Saturday, October 30, 2010

turkey ~ 10/30/10 ~ Corral de Tierra

wild turkey
Meleagris gallopavo

Are you ready for the next holiday? It always seems to be autumn before I see turkeys out and about. I'm not sure exactly why, but our local turkeys appear skinnier than most online pics. Of course, I've seen the males puff up into their trademark Thanksgiving pose, but otherwise they look kind of prehistoric. It's a bit shocking to witness these huge birds take flight. I don't have much to say about wild turkeys, except that I know the domesticated ones found frozen and wrapped in plastic at the grocery are the same species.

Warning: if you're squeamish and prefer your food sanitized in plastic, then stop reading!
Years ago I was fortunate enough to meet a college classmate who was also a commercial turkey farmer returning to school with hopes to get out of the business. He invited us to his family’s annual Wednesday-before-Thanksgiving tradition of prepping the next day’s meal. He let us take a pick of his turkeys. We chose a "small" one at a live weight of around 36 lbs. and 28 lbs. fully plucked and gutted...
Thankfully, his teenage son did the kill and spill (lots of blood). He used a baseball bat to knock it out and then a sharp knife to cut its throat. After the blood let, we dunked the body into a huge cauldron of boiling water over a wood fire, by holding onto its legs. It was heavy. I enjoyed plucking the feathers, but I was surprised at how warm the body and guts still were when I reached in to pull out the innards.
In their backyard, they had a deep, dug-out pit with a metal barrel inserted, with the top lid flush with the ground, next to the cauldron fire. I think someone added coals to the pit throughout the night to slow-cook their turkeys… and it’s no wonder! We had to keep our prepped turkey wrapped in a garbage bag outside until the next morning, since we couldn’t fit it in our fridge. I ended up squeezing it into our oven at 6am to start the roasting in time for dinner.
It was the best turkey I ever ate! I liken the freshness to just-caught fish or just-cut vegetables. I find most elaborate recipes (including brining, save for religious purposes) are designed for the sole purpose to mask the “old” flavor of long-stored/frozen meats and vegetables.
What are you eating for Thanksgiving? I think I'm going to cook ham.


texwisgirl said...

I'm glad you had the experience of seeing how grocery meat is actually harvested. And proud of you for surviving it and still eating! :)

When I was young, my family raised chickens which we butchered, and some rabbits for meat as well. Plus my brothers hunted squirrels, rabbits and deer. None of the end product was pretty. And I have to admit, I still won't eat game meat. But I commend you for being brave enough to face the facts of the process head-on when so many others prefer to keep all that behind the scenes and out of mind. :)

texwisgirl said...

P.S. Your photo is wonderful! I've never actually seen a wild turkey in person (except for in the zoo or captivity)...

Susan said...

Great post! We have wild turkey here, but I've never had it. On the other hand, have had lots of other "country" food captured by others, and my mother wrote "The Northern Cookbook" that became a bestseller on how to capture and cook game. Our Canadian Thanksgiving is in October, and we had ham and free-range, grain fed turkey from a local farmer. Delicious.

Nature ID (Katie) said...

There were 5 turkeys, but I was too impatient approaching them and they quickly flew away.

twg, I also had chickens for eggs and goats, geese, and rabbits as pets. We never ate them. Mom refused to ever serve lamb again after she watched our bottle-fed cuties butchered. The cows we had were sold, so it was a very removed concept for us kids. I'm thankful for the Thanksgiving turkey experience.

Susan, I'll have to look up your mom's cookbook. Do Canadians also do the bread stuffing and mashed potatoes with gravy?