local turkeys






Roasting Heritage Turkeys

courtesy of the web site Epicurious.com

With longer legs, a leaner breast, and a more diminutive size compared to a standard supermarket turkey, heritage birds look, taste, and roast up differently than your average Thanksgiving fowl. Heritage birds generally top out at 14 to 16 pounds, so if you plan on serving a larger crowd, you might want to roast two side by side. An added bonus is that smaller birds cook more quickly than their fleshy cousins, so you don't need to rise at dawn if you like to eat Thanksgiving dinner at noon.

Because of their more natural, active lifestyle, heritage turkeys must be roasted differently in order to avoid toughness. Opinions vary on how to achieve this: Some farmers recommend cooking the birds at a higher temperature (425°F to 450°F) for a shorter period of time (no more than 2 hours for a 12- to 14-pound bird). Other people swear by the opposite, roasting their birds more slowly and at a lower temperature than the standard (325°F, 3 1/2 to 4 hours for a 12- to 14-pound bird). Both ways will work—the most important thing is not to overcook the meat. You might even consider undercooking—the cleaner, drug-free living conditions of heritage birds make them less likely to be infected with the kind of bacteria that require cooking to a higher temperature, and an internal temperature of 140°F to 150°F will yield moist, juicy, more tender meat. Be aware that this could leave the meat with a pinkish hue that may be unappealing to some diners, but a quick fix is to toss their pieces under the broiler for a minute or two if they complain.

A curious difference between a heritage and regular bird concerns the neck fat. While heritage breeds are typically leaner, many have more neck fat than the Broad Breasted White. If you decide to stuff your heritage turkey before roasting, don't put the stuffing all the way up into the neck cavity. The excess fat will render into the stuffing, making it soggy and greasy. Instead, stuff vegetables like carrots or onions into the neck cavity. The vegetables and fat will add flavor to the extra drippings, ideal for gravy making.