Thanksgiving Countdown: The Bird

turkeys roaming

Peggy Paul Casella, Resident Wordsmith (and Farmstand Associate)

With Thanksgiving just 35 days away (!!!), it's time to start getting your turkeys in a row. There are guests to invite, menu items to delegate, and, most importantly, there's the bird to consider. Chances are, if you're reading this newsletter you already know the benefits of choosing pastured and sustainably raised turkeys for your holiday feast. Not only are they more flavorful than their butterball counterparts, but they're also more nutritious, since they are raised as nature intended, with room to roam and plenty of grass, bugs, and worms to eat. While conventional turkeys are pumped with hormones so they develop giant breasts in record time, sustainably raised turkeys are left to grow at their own pace, resulting in a more even ratio of thigh to breast meat, and a thin layer of fat that infuses the meat with flavor as it roasts.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when roasting a sustainably raised bird:

No brine needed. Since these birds are flavorful on their own, you won't want to drown them out or water them down with a wet brine. Keep it simple with a salt and pepper rub or a dry brine instead.

Let it rest before and after cooking. Remove your turkey from the fridge 45 minutes before you're ready to roast it. Bringing it to room temperature (or at least close to room temperature) will decrease oven time and improve the texture and moisture of the meat. Then let it rest for another 45 minutes when it comes out of the oven. This second rest will allow the juices to settle before carving, so they end up in your belly and not in the grooves of your cutting board.

Try braising. The richer flavor of pastured birds really shines when braised in beer, wine, or broth.

Cook it low and slow. The smaller stature of pastured turkeys means shorter cooking times, but in order to unlock optimum flavor, you'll want to roast them long enough for their fat to render and infuse the meat. Opinions vary, of course, but I've found that the best technique is to roast at high heat for the first 30 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 325°F until the meat registers 165°F on an instant-read thermometer.

Click here for my Basic Recipe for Roasting a Pastured Turkey.

And if you haven't already, click here to pre-order your Thanksgiving turkey today!