There’s no official Butterball turkey how-to video for cooking a turkey with a wood stove, especially not with a tiny stove that’s not designed for cooking.
But I know Alaskans are willing to improvise some tricks to make a holiday feast happen in remote conditions. As I headed out of town for a cabin Thanksgiving myself, I asked readers about challenges they’ve overcome when cooking holiday dinners in cabins.
Here’s just one odd story.
Emily Schwing had her doubts in 2009 when her friend Garrett Altman suggested bringing an uncooked 13-pound bird to Eleazar’s Cabin, a public use cabin in the White Mountains National Recreation Area.
“None of us thought it could happen,” she said. “We were all really skeptical. We said, ‘well we have enough food. It doesn’t matter if we don’t have turkey.’”
Schwing was a graduate student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks at the time. The night before Thanksgiving, she skied out to the cabin with her then-boyfriend Drew Harrington. Altman carried a feast in a trailer that bumped along and kept disconnecting from the snow machine. He had to reconnect it a few times, but eventually they traveled the 12 miles to the cabin.
At the cabin, their party included seven people and at least twice that many dogs. Altman started cooking at about 9 a.m. Thanksgiving morning, Schwing said. He placed the bird in two disposable roasting pans. Then, he stuffed the turkey with vegetables and green apples, coated it with butter and covered the pan with a whole roll of aluminum foil.
He then proceeded to crank up the wood stove, turning the whole cabin into a sauna. Even with the door held open, it was blazing hot inside and everyone went outside for relief, spending the day skiing up and down the big hill Eleazar’s Cabin sits on.
The turkey was ready by dinnertime and came out perfect, Schwing said. Their meal included all the usual side dishes and chestnuts, which they also roasted in the fire.
“It was probably the best Thanksgiving I’ve ever had. I just remember the day seemed to go on forever, which in Fairbanks in November is a surprising thing because the daylight is so short,” said Schwing, who now lives in Spokane, Washington.
However, the 2009 trip didn’t end with Thanksgiving. The next night Schwing and Harrington skied farther out in the White Mountains to Crowberry Cabin. They lost a dog backpack with dog food in it that day and ended up sharing their oatmeal with the dogs. The leftovers from the feast they’d enjoyed the night before had been sent back to Fairbanks with their friends.