Our friends at Van Erem Farms raised our family two turkeys, a hen and a tom. They have a nice spacious farm and love their birds as much as we do. I feel very comfortable buying meat or eggs from them as our values are similar when it comes to the quality of food we eat and the care of the animal. Our birds did not put on enough weight to be our Thanksgiving main dish but they were ready to be harvested for our Christmas dinner. Paul was going to help with the turkey harvesting, but we all got super sick. Read the Van Erem blog post about their experience with growing and harvesting turkeys.
We did not actually cook our bird until December 26th, but man, it was great! We cooked the hen and saved the tom for a big family gathering (maybe my birthday) since he was a big boy!
We kept the bird in the fridge for 4 days to allow the muscles to relax (to allow the rigor mortis to break) and cut of the tail with the oil gland.
If the contents of the oil gland spill on the meat, it will not taste good. Since no one eats the butt in our home, we chose to chop it off.
When it was well rested, we brined the bird overnight, using Alton Brown’s brine recipe as a guide. We then allowed it to air dry for a few hours and come to room temperature in a roasting pan, on a rack. Then we cooked it, following the directions given to us by Van Erem Farms. I suspect if you ask them nicely, they will give you a copy too..
Our turkey turned out great! It was delicious and very flavorful! Most unlike any factory bird we have ever had. Even better than the expensive “free range” birds we have been ordering from upscale supermarkets for Thanksgiving the last few years.
Here are some things we noticed about our fresh turkey:
- Fresh turkey did not have as much of that turkey funk (one of the reasons, turkey is not my favorite meat). Usually, raw store bought turkeys have a really unpleasant smell to them, I don’t want to know what it is but I am glad that this one did not! It also smelled significantly better while it was cooked
- It was not wet or slippery/slimy as a store bought turkey
- The breast was not as unproportionately large as the factory hens’
Overall, the experience was very positive. Turkey has historically been one of my least favorite kinds of meat. But it was impossible not to enjoy and truly appreciate one that got to spend it’s life in the loving care of our friends. If the Van Erem farms will raise our bird next year, we will never buy a store bought turkey again.
Thanks for reading!