- Written by Maria McDonald
…and on that farm he had some turkeys, e-i-e-i-oh!
So last Christmas we finally moved to the farm! And then, after we got unpacked and settled in, I spent a lot of time looking out the window at the snow drifts and the teensy-tiny bit of red left at the very bottom of our thermometer, dreaming about all the things I would do when summer did come! (like the snowman ‘Olaf’ from Disney’s “Frozen”, which I now listen to/watch at least once a day with our daughter Emma). And one of the thoughts that drifted through my head was my rather old dream of raising some turkeys!
So before the snow was even properly melted I called the hatchery and ordered 100. (I was thinking about just getting 25, but then Wayne said something like ‘if your gonna do 25 why not do 50’ and then I thought to myself if I was gonna do 50 why not right away do a hundred?)
At the end of April I became the proud (and slightly nervous) owner of 100 turkey chicks for the 1st time in my farming experience. I have heard a lot of stories about how turkey chicks are the most finicky things there are, so I had done some research and was super picky about doing everything as right as I knew how. And I think it paid off, because I only lost a few and soon they were growing into very curious, interesting, real, live, turkeys…strut and all. (I discovered that the tom chicks strut as soon as they grow 3 feathers in a row. They look a little odd, all fluffy and peeping, strutting away!)
Emma and I spent a lot of time in that turkey pen. Emma loved running around and playing in amidst the turkeys and they were super tame and loved following her around.
The summer rolled on and the turkeys got bigger…AND bigger! I had no idea how big they actually were because I had never done it before, but I was not disappointed when it came time to butcher. They were great! Really well filled out and round, just enough fat to make them juicy! I was very excited; I couldn’t stop grinning for a day!
We had one of them for Thanksgiving and MY, was that good!
I discovered that a turkey is a much bigger bird than a chicken. I know that seems pretty obvious but somehow I guess I was thinking a bit bigger than a chicken, but it’s more like a lot bigger than a chicken! There are so many things you could do with the meat of just one turkey…meals and meals and meals. I made bone broth out of the leftover bones and skin from the thanksgiving turkey and it made at least 6 meals worth of stock! That’s just the bones! Bone broth or stock is such a handy and healthy thing to make. I always put a bit (like a ¼ cup) of vinegar into the water at the beginning of the cooking period because it helps the calcium from the bones get into the broth; hence, bone broth. Sally Fallon, who wrote the book ‘Nourishing Traditions’ says that properly made bone broth contains as much calcium as milk! Among a bunch of other healthy things, on top of being super easy to digest. (wonder why chicken soup is always served when your sick? Because chicken or turkey bones are traditionally easier to come by than beef bones) I use my stock for soups, stews, gravy; or use it to cook rice or noodles, or soak some bread in it and mix it into your meat loaf, or whatever. The possibilities are practically endless. When I make my big pot, I freeze it in 2 cup plastic containers and then when I need some I run the container under some hot water, plop the frozen soup out into a pot and away you go.
I cut some of the bigger turkeys up (the ones that wouldn’t fit into anybody’s roaster!) before freezing. I can think of hundreds of things to do with turkey breast. Stir fry, schnitzel (breaded, fried, steak), cubed into stews and pies, roasted whole (a juicy delight when seared 1st and roasted til just done), stuffed, and the list goes on.
The drumsticks are good to be marinated or put in brine and then slow roasted (or smoked for those few lucky people who actually own a smoker!) Or slow cooked in a crock pot with rich gravies and sauces. Drumsticks are MADE for winter!
Even the turkey necks are not to be underestimated! The big ones weigh a whopping 2 pounds! There’s your chicken (er…turkey) noodle soup right there…for probably 3 whole days! And I personally really like the neck meat; I can’t wait to slow roast one with lots of rosemary, garlic, and onion, and then put the meat into a thick creamy stew (if I can resist eating the whole thing as I’m picking the meat off the bones…or rather picking the bones out of the meat because those things get so tender)
Anyways, I’m pumped about our turkeys and I hope to share a bunch of it with all of you! Christmas is coming up! Eat McDonald Farm turkey!
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