How to Cook a Heritage Turkey Hen

 


Turkey has a tendency to cook unevenly – the breast being so high in the air becomes dry and the legs are usually over cooked and soggy because they sit in the bottom. The easy way to correct these conditions is to lay the bird flat so everything cooks evenly and moist.

Step 1.
I start by cutting out the back bone using kitchen shears and boiled the backbone as part of the stock needed for the dressing. Then I snapped the breast bone with a knife so my bird would lay flat  Place the bird skin side up on a clean cutting board with the butt of the bird closest to you. Insert clean fingers gently under the skin working up the breast to loosen the skin. Your whole hand will be under the skin as you work your way down the thighs and legs.  Be careful not to tear the skin.

Step 2.

Wash your hands twice here…

Proceed with the compound butter!

1 stick salted butter softened at room temperature
2 tablespoons ground sage (dried from my garden and ground in a coffee grinder),
1 teaspoon powdered garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
(you can add any additional spices you like here..aprox 1/2 teaspoon dried of each would be best)

In a small bowl, mix these ingredients together with a fork until well blended.

Step 3.

Working fairly quickly (so the butter doesn’t melt, place a small spoonful of the butter on your finger tips, lift the skin of the turkey as far up in the legs as you can and place a ball of butter under the skin. Flatten the butter under the skin, pushing it into the  meat along the top side (remember as it melts, it will self baste the bird down the sides). Repeat this process working toward the opening of the bird until all the butter has been distributed under the skin. Tuck the end of the skin under the bird to seal it.

Step 4

Preheat oven to 400 degrees don’t touch those dials until you …guess? Wash those hands! Yeah..the food nanny IS watching…

*most important** lower the rack in the oven to the next to the lowest setting! Reason?  As the legs cook, they lift and you could hit your heating elements if you have an electric oven!

Cut a piece of parchment paper slightly larger than the pan you are going to bake in.
With room temperature butter, coat one side of the parchment (I used my clean hand to spread the butter on the parchment until thoroughly coated or you could use a brush)

I placed the bird on the dressing, inserted a digital read thermometer set to 155 degrees through the breast, and covered it with buttered parchment. Had to wash my hands again!

My heritage Turkey was 8 pounds and took 1 hour 50 minutes to come to correct internal temperature. I let it rest out of the oven for 10 minutes, still covered with the parchment paper to finish the cooking process.

My dressing was crispy on top and surprising good this way. I did put extra moisture in the dressing because my bird wasn’t injected with solution from the market and wouldn’t be releasing all that sodium into my dressing!  Yeah Denita!

Next year, the only difference I will make is I will be baking at 300 degrees for several hours and, when cooked to an internal temperature of 145(lower), I will turn my oven up to 350 briefly to get a golden crust.

Bon Apetite!

Chef June

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Chef June’s Chicken Noodle soup

Today I made one of my favorite childhood dishes – chicken and home-made noodle soup.  For the first time in my adult life, I decided to purchase  a natural pasture raised heritage chicken from Denwally Farms to use for making my soup.
Wow!  The first thing I noticed about the heritage chicken is when I removed it from the package it didn’t smell like poultry!  Instead it smelled clean and fresh.  As a wellness chef, I appreciated how clean the bird was.  I noticed while I was cooking it, there was no unpleasant odor and that was a blessing – it was becoming apparent right from the start this was just a natural,  good bird to start with.
I placed this already delightful chicken in 8 cups of water and simmered it for about 1-1/2 hours.  I didn’t put any extra seasoning in the pot because I wanted to taste this bird just the way it was.  For many many years, after I cook chicken, I like to pull off the excess fat, so when it was done cooking, I cooled it and placed it in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, I went to skim the hardened fat off the top and discovered that it only had about 4 teaspoons and it was not the hard, saturated fat found on store bought chickens!  This fat was more like soft butter, so I scooped it onto a napkin, thinking I would take a picture of it because I wanted to show people this is exactly how it is supposed to be. By the time I located my camera, it had all melted into the napkin!  What this means to YOU is that it would NOT sit in your body and that is a very good thing!  

Another wonderful thing I noticed it also had the best gelée (a natural gelatin) stock I’ve seen in a long time (that’s when it creates a great silky texture in the mouth). Usually I have to cook up the bones of at least 4 whole chickens to produce that amount of gelée!  I am so excited because who’s got the time or room for cooking 4 chickens to accomplish what I got from just one of Denwally’s natural heritage chickens?
I found it easy to debone and yielded about 26 ounces (1.6 pounds) of meat from a 4 pound bird – plenty for a pot of soup! The meat was tender and yet firm.  It wasn’t the stringy mealy meat I usually experience with the 90 day wonders from the store.  Wow!  Sometimes I buy an old egg-layer as a stewing hen to make my soup, and the meat, while flavorful, is usually tough and difficult to chew so I am very excited about the quality of the texture.
I am happy I didn’t season the chicken while cooking because the meat had excellent flavor in its own right, and was pronounced in every bite – even when it was cut into pretty small pieces in the soup.  I just had to share with my friends, so several people have tried the soup and all have enjoyed it.  Most wished I had put two chickens in the pot because they liked the chicken so much.
From now on, heritage chickens are on my menu.  Now that I tried one, it is well worth the money.  I would totally recommend buying these heritage chickens because of the great quality and flavor.  You get what  you pay for.
Thanks, Denwally Farms!  I can tell you have lovingly cared for your birds, and it really shows.
Wellness Chef June Hadlock

Ingredients

Soup:

8 cups cold water

1-4 pound heritage chicken

8 cups cold water (for soup stock)

2 large onions (about 2 pounds),diced

2-1/2 pounds carrots, diced

7-10 celery stalks,cut down middle and sliced thinly

2 T sage ground or 12-15 fresh leaves, thinly sliced

2 T “Better Than Boullion” chicken base (reduced salt)

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 teaspoon salt (optional to finish with)

Noodles:

2 cups + 1/2 cup flour

3 large eggs

1/4 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Tips

I cook my chicken the day before and let it cool overnight so I can strain the fat off. You can also make the noodles before heating the stock – especially if you think it may take you a bit more time. It wont hurt the noodles to sit on the counter up to 2 hours so enjoy

Directions

In sauce pot place water and chicken.. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 1-1/2 hours. Cool overnight in fridge. Cut up the Veggies and store covered in the fridge for ease tomorrow.
Next day, remove fat from top and put the pot back on the stove, Remove bird from stock and debone, set aside. Add the second 8 cups of cold water to the stock, add all the veggies and herbs. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.
While the stock is heating, make the noodles:
Thoroughly clean and sanitize your counter! Place 2 cups of all purpose flour on the counter. Take the measuring cup and press down in the middle, swirl, and compress the flour against your hands to form a bowl. Make it about twice the size of the bottom of the 1 cup measuring cup. Crack the eggs into the middle of the flour first.
Pour the milk into a cup and add the salt to it. Stir until well mixed then add to the eggs in the middle. With a fork, begin to stir the eggs in a circle-just like you would if you had a bowl. – They will automatically begin to pull more flour into the center. Be patient and watch the edges of the “bowl” for leaks.. Just press the flour bowl together if you develop one. Pretty soon the mixture will become thickened and you can push the flour from the edges into it. The dough will be slightly sticky when done and will form a ball. Don’t over mix..shape into a cylinder for ease of rolling. Set aside. Clean the counter (keeping the bits to add to the dough) and sprinkle part of the 1/2 cup of reserved flour onto the counter. Place the dough on a floured counter, flour top and roll out-adding flour to counter and top to keep from sticking. Roll till about as thick as the side of a coffee cup. With a pizza cutter, thinly slice the noodles (I actually use a straight edge that is dedicated to my kitchen and sanitized!) When the noodles are cut sprinkle any remaining flour on them. The using a spatula, lift the noodles up in the air and let them drop back down.. this will spread the flour on the sides and keep them from sticking. They can rest at this stage a a couple of hours.
Now back to the soup pot! Test your veggies for doneness – they should be tender but not mushy. Bring back to a boil and the noodles a handful at a time..”sprinkling” them down on the stock.. They will rise to the top. After all noodles have been added, stir and reduce heat to a low boil and cook for eight minutes.. Garnish with a little fresh parsley and serve hot!

Serving Size: makes 30 1-cup servings

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Why pay more for chicken?

Why would anyone pay $18.00 for a skinny chicken when you can get one in the grocery store for $5.00? Well, it depends a lot on what is important to you,  I suppose.  Here are a few of the reasons I am raising them.

Sustainability.   Grocery store chickens are a breed called Cornish Cross. They grow insanely fast. They are made from a four-way cross where two breeds are crossed, another two breeds are crossed, and then the offspring of those two crosses are crossed together, or so I am told. Only a few places in the WORLD create these crosses, and the thousands (millions?) of eggs they produce are sold to hatcheries that then hatch them out and sell them to the growers.  You can’t grow more chickens like them. You have to buy the chicks every time.

Healthy birds. I raised approximately 150 Delaware (heritage breed) chicks this year and only lost one on the first day, apparently being trampled in the waterer.  The Cornish cross last year were a different story. Out of 50 chicks, I lost five in the brooder. Then when they were about seven weeks old, I started losing two a day for the next two weeks. They mostly died of heart attacks, and even the ones that lived to the processing date had ascites and were wheezing.  They only wanted to sit by the food and eat. I’m not going to say more about the Cornish Cross. I’m just going to stick with the heritage dual-purpose chicken from now on.

Healthy food. My Delawares live outdoors on grassy pasture. They eat plants and bugs in addition to the food I give them. The food is specially made for me and is non-GMO and low or no spray.  It is the best food that I can obtain. Grocery store chickens are raised inside buildings with no more space than a piece of notebook paper (even the ones called ”free range”). There are thousands of birds in a building. They are fed the cheapest food the grower can get away with – how else could they sell for 99 cents a pound? And they only have to be fed for about six weeks, since they grow so fast that they would start dying beyond that age. Some chicken growers have stopped feeding arsenic to their chickens, but others have not. The arsenic is fed to them to reduce parasites and help the chickens grow even faster. Does the arsenic get into the chicken meat you eat? Yes it does.

Age. I have already mentioned the age of a Cornish cross chicken at processing time. Heritage birds take a lot longer. Instead of six weeks, it is five months. Therefore it is much more costly to get them to your table. But there are benefits to that age. Many people feel they have more flavor. Certainly they have had more time to develop flavor. I just cooked one of my Delawares tonight. It was tender and tasty. I wondered if I could really tell the difference by flavor, and to be honest, at first I didn’t notice much difference. Then I had a piece of skin from the leg of the chicken. It was divine! Yes, that kind of flavor is definitely better.

Dual purpose. Do you know how many little newly hatched chicks get killed every day? When an egg laying breed of chicks hatch, most people only want the females. Since the hatch is approx. 50/50 male/female, one baby chick is killed for every one that gets sold! It is a waste of life. And with the meat chickens, many growers only want the males, since they get bigger than the females. So they go the other way, and the females get killed, although some growers take the straight run. So the Delawares I raise are a dual purpose chicken. The males are good to eat, and the females are excellent layers of large eggs. How can it get any better than that?

So if you really like large breasted chickens that are tender if a bit lacking in flavor you probably will be happier with a grocery store chicken. You will save money. If some of these other issues resonate with you, then try a pasture raised heritage chicken. You’ll feel good about it.

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No more Cornish Cross Broilers!

This year was the first time I tried the Cornish Cross broilers. The chicks seemed to get off to a pretty good start. They develop very fast and came out of the brooder as soon as I could get a shelter built for them. In the beginning of the project, I was thinking, “this isn’t so bad…” When they got to 6-7 weeks old, they were still very small. I was puzzled that they were not big enough at the typical time frame for processing them. Then I read some posts on the American Pastured Poultry forum that others were having difficulty with their broilers not growing as fast as usual. I decided to wait until the weekend after Thanksgiving to process the birds to give them more growth time (they would be 8-1/2 weeks old then). All at once they started growing fast again! For the next two weeks we lost a bird or two almost every day to heart attacks and ascites! With ascites, the chickens’ hearts cannot keep up with the needs of the size of the bird, and they fill up with fluid. The fluid prevents them from breathing well, and they lay around wheezing. Their hearts get stretched out and flabby, and they flip over upside-down and die. I lost 1/3 of the flock during that time. Processing time came around, and we processed all the birds we  had left. Most of them had ascites. They also seemed to have weak joints and bones that broke in the plucker. And they had a lot of pin feathers that were tedious to remove. I believe this is due to their young age – an older bird would have grown those pinfeathers into full size feathers that would pluck easier. How do I know this? We processed five roosters for a neighbor at the same time we did the cornish cross. The roosters plucked cleanly and didn’t break any bones. I haven’t eaten any of the cornish cross chickens yet (still eating turkey) but with the health problems they were having, I’m dubious that they could taste that good. I’d like to try dual purpose heritage birds next year. They will take a lot longer to grow out, but should be healthier and much tastier.

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Turkey Day

How was your thanksgiving turkey? I hope everyone had a fantastic experience with theirs. Here’s how mine went…

The turkey I cooked was a 20 pound Broad breasted Bronze. The day before cooking, I rubbed it all around with my favorite spice blend (organic no-salt seasoning from Costco). I have a oil-less turkey fryer which works great! For some reason, you don’t lose any moisture as drippings.  Therefore, I stewed the giblets overnight to make a gravy. We got a late start putting the turkey in to cook, so it was almost 11:00 AM before we lit the gas turkey cooker and put the bird in. At about noon a strong wind came up. Close to 1:00 PM I went out to see how the turkey was cooking and discovered that the wind had blown out the flame in the cooker. I could put my hand right on the turkey and had no idea if the meat had cooked at all. We re-lit the cooker in the garage for wind protection. Needless to say, the Thanksgiving dinner was pretty late. The turkey was ready to come out at 4:00 PM. It was fabulous! The meat was juicy, tender and very tasty. No one minded waiting so long for dinner once they tasted the turkey.

So let me know how yours turned out.

Denita

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Turkeys are outside!

Yes, last week we moved the turks to a new shelter outdoors. They sleep in the shelter at night and then are allowed to go outside of the shelter in the daytime. There is an electric poultry net fence that keeps them from straying too far. Man, they LOVE it. I wish I had a recording of the happy little sounds they make out on the grass.You might notice the beautiful view they have on this property.

turkey, thanksgiving, broadbreasted bronze

The turkey's new home.

And in case you are wondering about Ailiss – here he/she is doing fine.

 

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Heritage turkeys

The picture of turkeys at the top of this page is not a picture of Broadbreasted Bronze. They are a very old breed of turkey called Auburn. These turkeys can fly! They breed on their own and hatch out their own chicks. It is very interesting that the tom quickly takes over caring for the babies once they have hatched. The female has been sitting on the eggs for so long, she needs a break to get out and forage for food. The turkeys sleep roosting in the trees. This year my Auburns hatched out six chicks which will be available for Thanksgiving dinner. They will be small – probably 8-10 lbs. Turkeys taste better the longer they go before processing. The extra time gives them a little more fat which is where the great flavor is. At Thanksgiving, these guys will be just old enough to have great flavor.

Meanwhile, the Broadbreasted Bronze poults have quadrupled in size. They have been moved to the motorhome brooder and are already outgrowing their larger space.  I am busy making an outdoor shelter for them to move to when they no longer need the brooder heat.

You can now reserve either type of turkey on my website HERE.

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