking turkeys regularly. We also do the hams that way."

Demand for the cooked turkeys has been holding steady for the past few years, she said.

"When I first started we were doing more turkey dinners than we are now, but that is before the turkey plant (Butterball) came to the area and turkey is more available now," Mrs. Herring said. "It is not that luxury item that it used to be. People are serving it more often than they used to.

"It used to be a Thanksgiving thing. Now we are serving turkey year-round. We serve it on the line once a week. If they give us a couple of days notice because we have to defrost them just like you would at home. It takes time to defrost."

People interested in placing an order for Christmas need to do so the Monday or Tuesday prior to Christmas Day.

"Just as soon as Thanks-giving is over we start on Christmas," she said. "Friday we probably will start taking Christmas orders."