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Talking Turkey: Order Your Heritage Turkey Now
A newsletter from Sea Breeze Farms arrived in my inbox today, and along with it the news they're raising turkeys (Bourbon Reds) this year. And I figured a little reminder might be helpful so that you (or, you know, your less organized friends) don't end up doing the last-minute turkey dance that you did last year.
So many local farmers have begun to raise heritage breed turkeys (Bourbon Reds, Standard Bronze, Narragansett, among other breeds), but they usually sell out by the time the calendar reads November. Now's the time to get on a waiting list.
I buy mine from Tom and Darlene at Enumclaw's Meadowwood Organics; it's turned into a holiday ritual to drive down the day before to pick up our turkey, which Tim plucks just days before. We also pick up fresh, raw cream which goes into coffee and gets whipped to top the pies.
Other farms that raise turkeys include Stokeberry (Olympia), Dog Mountain Farms (Carnation), BrocLynn Farms (Enumclaw), Home Acres Farms (Seattle), and Amy's Garden (Oak Harbor), but there are dozens of options.
The best resource I know of for finding a turkey farmer near you is Local Harvest (localharvest.org). Type in your zip code to find a farm near you.
Lastly, in 2007, the first year I cooked a heritage turkey myself, I found an article on how to cook a heritage breed turkey written by William Rubel, the author of Magic of Fire: Hearth Cooking--One Hundred Recipes for the Fireplace or Campfire (and PS: I want that book!) The idea is, since a heritage breed turkey is more like a bird than those chubby grocery store turkeys, and since you know where the bird has been (ie, not locked in a tiny, dirty cage) because you ordered it from a farmer you trust, you can cook it to a less extreme temperature--Rubel suggests 140, although in practice I've found 155 to be a better temperature unless you enjoy very, very pink pountry.
To season, I make sage butter by chopping (or food processing) a bunch of fresh sage in a couple of sticks of butter, which I generously season with salt and pepper. Then I make tiny slits in the skin and use a finger to work the butter under the skin. I also rub it all over on the outside, too.
Do some research yourself, or read more on my old, on-hiatus food blog here.
The price ranges, but we usually pay about $5/lb, or $60 to $70 for a large bird (they usually top out around 12 to 14lbs).
And finally, the taste: SO good. The dark meat has so much flavor--almost a slightly greasy, full flavor like duck leg meat--and the breast meat is good too. It's just, in my mind, a completely different experience tasting a real, pasture-raised turkey, and so worth the extra cost once a year.