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SJ ladies learn turkey techniques

Marty Van Ness, a Butterball Turkey Talk Line specialist, answers questions about preparing a Thanksgiving meal at the Butterball University in Garner, N.C., Nov. 15, 2011. Each year, the Butterball Company brings more than 30 people from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., and Fort Bragg Army Post, N.C., to Butterball University to learn how to properly prepare a traditional thanksgiving meal. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Marissa Tucker)

Marty Van Ness, a Butterball Turkey Talk Line specialist, answers questions about preparing a Thanksgiving meal at the Butterball University in Garner, N.C., Nov. 15, 2011. Each year, the Butterball Company brings more than 30 people from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., and Fort Bragg Army Post, N.C., to Butterball University to learn how to properly prepare a traditional thanksgiving meal. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Marissa Tucker)

Spouses from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., work together to properly stuff a turkey during a session at the Butterball University in Garner, N.C., Nov. 15, 2011. Officials at the Butterball Corporation annually invite military spouses to learn about proper turkey preparation and provide helpful tips to make cooking around the holidays fun and easy. The First Sergeants group at Seymour Johnson organized the trip for more than 15 spouses, retirees and military members at the base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Marissa Tucker)

Spouses from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., work together to properly stuff a turkey during a session at the Butterball University in Garner, N.C., Nov. 15, 2011. Officials at the Butterball Corporation annually invite military spouses to learn about proper turkey preparation and provide helpful tips to make cooking around the holidays fun and easy. The First Sergeants group at Seymour Johnson organized the trip for more than 15 spouses, retirees and military members at the base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Marissa Tucker)

Butterball master chef Tony Seta shows students of Butterball University how to properly carve a turkey at the Butterball Headquarters in Garner, N.C., Nov. 15, 2011. Seta, who has been a chef for more than 30 years, encouraged the students to have fun while cooking and to always maintain proper food storage techniques to have a safe holiday. Seta is one of only 65 certified Master Chef's by the American Culinary Federation and hails from Hyde Park, N.Y. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Marissa Tucker)

Butterball master chef Tony Seta shows students of Butterball University how to properly carve a turkey at the Butterball Headquarters in Garner, N.C., Nov. 15, 2011. Seta, who has been a chef for more than 30 years, encouraged the students to have fun while cooking and to always maintain proper food storage techniques to have a safe holiday. Seta is one of only 65 certified Master Chef's by the American Culinary Federation and hails from Hyde Park, N.Y. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Marissa Tucker)

Marty Van Ness unwraps a cooked turkey for the students attending the Butterball University at the Butterball Headquarters in Garner, N.C., Nov. 15, 2011. Van Ness introduced a temporary storage method for turkeys, which included wrapping a fresh-out-of-the-oven turkey in alluminum foil, placing it in an ice cooler and placing towels on top. If the cooler remains unopened, a cooked turkey can maintain a safe temperature for two hours. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Marissa Tucker)

Marty Van Ness unwraps a cooked turkey for the students attending the Butterball University at the Butterball Headquarters in Garner, N.C., Nov. 15, 2011. Van Ness introduced a temporary storage method for turkeys, which included wrapping a fresh-out-of-the-oven turkey in alluminum foil, placing it in an ice cooler and placing towels on top. If the cooler remains unopened, a cooked turkey can maintain a safe temperature for two hours. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Marissa Tucker)

Students view the remnants of a turkey carved by Butterball master chef Tony Seta during a session at Butterball University in Garner, N.C., Nov. 15, 2011. More than 30 military spouses, retirees and servicemembers attended Butterball University, which teaches skills in turkey preparation and food safety. The course is similar to the training given to Butterball Turkey Talk Line operators, who operate a hotline for anyone with questions about preparing turkey on Thanksgiving Day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Marissa Tucker)

Students view the remnants of a turkey carved by Butterball master chef Tony Seta during a session at Butterball University in Garner, N.C., Nov. 15, 2011. More than 30 military spouses, retirees and servicemembers attended Butterball University, which teaches skills in turkey preparation and food safety. The course is similar to the training given to Butterball Turkey Talk Line operators, who operate a hotline for anyone with questions about preparing turkey on Thanksgiving Day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Marissa Tucker)

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- As the familiar smells of a traditional thanksgiving dinner wafted through the air, more than 15 Airmen, spouses and retirees here learned the proper way to cook a Thanksgiving meal at the Butterball University, Nov. 15.

The Butterball University, located in Garner, N.C., teaches the basics of proper turkey preparation including things such as thawing techniques, cooking methods and carving a turkey. The class is designed from the instructional course given to many Butterball employees and the students learn everything they need to know about a turkey, said Marty Van Ness, the instructor for the course.

"Thanksgiving is supposed to be a joyous occasion, but preparing a turkey can be a daunting task that can ruin the day for some," said Van Ness. "Having just the basics on how to cook a turkey can keep the holidays fun, because if you have a really bad experience with it, you may never want to do it again."

The course begins with students sharing their Thanksgiving traditions, setting the nostalgic mood for the course. Then, one of the most important parts of turkey preparation is taught; unthawing.

"It is amazing the ideas people have come up with to unthaw a turkey, including an electric blanket but to prevent any food borne illnesses, thaw a turkey in cool water for a minimum of 30 minutes per pound, or in the refrigerator for a minimum of 24 hours for every four pounds," Van Ness said. "No one wants to end their night in the hospital."

Equally important to thawing is proper cooking technique. Whether one chooses to use an oven, a smoker or a fryer, there can be dangers associated with any method. One military spouse who will cook her first Thanksgiving meal by herself took away some helpful tips and is excited to see how her meal turns out.

"There were plenty of things I thought I knew about making a turkey from watching my mother and aunts, but now I feel more prepared to cook my own Thanksgiving meal," said Katie Gooch, wife of Airman 1st Class Justin Gooch, 4th Communications Squadron knowledge operations technician. "It will just be him and I this year, and I hope to make it special."

From a few newlyweds to some seasoned spouses, there were helpful tips for everyone in attendance. After viewing the proper procedures and getting some hands on training on how to stuff the birds, students were given a traditional Thanksgiving meal with turkey prepared more than six ways. Seeing the process done correctly gave encouragement to some of the attendees.

"I have cooked turkeys before, but they never came out quite right," said Melanie Hernandez, wife of Staff Sgt. Gerson Hernandez of the 4th Force Support Squadron, who is currently deployed. "Hopefully with all the new information, mine will turn out as good as the cooks here."

The First Sergeant's group organized the visit to the Butterball University after an invite from company representatives. Since 2008, the Butterball Corporation has invited servicemembers, spouses and retirees to attend the event as a way to give back to the military," said Bridget O'Malley, Butterball public relations representative.

"We all know how stressful Thanksgiving can be and we really just want to show our appreciation for the military families," O'Malley said. "There are many young wives cooking their first Thanksgiving meal, and we hope to help them make the occasion memorable for the right reasons."
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