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Cooking a Heritage Turkey: Thanksgiving Tips

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Some of OUR turkeys. Image: Hasi Eldib.

So-called ‘heritage’ turkeys are like the ones your grandparents used to cook with. More commonly a Bronze variety as opposed to a Standard White, heritage turkeys have a more proportionate body size to the typical grocery store bird, are usually able to breed on their own (did you know all commercial turkeys are artificially inseminated?!) and can raise their babies on their own. Because many heritage birds are pasture raised, they have more dark meat due to increased activity levels triggering blood flow to their wings and legs. Other features include a richer flavour, and–thanks to that increased dark meat–less risk of drying out while cooking due to different cooking times between the white and dark meat. Here at OUR, our turkeys are a wild bird crossed with a Bronze Breasted turkey, giving us some handsome fellows with beards to boot.

Those differences do mean that the best way to cook heritage birds, if you can get your hands on one from a local farmer, is to cook them the way your grandmother used to. Not sure what that might mean? Read below for a recipe designed for these types of turkeys.

Recipe for Roasted Heritage Turkey

(via Localharvest.org)

By Sandra Kay Miller

Besides the fact that most old fashioned Heritage turkeys are also raised the old fashioned way — with plenty of grass and sunshine — they need to be cooked quite differently than their modern, factory-farmed counterparts. This tried and true recipe (which serves 10-12 people) will make the best of your Heritage bird this year.

Ingredients:
– 15-pound fresh heritage turkey at room temperature
– Kosher or sea salt & fresh ground pepper
– 4 cups giblet broth (see recipe below)
– Rosemary Maple Butter (see recipe below)
– Oiled parchment paper

Directions:

  1. Rub turkey inside and out with salt and pepper.
  2. Loosen the skin around the breast with your fingers and insert Rosemary Maple Butter between the meat and the skin as well as on the inside of the bird’s cavity.
  3. Set bird in deep roasting pan. Use a wire rack to lift the bird off the bottom of the pan.
  4. Add the giblet broth to the bottom of the pan. Using a sheet of oiled parchment paper, tent the roasting pan with the oiled parchment paper. Any type of cooking oil can be used. Brush it on both sides with a pastry brush. The parchment paper is easily affixed to the roasting pan with a strip of foil on each end or you can use clean, oiled wooden clothespins. Remove parchment paper and the last 30 minutes of cooking to develop a crispy, golden skin.
  5. Pre-heat oven to 425F–450F. Roast the bird until the thigh temperature reaches 140F–150F. Let the bird rest 10–15 minutes before carving to let the juices settle.

….Keep reading for the rest of the recipe, including Rosemary Maple Butter and Giblet Gravy instructions.
Sandra Kay Miller raises pastured heritage turkeys on her farm in Pennsylvania. She owned a catering business, a deli and was a chef for a historic hot springs restaurant in southern California. Sandra has contributed to several cookbooks and frequently wrote for the Los Angeles Times Food Section. Her goal is to now raise the quality of food she has had the fortunate opportunity to be exposed to over the last 25 years. Sandra is listed at LocalHarvest.org under Painted Hand Farm in Newburg, PA.

Permaculture. Sustainable Food Production. Natural Building. Education. Community.