‘Tis the season for my personal, farmer life to cross paths with my professional life: WFCR (National Public Radio news and music for Western New England) radio announcer. The program on our radiowaves currently is called Living On Earth, an environmental news program, and is featuring a story about Kate Stillman and heritage turkeys. What a great story. Listen to the story, or read the transcript, and plug in our names and Wells Tavern Farm, and you have a pretty good idea about what our farm sounds like, and raises! LIVING ON EARTH STORY LINK
From the story (this is very true) – Don Schrider from the Heritage Breeds Conservancy says: “If people eat heritage turkeys, then more breeding stock is maintained, and then the next season more heritage turkeys can be produced and it actually gives them a job and the population grows.”
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From the Daily Green, some cooking tips for Heritage Turkeys:
Cooking Tips For Heritage Turkeys
* Regardless of breed, heritage turkeys take much longer than Broad Breasted Whites to reach slaughter weight, and most of them are free range. As a result they have more flavor, which takes time to develop and is enhanced by freedom of movement. But age and activity are not great promoters of tenderness. Heritage turkeys need not be tough — in fact they shouldn’t be — but they will be chewier than the industrial model, especially in the legs.
* Heritage breeds have a larger proportion of bone to meat than Broad Breasted Whites. Allow 1 pound per serving if you don’t want leftovers, rather more if you do. The bigger the bird, the more meat in proportion to bone but also (see above) the greater likelihood that said meat will be tough. If you need a lot of turkey two 12 to 14-pound birds are a better bet than one 24-pounder.
* Heritage turkeys are leaner than the standard brand, so they dry out fast if they are even slightly overcooked. To avoid this:
- Be sure to take the bird out of the fridge long enough ahead of time. The meat will cook through much faster and more evenly if it is at room temperature before you start roasting. This is widely advised against because of the danger of bacterial growth. But you are planning to cook the turkey well enough to be sure it’s safe, so although there’s no point in pushing it — don’t leave the thing out all day — there’s no reason to be paranoid.
- Stuffing slows down cooking time, increasing the chances of dried out meat. If you can bear it, just put a few flavorings (herbs, celery, garlic, citrus slices) inside the bird and bake the stuffing in a separate pan. (Resist the temptation to brine. It will make the turkey juicier but it will also mute the flavor you’re paying large dollars to enjoy.)
- aim for an internal temperature of 150, measured at the thickest part of the thigh (temperature will rise at least 5 degrees, probably more, while the turkey stands for 20 minutes in a warm place to reabsorb juices before you carve it, a step that should not be omitted.) This is hot enough to destroy bacteria without destroying the turkey. Even the USDA, home of obscenely overcooked, utterly butt-coveringly safe meat, has lowered its target temperature from 180 to 165.
* Don’t expect brittle, crisp, crackly skin; age and leanness conspire against. Sliding slices of frozen butter between the skin and the meat improves both but doesn’t work miracles.
* No matter how careful you are, results will vary depending on the individual bird. Heritage turkeys are not interchangeable widgets; the farmers who raise them are still learning and the revival is still new — there hasn’t been time for breed re-improvement. Many of these rarities were only kept going by poultry fanciers raising them as show birds, so no attention was paid to preserving traits that once endeared them to farmers and consumers. Considerable progress has already been made, but it’s going to take a while for these breeds to regain (and build on) their full potential.
Find this article here (link)
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