Embarrassment of Turkey

So we went to the farmer’s market today to pick up up our CSA share, and the farmer fixed us with a worried eye and said “Have you folks bought a turkey?”

“We’ve reserved one of yours, yeah.”

He nodded slowly. “And, um…how many people do you have coming to Thanksgiving dinner?”

Kevin and I did some math. “Uh…nine? I think?”

The farmer sighed. “I was sort of hoping you’d say thirty-five…”

He went into the cooler and pulled out a turkey drumstick the size of my forearm, only a lot bigger around. Kevin and I stared at it. It made the ones you get at the Ren Faire look like hot wings.

“We prepped five of them, since people wanted turkey, and…well…they’re huge,” said the farmer sadly. “They wouldn’t fit in the pot to scald them.* I had to get a 55 gallon drum and slice the top off. It took two men to lower one in.”

“What are you feeding them?”

“Nothing unusual! They’re free-range!” (They are, too. I’ve seen them, they just wander around the farmyard climbing on things and picking stuff up the ground. These are very active turkeys.) “The breed is just…heirloom….we didn’t expect…” He made vague gestures, not unlike those most of us make when trying to describe my friend Carlota. (The “vast tracts of land” gesture. You know the one.) “The live weight on the things is forty-nine pounds.”

This is a large animal. This is a bird substantially larger than our beagle. Kevin, who had been thinking of deep-frying the turkey, realized that it wouldn’t actually fit in the pot. I vetoed any notion of getting a 55-gallon drum of our own.

Kevin said that we’d warn our family.

“Could you ask them invite a few strangers?” asked the farmer hopefully. “Maybe…twenty or so…?”

God help us all.

 

*You scald fowl in boiling water prior to plucking to loosen the feathers, as I understand it, although someone may correct me if I’ve got the wrong end of the bird there.

  • reply Crystal ,

    Reminds me of last year’s Thanksgiving over my friend’s house. Every year we have this massive dawn to whenever our drunk asses wake up Thanksgiving feast (being friends with a bunch of Norse Pagans is awesome!). Last year we has a thirty two pound turkey aptly dubbed Thorkey. We were surprised it fit in the oven. I was instructed to take several pounds of leftovers home after waking from my stupor and the hosts were eating turkey with every meal for a week. It was grand!

    Also….if you ever want a great drunk, we make something called Freya’s Tears. In a glass put a hefty helping of quality mead and a hefty helping of Viking Fjord vodka, serve with ice if desired. It will get you going where you want to be and fast!

    • reply Fiona ,

      “You scald fowl in boiling water prior to plucking to loosen the feathers, as I understand it, although someone may correct me if I’ve got the wrong end of the bird there.”

      You do. Then you dunk them in cold water to stop the boiling water from cooking the skin. I’ve never done a turkey though.

      I don’t suppose you could find out the breed of these turkeys?? Then I can find if they’re in Australia and get my friend who does turkeys to get some. I LOVE the idea of a huuuuuge Xmas bird.

      btw, try roasting them in a kettle-style BBQ. Works extremely well and such BBQs tend to be larger than the average domestic oven.

      Also, the chest freezer is your friend.

      Also, I have a FABULOUS recipe for “devilled turkey”, which is actually better than the original roast turkey, if such a thing is possible …

      • reply Victoria ,

        Why, yes, you do scald first and then pluck second. It’s best if the water is at a full boil before you dunk, too. The cooler the water, the harder it is to pluck the suckers. Wandering down memory lane filled with anti-nostalgia. I am sooooo glad I don’t have to do that any more.

        Also? cooked turkey freezes well. If Kevin wants recipes on using the leftovers (AKA ingredients), post it. I’ve got tons.

        • reply Tara ,

          Pictures. Or it never happened 😉

          • reply Hawk ,

            We always brine our turkey (we never get one fresh off the farm, so we have to deal with ol’ frozenated things).

            I’ve never plucked a bird and I hope to God I never have to *shudder* the notion gives me the creeps.

            However, a bird that weighed almost 50 pounds alive…I think I WOULD have to get a 55 gallon drum just to brine the damn thing!!

            (Brining turkeys etc: I got the idea from Alton Brown. It’s effin’ delicious.)

            • reply erebor452 ,

              FWIW, you could try to have it bisected, and cook only half. Just lay it over a pan-ful of stuffing if you like the in-bird stuff. (As a bonus, the people who like it crunchy won’t require an extra pan– they can eat the stuff that the bird didn’t cover.) Or put it on a rack if you aren’t the stuffing type. I’m not sure I could make it look as nice as a whole bird, but then, I’m not sure I could make a whole bird look nice, either! (My carving experience has been with a floor of college students clamoring for food, and only me and my (very large, very sharp) knife between them and the turkey.)

              The other half will probably freeze well– assuming you can find the space in the freezer! It would probably do nicely for any end-of-December celebratory meal you plan to have.

              Or shift the burden of leftovers to your guests.

              • reply Gillian ,

                Turkey sandwiches. For weeks. 😀 (Also, it freezes really well, and you can use it in place of chicken in any recipe.)

                I love how the farmer was so bewildered by the size of his birds. And the “vast tracts of land” gesture – yes.

                • reply Helix ,

                  Raised a couple of turkeys once. It was horrible. (Although I rarely learn from my mistakes and will likely do so again.)

                  Bought 8 of some sort of genetically fabricated “broad-breasted” type. (Wasn’t the raving organic nut job I am now. I wanted a BIG turkey, dammit!) After 4 of the little bastards committed suicide via drowning in their own waterer, running into non-moving walls at random, and some other mysterious aliments, a coyote snuck into my coop and ate another three.

                  Then…there was only one…who was a horribly sweet bird, even if she was genetically engineered. We fell in love with her, decide not to eat her and she parks herself next to the feeder and gets SO DAMN FAT she can no longer walk and the only humane thing to do is put her down.

                  Oy.

                  I’m a thrifty farmer. I wasn’t about to throw away a perfectly good turkey after all the agony the damn things put me through. I butchered her out and out of curiosity, weighed the dressed carcass. *ahem* 60 pounds. Yessiree. One breast made a meal for 8. I am not kidding.

                  I second the motion to either throw a huge Thanksgiving party, or split it in half (or cut it up like a chicken and fix select parts at will.)

                  Thankfully, your blog has let me know that even heritage breeds get huge. Perhaps I will develop a Bantam turkey…

                  • reply Angela ,

                    Best option: have the normal number of guests over, and then the day after Thanksgiving make gumbo with the leftover turkey. It’s what we do in Louisiana; it saves going through the “What? More turkey?” leftover phase.

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