Roasted Heritage Turkey Recipe
This week it's our Hungry in Brooklyn Thanksgiving Special! We visit a Blue Moon heritage turkey farm in New Jersey to learn about these beautiful turkeys, and how they differ from their commercial counterparts. We discuss the difference in texture, taste, as well as why it's important to make these turkeys part of your Thanksgiving tradition. Then we head back to the kitchen for a complete lesson in how to prepare and roast these magnificent birds.
Shea Hess: Turkey is maybe on every table this Thanksgiving but not all turkeys are created equal. This week, we’re getting in touch with out roots by celebrating heritage breed turkeys. First, we head for the greener pastures of New Jersey to the Blue Moon Farm where we learn all about Bourbon Red then it’s back to Brooklyn to roast the Turkey whose flavors speak for itself.
So, let’s hop in the car and go for a ride.
Blue Moon Farm is located in Hunterdon County New Jersey. Owner Jan and Mike Rogers have a passion to humanely raise poultry from chicken to heritage breed turkey. They’re here to give us some backgrounds of these noble birds.
Jan Rogers: These are Bourbon Reds. There are a number of other breeds but they are very beautiful and they get even more beautiful as they get older.
Shea Hess: So then, these guys here, these are the males?
Jan Rogers: Those are the males. The males strut their stuff like that.
Shea Hess: They do. They’re shaking their tails out.
Jan Rogers: In order to be a heritage breed, number one priority is they have to be able to mate naturally. Commercial breed turkeys can not mate naturally. They will have to be artificially inseminated and mostly has to do with the fact that they’ve been genetically engineered to be so big, they literally can’t mound.
They also have to be able to live outside naturally. These guys do like to sleep in the trees at night. They’re outside all day foraging for bugs and anything they can find and then the other thing is that they have to live a longer lifespan and grow at a slower rate so that their muscles and their organs can match their body size as they grow.
Because of that, they get a beautiful layer of fat underneath their breast meat. You don’t have to do anything to make the breast moist on these Turkeys.
Mike Rogers: The meat is richer in texture. It’s richer in taste. It is a bird that you don’t have to brine.
Jan Rogers: That’s the beauty of it. You really don’t have to do anything.
Mike Rogers: You don’t have to add anything to it to make it taste moist and flavorful. Basically, it’s roasted in 375 degree oven until it’s done.
Shea Hess: So, what are these turkeys’ lives from start to finish?
Jan Rogers: You have to take really good care of them at first. They need to be warm and then if they get bigger, they just roam around and you feed them. You leave some food out for them and they actually supplement that well themselves with bugs because bugs are very high in protein.
Shea Hess: So, these turkeys, they’re like some pretty funny guys back here.
Jan Rogers: Turkeys are great. They’re actually very, very friendly. They sit on the porch. They poke their heads into the windows and you may be sitting in the kitchen, all of a sudden you see a little turkey head popping in and they fly.
Shea Hess: I think most people think that turkeys don’t fly.
Jan Rogers: They do.
Mike Rogers: Other turkeys can’t fly but ours can.
Jan Rogers: One of our big things is we really believe in raising animals humanely and that’s the worst part about the commercial process. It’s how unhumanely they’re raised. They make the ultimate sacrifice for us and we just really think that we should treat them properly until that sacrifice is made. I mean they’re raised in compliant condition. They give them hormones. They give them antibiotics just to make them grow bigger and faster and quicker.
Shea Hess: What should you expect to pay for a heritage breed bird?
Jan Rogers: We were selling ours for like $4.99, $5.00 a pound. Believe me; the profit margin is extremely small.
Shea Hess: Yeah, that’s right.
Jan Rogers: But you know we’re doing it for more than just profit now.
Mike Rogers: They are a bargain. One, you consider the health factors, environmental factors and all the factors up to when to a good, healthy system in the breeding.
Jan Rogers: Sunday before Thanksgiving is the day that we butcher them and that is also done very humanely. You put them into a cone upside down and you cut it with a really sharp knife, a small hole really in there, mail artery and --
Mike Rogers: They don’t need [Voice Overlap]
Jan Rogers: -- they bleed to death. It gets you to the point of really understanding what really goes into us being able to eat. I just feel like in America, especially we’ve gotten so far away from the source of our food. If you’re in Europe, you go into a butcher shop, everything looks like an animal. It still has heads. It still has feet attached and to get a little sense of that, it’s a good soul building experience.
Shea Hess: It’s a good reason to be thankful for Thanksgiving.
Jan Rogers: It is, be thankful for your food in Thanksgiving.
Shea Hess: Exactly.
Jan Rogers: Be very thankful, yes.
Shea Hess: Even though these turkeys are cute and friendly, Jan made an interesting point because these birds are raised primarily for food; our consumption of them is what keeps the breed alive. Bourbon Reds are already on the endangered species watch list, so if we stop eating them, farmers stop raising them and they could meet extinction. With that in mind, we head back to Brooklyn to give thanks for one of Jan and Mike’s magnificent bird.
My friends are coming over for Thanksgiving dinner in just a few hours. So, it’s time to get started on my turkey. We’re going to roast this beautiful Bourbon Red’s perfection and it will take very little effort to get loads of flavor.
So, I’ve already rinsed my turkey and it’s been sitting here for about an hour and it’s now at room temperature. So, the first step is to salt and pepper it liberally inside and out. Make sure you get every square inch of it. Don’t forge the cavity.
So now, we’re going to help create delicious gravy by stuffing the cavity with a bunch of vegetables and herbs. Start with a bundle of rosemary, sage and thyme. So, one carrot, cut in half, half a lemon, one onion cut in half, two ribs of celery, leaving them all, and last but not least, half an apple.
Okay, so now that that’s all done, it’s time for the butter. I have a stick of butter here and I’ve added roasted garlic, chopped chives, thyme and sage but if you want to use plain butter, go for it. It’s still going to taste amazing.
First, you have to separate the skin from the breast and get the butter in there. This will help keep the breast really moist. Now, before I give this bird a total rubdown, I’m going to bring Raphael into the trussing. Trussing a turkey creates a compact package that allows even cooking. There are several ways to truss a turkey. Raphael seems super fancy but if you want to do something really, just tie the legs together and tuck the wing to the back. Thanks Raphael. Now you see why I keep him around.
Now that I have the perfect turkey package, it’s time to finish it off with the rest of my butter, just make sure you cover every crevice. It’s also going to help keep the turkey really moist. So, last but not least, the turkey stock, just enough to cook the bottom of the pan. It should probably take about four cups but don’t go above the wire rack. If you don’t have a wire rack, create your own with vegetables like celery.
Okay, so this is ready to go into a preheated 425 degree oven for half an hour.
Okay, so it’s been about half an hour. So, it’s time to baste. You see just want to loosely cover the turkey to keep it really moist. Now, back in the oven and we’re going to reduce the heat to 350 degree Fahrenheit. So, I’m going to let this hang out for about two to two and half hours. A general rule of thumb is about 15 minutes per pound of turkey. The cooking time can vary, so just make sure to keep an eye on it.
All right, moment of truth; it looks perfect. Let’s just take its temperature and make sure it’s done. A heritage breed turkey is done at 155 degree but if you feel more comfortable, go ahead and roast it to 165. This is 158, so he’s perfect. Now, all I need to do is let it rest before carving and meanwhile, I’m going to make some gravy with the pan dripping.
So, there you have it, a perfect heritage bird to make your friends and family thankful for you this Holiday Season. For more information and recipes, visit HungryInBrooklyn.com.
Roasted Heritage Turkey Recipe
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