April 4, 2011
My Turkeys - The Next Chapter
As you may know, I have a penchant for backyard animal husbandry, the agricultural practice of breeding and raising livestock. Since I have a farm, I believe in raising one’s food and being as humane as possible in the treatment of that food. I also have a great appreciation of good food and prefer eating better tasting and better for you heritage breeds of livestock. You may recall that last August, I acquired beautiful heritage breed turkeys, including Bourbon Red, Royal Palm, and Black Spanish. I found out, however, that the timing was all wrong. The turkeys were too small to butcher last Thanksgiving and they would be too tough to eat if we waited until next Thanksgiving. Turkeys also have difficulty walking when they get too large. To make room for a new brood of turkeys better suited for Thanksgiving, I asked my friend Chef Pierre Schaedelin to help.
Pierre is from Alsace, France near the German border. He recalls that when he was a child, most families in his surrounding area, grew their own fruits and vegetables, and raised and butchered their own livestock. The social life in Alsace revolved around food and respect for it, and neighbors shared wonderful meals with one another. I know many of you may find this blog especially graphic, but it’s all part of the circle of life and knowing and understanding what you eat.
1 These heritage breed turkeys were fed a great diet and were able to wander free-range throughout the day.
2 Because it was so cold outside, Pierre set up an area in the equipment barn where he removed the feathers.
3 The first step is to immerse the deceased turkey in nearly boiling water for 30 - 45 seconds. This opens the pores, making the plucking easier.
4 For neatness purposes, the carcass was placed in a large bin to catch the feathers.
5 After the hot water bath, the feathers are actually quite easy to pull out.
6 Two of the hens all plucked
7 Dipping one of the toms in the hot water bath
8 And plucking the feathers
9 Plucking the tail plumes
10 The toms are considerably larger than the hens.
11 The five turkeys all lined up on the work table in the kitchen of the equipment barn
12 Pulling out the finer feathers
13 The lower legs are removed by cutting between the joint and severing the cartilage.
14 To remove the neck and the upper organs, an incision is made down the backside of the neck.
15 The neck flap skin is carefully cut away from the neck.
16 After the neck removal, fatty tissue is trimmed away.
17 An opening is cut in the lower part of the body to remove the rest of the organs.
18 The innards are detached from the chest wall and pulled out of the lower opening.
19 Removing the inside wall and contents of the gizzard - a specialized stomach constructed of thick, muscular walls, used for grinding up food. As you can see here, small stones have been ingested to help with the process.
20 This is what you receive when you purchase a ready-to-eat turkey or chicken - the neck, the liver, the gizzard, and the heart.
21 Quite often, unlaid eggs are found inside the hens.
22 The reddish globes are the yolks of unformed eggs.
23 An entire chain of egg yolks - After leaving the hen's ovary, the yolk develops the albumin, or egg white, and finally, the eggshell just before it is laid.
24 Finally, the remaining pin feathers are singed over an open flame.
25 One turkey all ready to roast.