Well, our turkey raising experiment this year went well - probably a little too well. We had a lot of orders for birds in the 15 - 25# range and our smallest bird was over 21#. They REALLY thrived out in the pasture. We plan to raise more next year, but probably start them somewhat later (these birds were 22 weeks old) and manage their feeding protocol a little differently. We used the two biggest birds - 41.25# and a whopping 41.90# guy . . . whew!
Darrell had written an informational piece about "How to Handle Roasting a Big Turkey", and I had some of those big disposable roasting pans to give to people who feared their regular roaster wouldn't cut it.
So, several of our customers shared their story of what they did with the bird and send some photos. There're also photos at the end of what we did with the two monsters.
Leah C. sent these photos and a note about their experience. She had been leery of doing a big bird, so Darrell's instructions and a pan were welcomed.
"My mouth is still watering from the turkey we had this afternoon. I have never brined a turkey before, and wow, was that spectacular. The gravy from the drippings was absolutely amazing without having to add anything but Wondra.
I am no longer hesitant to roast a big turkey. It was a ton of fun, and a huge success. I can't wait to try to make those turkey pot pies. Thanks so much. We definitely are in for next year!!!
Please tell Darrell thanks so much for the great instructions.
I am sending a pic...it isn't the prettiest of pictures, but it is a pic none the less. I am also sending a fun pic of my mom pretending to take a bite out of one of the drumsticks. :)".
Then, Judy M. sent these photos and captions for her photos - note that she has the printout of Darrell's instructions laying on the worktop to the top right of the photo of rubbing seasoned butter under the skin:
"1. Taking the 24.5 lb turkey out of the brine (Darrell's recipe) at 6 am.
2. Rubbing seasoned butter under the skin.
3. Ready for the oven.
4. Cooked really fast at 350 (4.5 hours).
5. My dad always does the carving!
A wonderful bird! Very moist and flavorful. Thank you."
Jen H. sent this info and some photos:
"the deboning went well...it took awhile. did you see I had to stand on a stool to get an angle on deboning...Chris thought it was funny! The stuffing is mostly cranberries (a bit too much). My string was a bit thin but it worked. The bird barely fit in the roaster but it did!...the skin didn't brown but the meat was awesome!!! It was so nice not to have bones to deal with later (I had to use the canner to fit the carcass. Broth was done before anyone arrived). Carving was a breeze :-) Everyone took home leftovers!
Connie V. wrote this nice note and sent great photos:
"Best turkey I EVER cooked!!! I first brined it to your instructions, but for 48 hrs. I stuffed it with onions, not stuffing. I buttered him/her inside and out with truffle butter, then Sage and Rosemary inside and out. Then put in the turkey at 350' for 7 hrs. It sat for an hour before it was carved.
6 bags of good turkey meat are gifts and frozen. One big bag in the fridge will be eaten for awhile in sandwiches and casseroles. The rest was used in The best ever turkey soup!!! It was moist and tasted absolutely fabulous!!! Put me down for next year. ( oh and Gus, my dog, also enjoyed the treats!) Sincerely!!!!!"
Josh B. sent this note and photos:
"Even at just 27 lbs, this was the biggest turkey I have ever done. I brined my bird for two days in a pretty standard turkey brine I found online. Mostly just water, sugar and salt, but I did add some honey and fruit juice to the mix as well. On Wednesday night, after brining for about 36 hours I took the bird out of the brine, rinsed it and dried it off and let it sit uncovered in the fridge overnight.
Thanksgiving morning I woke up early spatchcocked (butterflied) the turkey and covered it, both under and over the skin, with a Simon and Garfunkle rub (Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme). The last piece was something I have never tried before, essentially copying the original concept behind a butterball turkey, which involves just injecting melted butter into the breast of the turkey. After that I threw it on the Grill. I had it on low heat, smoking it, for about 2 hours, then cranked it up to 325 for a few hours until it was perfect.
This was easily the best turkey I have ever had. The turkey itself was great, and the added flavor from the butter and smoke were wonderful. It was big enough that it was a bit hard to work with, but well worth the challenge. I am looking forward to cooking the other one in my freezer in the not too distant future.
Also, all that leftover turkey was great for our family tradition after thanksgiving which is called The Mess. Essentially it is a turkey curry over rice with lots of great toppings."
Dave T. sent complete instructions for how he spatchcocked and prepared his turkey:
"First let me say it was easy to cook and prepare.
- Turn the turkey over and cut from head to tail on each side to remove the backbone. Then put the backbone in a pot along with the giblets, liver and neck. We stored them covered in the garage to keep cold and not take up any ref. room. This all was done on Tuesday. The Turkey without a backbone was put in a garbage bag ( Cheap unscented!) in a cooler in a Brine mixture of 1 gal. cold water, 2 cups kosher salt, 1 cup brown sugar, 2 oranges and 2 lemons quartered, 4 cloves of garlic, 2 sprigs of Rosemary, 2 sprigs of Thyme. The Brine is mixed in a pot before dumping into the garbage bag that holds the Turkey. The Turkey stays in the Brine for a minimum of 24 hours but 36 is better! Add water to make sure the turkey is covered. Leave the turkey in the Brine mixture for 24 – 36 hours.
- Cooking day! Ruff Chop up 4 carrots, 4 stalks of celery, and two large onions. Take a large cooking sheet that has a min. of 1 inch of depth and cover with heavy tinfoil. Put the veg. mixture on the foiled lined sheet .put 2 sprigs of Thyme and one tbl. of sage sprinkled over the vegies.
- Remove the Turkey from the Brine and set Cavity up and pat dry with paper towels. Take Kosher Salt and coat ( Rub) the inside of the Turkey cavity.
- Now turn the bird over on the cavity and pretend you're preforming CPR and break the breast so the bird lays flat or as flat as possible. Place a rack (or not) on top of the Veggies and place the turkey on the rack (Cavity down) and centered to the cookie sheet so the drippings go into the pan and not in the oven. Mary made a catching tray out of foil to put underneath the pan - that was a good idea!
- With the Bird centered on the pan of veggies on a rack, oil bathe the bird with extra virgin Olive oil, kosher salt, seasoning of choice (I used a mix of Sage, thyme, and Morton‘s Nature seasoning). I also took a ½ stick of soft butter and messaged it under the turkey skin everywhere. Make sure the Turkey wings (tips) are tucked under the top of the breast or you will be doing high fives with this Turkey when it’s done!
- Preheat the oven to 450 deg.! Yes, 450 deg.! and place the bird on a rack centered to the oven. Cook 1 hr. untented and then turn the bird around pan and all and tent it for another ½ hr. to 45 min. Ok, this is the part that is a bit of a guessing game. No one that I could find ever SpatchCocked a 35 LB. Turkey before! So I cooked it longer, about an additional hr. @ 375 F. The important part is when the Breast reads 155-160 deg. the Thighs should read about 165 deg. and the Turkey is done! Remove from the oven and keep tented to rest a minimum of ½ hr. - 1 hr. is not too long!
For the gravy, which is out of this world,
- Take the neck and backbone and chop into 4-5 pieces in roughly equal lengths. Heat a couple tbl. Olive Oil in a fry pan and brown the backbone and neck and giblets and liver pieces until browned (5-6 min.). Add 1 cup of ruff chopped carrots, 1 ruff cut onion, and 1 cup of rough cut Celery
- Put this into a large pot and add 1 ½ quarts Turkey or Chicken broth and 2 cups of water and bring to a boil then simmer for about 45 min. You can do this while the turkey is cooking.
- Then remove all the bones and soft veggies by straining the broth into a 2-3 quart sauce pan. To thicken, in another saucepan take 2 TBL butter and melt, then add 4 Tbl of flour and whisk together on medium heat until browned, then stir this mixture into the strained gravy. We did this procedure until we achieved the gravy thickness we like.
- When the Turkey is done the dripping can also be added to the gravy and some to the stuffing.
So, there you have it! Everyone has been trying to find a way to cook a turkey so the breast meat doesn’t come out dry. There is baking and basting, there is baking is a bag, there is deep frying and others. For me, I say SpatchCock the sucker! The white meat was juicy and moist and the dark meat as well.
Conni gave us the recipe for taking the left overs and making Turkey Pot Pies, which we did with the leftovers and they are great and the gravy worked well for that, also!
Thanks for flipping us a Bird !"
And then, there were our two 41+# monsters . . .
For Thursday, at Darrell's step-mom's, the crew is very adventurous about what they will eat, so he deboned the first bird (41.25#). He put the breast into a brine for about 12 hours. He then ground the dark meat and made turkey sausages, using seasonings and dried tart cherries, filling skins with an attachment for our KitchenAid. We put the whole carcass in our 25-quart stock pot with carrots, onions, and celery, and let that simmer for hours, ultimately straining off some great stock. All the usable meat was picked off the carcass, filling a big disposable plastic container, saved for pot pie making.
He made a stuffing for the boned breast with dried bread, stock, seasonings, and dried cranberries. After filling the flattened out breast, he then rolled and tied it with string, ready for roasting. It took less time to roast than he had anticipated, so when it tested done, he removed the covered roaster from the oven (it got done so quickly, he hadn't left it uncovered for the skin to brown, which was somewhat too bad, but not a total loss on that score). He wrapped the whole roaster up in a heavy towel so the bird would rest and keep as warm as possible.
The sausages were roasted on Thursday morning in the oven, as the breast was finishing roasting and put onto the serving platter after he carved the breast. We all stood around the carving, oohing at the juice that was oozing out of the breast slices as he cut through - magnificently moist and juicy, and the brining had enhanced the natural flavor.
Then, on Friday, we had a more traditional crowd, who like a whole, stuffed bird, with a long-time favorite stuffing that Darrell makes with dried bread, pork sausage, onions, celery, sage, giblets, and stock. This was the 41.9# bird, BTW. The sage/sausage stuffing is always delightful, and the leftover stuffing and gravy add the "Thanksgiving flavor" to the 16 pot pies I made with a lot of the meat over the past week. In this photo, Darrell is holding a fork right in front of the bird in the nearly overwhelmed huge disposable roasting pan so you can see the scale. Note the knife blocks and blender behind, which also help show how huge this thing was. This was actually too big to handle reasonably, and we had a little spillage of juice when he tried to slide out the oven rack to check the temp. He then used a turkey baster and big measuring cup to remove a bunch of the drippings that had accumulated, and some of the spilled drippings made for a little smokiness in the kitchen for awhile.
In addition to 16 turkey pot pies (see our info on "how to" here), I made a lovely Gumbo with turkey and andouille sausage, which we ate over rice. We had seen this recipe on Food Network's "The Kitchen" the week before, and we both thought it sounded good. They used a pre-cooked smoked Kielbasa, but we had andouille, which is more gumbo-appropriate. It turned out GREAT!
And, with 2 more carcasses to cook down (a friend gave us one from a small turkey), I had done another round of stock, meat picking from carcasses, etc. All the picked off meat is great for soups, pot pies, and gumbo, plus I cut up cubes. After getting the second batch of stock done, I made turkey/barley soup, with cubes of turkey, some of the pickings from the bones, celery, carrots . . . also very yummy. Probably will freeze some of that, and I still have some strained stock that we can put through the pressure canner in jars and store.