Monday, November 26, 2007

turkey'd out - with a heritage turkey

Yep, three nights of eating leftover turkey does the trick. I'm turkeyed out.
The holiday was good, most of our local family made it, and Patrick's absence will only serve to remind us all to press him more insistently to come home next year.
The mashed potatoes just weren't the same.
Ah well, he already has his plane ticket to come home for Christmas.

But I did want to tell you about our turkey this year. We inadvertently had a Barbara Kingsolver Thanksgiving, a la her fine book, Animal Vegetable, Miracle, which I read this summer, at the time never thinking I'd have the chance to buy a heritage turkey for our table.

But a few weeks ago I was at a centennial farm in the neighborhood, buying some straw bales to use in my garden, and the subject of turkeys came up. I saw some turkeys in a wire pen in a side yard, and some more 'pet' turkeys running around in the backyard, and asked the owner if turkeys were as dumb as people say (no)... and we got into a conversation.

The family had been tossing around some ideas, CSA farming for one, and my enthusiasm got me on their call list in case they decided to harvest their birds. So I got the call!

Bring a cooler and a check, and the fresh homegrown and local turkey was mine:)
(I'm sorry about that happy face emoticon, I do them in e-mail, and it somehow just fits, although I know they are a dumb substitute for what I should be doing here, words.)

These turkeys were raised by this farm family from eggs, and kept in a large moveable pen to give them the nutrition, cleanliness, and mental health of free birds. (I know, 'sing Free Bird', hehe.)

Weeds, as every herbie knows, are chock full of nutrition. Mixed weeds have the goodness of deep green, and their diversity brings each weed's uniquely healthful qualities to the turkey that consumes it, and by that path, to our plates.
Same for the little bugs that the turkeys consume in their pecking. The ground that the pen laid on the previous week is pecked clean and naturally fertilized. And the birds are protected with fencing from the devestation of fox, coyote, and running into the road.
The moveable pen idea is a good one - I think it's called a "tractor" in some circles, as in 'chicken tractors', you can google it.

The farmer, Ginny, was quite interested in cooking methods; she suspected that these birds might be too different from what we are used to eating, and the preparation might be an issue. As with most animals who get exercise, the muscles are darker and more flavorful. She'd done some research and gave me a printed out recipe I can, through the wonders of the internet, share with you now:

Now Ginny can rest assured, our turkey was delicious! But it was a little different from the butcher shop Amish fresh turkey that I usually buy.

The shape - it was long, pointy and svelte! I was expecting to feed 10 adults, and the turkey was only 12.3 pounds, so I bought a back up turkey breast (see above). But we never had to even slice into the backup bird. I sent sandwich material home with Skip and Tree.
I had to roast the birds in the oven, not the roaster I had planned on and the legs hung over the side of the pan. When I was making stock later, I noticed the leg bones and breast bone were noticeably longer than any turkey bones I'd ever seen!

RECIPE: Roasted Heritage Turkey

My roasting method was to put the unstuffed bird on a rack over a pan, breast side down, and start it in the oven at 475 degrees, turning it down to 260 degrees after a half an hour. Altogether the roasting time was 4 hours for our 12 lb. bird.
Before roasting, I crammed the cavity with handfuls of freshly cut parsley, sage and rosemary, and an onion, and "larded" the top with four large strips of good bacon, and never had to do another thing.
The pan-drippings made great gravy and the stock was excellent.

Anyway, I read a nice quotation a few days before Thanksgiving that I'd like to underline here:

"The company makes the meal."

The turkey was good and worth remembering, but the family, going out of their way to be together, is the best part of Thanksgiving.

No comments: