It’s the time of the turkey. Thanksgiving is just around the corner and Christmas fast approaching. You’ve just got back from your trip to Ginger Pig, the noble hunter gatherer feeding the five thousand. A magnificent bird is sitting on your kitchen table. Now what. Like many who cook this mighty bird just once a year for friends and family, you find yourself filled with a disproportionate level of anxiety. Turkey fear!
You turn the TV on and ignore it for a bit, glancing over your shoulder occasionally with trepidation, to see if it has cooked itself yet…perhaps you do a bit of washing up. It’s still there. Like the winged elephant in the room, it demands attention. It must be cooked! Your mind runs a reel of every turkey disaster scenario you can imagine: gleeful, hungry tummies faced with a partially raw bird at the nth hour, people hacking at thick slices of overcooked leather, as they feign approval. The pressure is on.
But fear not! Have a quick read of our turkey guide and take a deep breath. Rest assured that you have purchased the turkey of all turkeys and everything will be ok.
Pour yourself a vase of wine and get going.
You have purchased a traditional broad-breasted Bronze bird reared by father and son Gerald and Richard Botterill. The birds are fed a natural diet of home-grown cereal and vegetable protein, and are left to free range over the Belvoir Estate, where they can peck at grass and grubs. The birds grow slowly and naturally and when the time comes, they are brought into the on-site abattoir on foot at dusk, to minimise stress levels as much as possible. After slaughter, they are carefully dry-plucked and hung for 10-14 days, to give great depth of flavour and succulence.
The Botterills rear a range of sizes for us, which helps to accommodate different customer needs. In order to have the same slow grown, fully developed birds but in a variety of sizes, they use different strains of the same breed, comically named: Tinies, Super Minies, Plumpies, Roly Polys and Rol Stads.
Apart from careful hand rearing, the thing that sets these birds apart is the dry-plucking process. Unlike supermarket birds, which are wet-plucked, our birds have a much longer shelf life and a significantly reduced risk of bacteria growth in feather follicles.
Note: one of the characteristics of the Bronze turkey is its dark feathers, and when dry-plucked a few dark marks and tiny pieces of quill can be left in the skin, especially around the wing and under carriage, as this process is done by hand and the quills are strong. You’ll notice these more in Thanksgiving birds as they haven’t yet all moulted, but they are absolutely nothing to worry about and disappear during cooking.
WHEN YOU GET IT HOME:
Take the vacuum-packed giblets out of the cavity, and rest the bird unwrapped on a large plate at the bottom of your fridge – don’t be tempted to wrap it in cling film, as this can make the skin clammy and encourages bacteria.
Tip: If you’re not cooking your turkey for a day or two, it’s wise to use the giblets now. Make a simple stock using everything except the liver, and a few vegetables; this stock will keep 4-5 days if covered and placed in the fridge.
Tip: Take your turkey out of the fridge a long time before it goes in the oven – six hours should do the trick. If you only give it an hour or two then the bird will still be quite cold in the middle, and this is what leads to uneven cooking, meaning dry turkey or even worse – still raw in the middle. Simple!
A SIMPLE COOKING GUIDE
- Rub the skin with plenty of butter and pepper and cover the breast with lots of streaky bacon.
- Make a big tin foil cross inside your roasting pan, place the turkey in the middle and wrap the foil around to make a loose but closed parcel.
- Cook at 220˚C/ 425˚F/ Mark 7 for 40 mins. Reduce heat to 170˚C/ 325˚F/ Mark 3 and cook for approximately a further 3 hours (small turkey), 3 1/2 hours (medium), 4 1/2 hours (large) and 5 hours (X-large).
- Uncover for the last 30 minutes and remove the bacon to crisp the skin.
- Stick a long skewer in the fleshiest part to test for doneness; the juices should run clear.
- Rest the cooked bird for a good 40 minutes while you finish preparing your side dishes (and have some more wine).
- Use your giblet stock (and another glass of wine) to make a proper tasty gravy.