How to Cook a Heritage Breed Thanksgiving Turkey

By November 12, 2015 August 27th, 2018 Blog
Peg Champions Thanksgiving Turkey from Slow Food Russian River/ 4-H Heritage Breed Turkey Project

How to Cook a Heritage Breed Thanksgiving Turkey

We asked some members of Slow Food Russian River how they’re going to cook their Heritage Breed Thanksgiving Turkey for this coming national festival.

Everybody loves Thanksgiving and everybody loves to be part of some sumptuous dinner party with good company and with the traditional – or not so traditional – dishes, foremost a well prepared Thanksgiving Turkey (or Thanksgiving Tofurky).

Thank you, Sarah Josepha Hale, who petitioned for a national Thanksgiving holiday for close to 40 years, believing that “Thanksgiving, like the Fourth of July, should be considered a national festival and observed by all our people.”

Slow Food Russian River is collaborating again this year with Sonoma County 4-H to sell five breeds of heritage turkeys: Bourbon Red, Bronze, Holland White, Narragansett and Slate. You may have downloaded the order form and reserved your bird on time. Unfortunately, they are now sold out, but there are now other farmers in the area who raise heritage turkeys, such as Bill Niman’s BN Ranch heritage turkeys in Bolinas, which sell through a number of outlets listed on their website.

A Heritage Thanksgiving Feast, by Peg Champion

Here come the holidays – and all the fantastic food, friends, family and fun that they bring! If your Thanksgiving feast wouldn’t be complete without a Thanksgiving Turkey, I hope that you signed up for getting a heritage breed turkey.

Not only will you and your guests enjoy a delicious dinner, you also can smile knowing that you have helped reintroduce these historic breeds to the marketplace.

You’ll pay more than you would for a commercially sold turkey at a chain supermarket. All those birds are the same breed – the Broad Breasted White — bred for white feathers and huge breasts. They can’t fly, walk or breed naturally. They are all products of artificial insemination and with no exercise and weak immune systems, they’re often fed antibiotics. And when they’re slaughtered, their flesh is so bland that they are often injected with saline and vegetable oil to improve their taste. Your family deserves better.

Now that you’ve ordered it, how do you cook your heritage bird? Because these birds are raised “free-range” they actually are able to exercise and roam freely around the farm. Therefore, to get a juicy roast bird, brining is key.

Here is a good turkey brine recipe from Martha Stewart – note that your turkey will need to soak in the brine for 24 hours, so plan accordingly.

And here is Martha’s recipe, which I used last Thanksgiving, for roasting your brined heritage turkey. The butter rub creates a crisp skin and a tender, moist breast with tasty drippings for gravy. Cheers to a delicious dinner!

Here come the holidays – and all the fantastic food, friends, family and fun that they bring! If your Thanksgiving feast wouldn’t be complete without a roast bird, consider purchasing a heritage breed turkey.

Not only will you and your guests enjoy a delicious dinner, you also can smile knowing that you have helped reintroduce these historic breeds to the marketplace. Slow Food Russian River is collaborating again this year with Sonoma County 4-H and the Livestock Conservancy to sell five breeds of heritage turkeys: Bourbon Red, Bronze, Holland White, Narragansett and Slate. You can download the order form and reserve your bird today. You’ll pay more ($8 per pound) than you would for a commercially sold turkey at a chain supermarket. All those birds are the same breed – the Broad Breasted White — bred for white feathers and huge breasts. They can’t fly, walk or breed naturally. They are all products of artificial insemination and with no exercise and weak immune systems, they’re often fed antibiotics. And when they’re slaughtered, their flesh is so bland that they are often injected with saline and vegetable oil to improve their taste. Your family deserves better.

Now that you’ve ordered it, how do you cook your heritage bird? Because these birds are raised “free-range” they actually are able to exercise and roam freely around the farm. Therefore, to get a juicy roast bird, brining is key.

Here is a good turkey brine recipe from Martha Stewart – note that your turkey will need to soak in the brine for 24 hours, so plan accordingly.

And here is Martha’s recipe, which I used last Thanksgiving, for roasting your brined heritage turkey. The butter rub creates a crisp skin and a tender, moist breast with tasty drippings for gravy. Cheers to a delicious dinner!

 

Cooking a Heritage Turkey, by Jonah Raskin

What’s the main difference between cooking a heritage turkey on the one hand, and cooking an industrially produced turkey on the other hand? LocalHarvest.org recommends cooking heritage turkeys more quickly at a higher temperature, rather than slow roasting at a lower temperature. You might remember that while some of the below information is technical – like oven temperatures and cooking time – cooking a turkey is an art. The information I have provided here is from my experience and my kitchen. It is not meant to apply universally to all situations and all people. Pay attention to what youre doing. Be present and relax.

1. First of all buy a heritage turkey from a local turkey grower. Plan ahead. Reserve a heritage turkey before they’re snapped up. Know the weight of the turkey so that you can gage how long to cook it.

2. Tell family and friends when you expect to sit down to dinner and plan so you meet the schedule. People get hungry; they don’t like to be kept waiting.

3. Have a roasting pan that can accommodate the bird and a thermometer so you can tell when it’s cooked and ready to eat. Also a sharp knife for carving.

4. On Thanksgiving Day take the heritage turkey out of the refrigerator 90 to 120 minutes before roasting so that it reaches room temperature. It will take considerably longer to cook the colder it is and the longer it remains in the refrigerator. In two hours time, nothing unhealthy will happen to the bird.

5. Rinse the turkey and dry it with paper towels or clothe. Season to taste with quality sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Coat the outside with extra virgin olive oil. Deconstruct the turkey: with a sharp knife remove the backbone and the drumsticks. The bird will cook faster without the backbone. You can save it for soup.

6. Cooking the drumsticks separately from the rest of the bird will prevent them from getting dried out. It takes longer for the dark meat to cook, a shorter time for the white meat (the breasts) to cook with industrially raised birds. You can also cook the bird upside down and then turn it right side up about half way. That’s an alternative that will help cook the bird evenly. What you want to avoid is dried-out meat; moist tastes better. That’s the consensus.

7. You might want to arrange carrots and onions around the bird. Add a small amount of water to the pan.

8. Preheat over to 475 degrees. Place oil parchment paper (available at quality stores) NOT aluminum foil over bird. When ready, roast for 20 minutes and then reduce temperature to 400-425 degrees. The experts say that a turkey should cook 15-20 minutes per pound. Baste at the half way mark. You can also rotate the pan for more even roasting.

9. A turkey that weights 10-18 pounds should take approximately three and a half to four and a half hours. Some ovens are more efficient than others. Don’t open the door to the oven again and again: that will lower the temperature and extend cooking time.  Remove the oil parchment paper about thirty minutes before the end of cooking time.

10. When the turkey is done the thermometer should read 140-150 degrees. Take it out of the oven and let it sit for at least 30 minutes before carving with a sharp knife.

11. Place on serving plates and bring to the table.

12. Eat your Heritage Breed Thanksgiving Turkey.

Heritage Thanksgiving Turkey Cooking Ideas, by Sandy Mays

I have roasted several Heritage turkeys in the last few years and I have learned something each time. Because the heritage bird has a more even proportion of dark and white meat, the turkey cooks a lot faster then a regular broad breasted bird. I found that roasting it at a higher temperature for a shorter time, works best.

Remove turkey (this recipe is for a 15 pound turkey) to have it room temperature when you put it in oven.

Rub turkey inside and out with salt and pepper. Loosen skin with your fingers and insert Rosemary Maple butter ( 1/2 lb butter, 1/2 cup maple syrup, and 1 Tablespoon of fresh minced rosemary) between the meat and skin as well as the inside of the cavity. If you want to stuff it, best to cook stuffing a short time first, before inserting it into turkey. Otherwise just put onion and lemon in cavity.

Set turkey in deep roasting pan, using rack to lift it off the bottom.

Add broth to bottom of pan, cover turkey with a sheet of oiled parchment paper (olive oil is fine).

Remove parchment paper the last 30 minutes of cooking to get a crispy, golden skin.

Preheat oven to 425-450 degrees. Roast turkey until the thigh reaches 140-15- degrees. Let turkey rest for 10-20 minutes before carving to let the juices settles in.

Enjoy this wonderful, tasty Heritage turkey that generations before us enjoyed.

One Comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.