Thanksgiving 2010 will be a day that I will remember for the rest of my life I’m sure. We started June 2010 with six 1-day old turkey poults, and on November 23rd, 2010 we had three fully grown turkeys in the backyard. On November 24th Adam and Corey harvested our big tom, Tom the Turkey, for Thanksgiving dinner on the 25th. Tom was an impressive turkey in his last days, albeit rather annoying. He reminded me of a cranky old man as he gobbled fiercly at any passing car, barking dog, ambulance siren, and any other slight noise that entered within his range of hearing. Adam and Corey did a wonderful job of killing him quickly and humanely, and after Tom was all dressed for dinner we weighed him to find out that he was 36.6 pounds! A full 20 pounds bigger than any turkey I’ve ever cooked before!

As you can see, the turkey almost didn’t fit into the biggest roasting pan available at the grocery store! I went with the Martha Stewart method of cooking the turkey, dressing the breast with a full piece of cheesecloth soaked in two sticks of melted butter. I also rubbed a mix of parsley/thyme/oregano/salt/pepper under and on top of the skin, and tied the legs together with butcher’s twine. The turkey was roasted at 475 degrees for 1 hour, and then 350 degrees for another 5 1/2 hours. Once the turkey was done it had to rest for about 50 minutes, which gave me plenty of time to make gravy from the mass of drippings that came off of this giant bird.

Soon came the moment of truth. We had a wonderful spread of completely gluten-free and primal fare including roasted sweet potatoes, made-from-scratch green bean casserole, gluten-free stuffing, broccoli with made-from-scratch cheese sauce, gravy, and of course turkey. At that point, we all loaded our plates up, and got to try Tom the Turkey for the first time. Drumroll please….

He was delicious! I’ve honestly never tasted poultry quite like this at all. The breast meat was fork-tender, even melt-in-your-mouth amazing. The taste was very good as well, like good poultry, but the texture of the meat was what amazed me the most! The simple fact that I ate white meat without gravy is a feat in itself! I did then pour gravy over most of my food, which made it even better, but the meat was so moist and tender it didn’t actually need it.

One reason Tom was so delicious is because we accidentaly timed the raising of the turkeys perfectly! According to what Adam and I have read, turkeys are best for harvest at about 22 weeks, which is when they have grown to full size and have started putting on fat but haven’t yet gotten tough. They did eat a lot of regular old “flock raiser” turkey food, but got to wander through the whole backyard nearly every day eating bugs and ate copious amounts of vegetable scraps as well.
We still have to harvest the two hens (female turkeys), but overall, raising them has been a great experience. If you’ve got the space and inclination to raise a turkey or three, and have the stomach to harvest them yourself (thank you Adam and Corey!), I highly recommend having a 100% fresh turkey for Thanksgiving. I can think of no better way to learn appreciation for the food that you eat than to raise and care for it yourself before lovingly preparing it for your family and close friends.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, I hope you had as much to be thankful for this year as I did!