This year, I was the turkey …at the table, not on it. We were looking forward to a low-key, small family Thanksgiving dinner at home and I decided that we might fully participate in the farm life by purchasing a turkey raised on a local farm.
I’d seen signs for an organic beef farm down the road and always wanted to investigate, so I called and asked if they also had turkeys. Yes, they were frozen but were all organic and from local farms. It seemed like the perfect way to celebrate our gratitude for our new farm way of life.
I showed up at the organic farm and discovered their little retail store was a thing of the past, stripped down to almost nothing due to competition with the Whole Foods outlet 30 miles away. I saw some packaged frozen meat in the refrigerated case and asked if I could try one of their steaks, but they said they only sell it pre-ordered by the quarter cow. Oh.
Anyway, I said I needed only a small turkey, big enough for four to six people. The farmer said he’d go find the smallest one he had and I quickly added that I hoped he took credit cards, unless a twenty would cover it. He smiled and said yes, he would go get his card reader out of the farmhouse.
Five minutes later, he returned to place a big cardboard carton on the counter, apologizing that the smallest turkey he could find was 16.5 pounds. In my mind, I quickly ran through a multitude of ways I could distribute and store lots of turkey leftovers vs. the awkwardness of telling him to haul it back to the freezer because it was too large. Okay, I decided I could still manage it. I handed him my credit card.
After several tries on his little “Square”, he managed to connect to his internet provider and handed me the slip to sign. Aack! This turkey must be priced at almost $4.00 per pound! At this point, I was embarrassed by my ill-preparedness on this whole endeavor and decided to just pay for it and get out of there. If the turkey was the best we’ve ever had, maybe we’ll consider it again but not without careful shopping around first.
When I got the bird home and opened it up, I found sealed in plastic the longest turkey I’ve seen in my life. The legs stretched out far beyond the rest of the creature, making the whole thing at least two feet long. I am guessing they hung it by the legs while it was “seasoning”, as opposed to whatever method the Butterball factory uses to form their neat little basketball of a turkey in the grocery store freezer.
I knew I’d better make this The Best Turkey, Ever or I’d feel even more foolish for my careless shopping. I looked up the best thawing method and promptly discovered I was already two days late on the schedule. I cheated by putting it into a very warm room for the first six hours, and then giving it a couple more days in the fridge. (It worked, thank goodness!) Then on Thursday I found a pan long enough to fit this massive bird and trussed up the long legs with twine to pull them back over the body enough to mostly fit into the pan.
This turkey was not balanced like the ones from the store, and kept rolling sideways off the roasting rack. I remedied that by propping it up with two big wedges of onion. Then I made my own butterball by snipping the skin on the breast and stuffing strips of butter into the slots.
I’m happy to report that the turkey was delicious, moist, and perfectly cooked, even though it was done an hour earlier than expected. Whether it was “the best turkey, ever”, I cannot say. Truth is, I think I’ll go back to the grocery store for the $.40/pound special next year and don’t expect to notice the difference alongside all the other delicacies on the Thanksgiving table.
Good experiment, though. Three gold stars for trying.