The holidays are coming and for most of us that means cooking up a whole turkey. We aren’t going to beat around the bush, the pastured birds coming out of Garoleen Wilson’s JHawk Farm in Kansas are the best around.
At JHawk Farm they raise Red Breasted White turkeys, the same type of birds you find in the grocery store. But these ones live a much better life. In fact, after they are 4 to 6 weeks old they leave the brooder go on to the pasture, where they live out their days roaming around, scrounging fro bugs and just being turkeys.
“Our turkeys have a lot more freedom and space, and I have about 50 birds on an acre,” says Garoleen. “They can graze more and eat more bugs, so they don’t grow as fast as birds raised in a commercial situation do.”
Raised With Love
Why does it take so long to grow this fantastic birds? Well, says Garoleen, it starts with them needing more care when they hatch. “They are more fragile than chickens, and that’s why we keep them in the brooder longer,” she tells us. “Once they are feathered out and ready to go to pasture then they are almost bulletproof.”
Another reason these turkeys take more time and resources to raise is because they are ferocious grazers and require a lot of room and need to be on fresh pasture more often than chickens because of it. This is why the turkeys get moved ever single day to a new plot of land. But while it takes work to move the flock, the turkeys benefit from eating local foliage and bugs and getting a lot of exercise. In turn, we benefit too because it makes the birds healthier and the their meat taste better.
When Garoleen started with turkeys she got ten poulets, with the idea that she would discover if she liked raising them. Turns out she does, and over the past few years she has raised more and more. Each turkey takes between 12 and 16 weeks to fully mature and be ready to process, compared to chickens, which are ready after about eight weeks. When the turkeys are done growing, each bird weighs around 12 to 14 pounds.
The season for turkey is short too. One issue farmers face comes with processing, most meat companies only take turkeys in October and November. Then there’s the land issue. Garoleen says that after couple freezes the birds don’t have a lot of forage to forge for, and the water supply constantly freezes. This is why she only does one flock of turkeys a year and doesn’t raise her pastured chickens between October and May.
Get Your Turkey ASAP
Unfortunately this year part of JHawk Farm’s flock didn’t make it, so the supply is limited. But, lucky for Locavore Delivery subscribers, you can reserve one as soon as we get these pastured turkeys in. The come frozen and vacuum sealed. Each bird weighs between 12 to 14 pounds, which serves around eight to ten people, the perfect size for that holiday gathering.
Don’t hesitate to order a turkey soon, we have been waiting all year for these birds to land so we can share them with our customers. And, when it comes to the JHawk Farm pastured turkey, it’s well worth the wait.
Tips For Cooking Pastured Turkey
- Brine that bird for 12 to 48 hours before cooking, it will make the meat more juicy and delicious
- While stuffing traditionally is, well, stuffed, keep it on the side in order to prevent the meat from drying out. Plus it takes longer to cook when it’s inside the bird.
- Make sure the skin is dry before cooking, then slather some butter on top to help brown and crisp the outside.
- Cook the turkey on a rack above vegetables. The juices will flavor the celery, carrots, potatoes and anything else that’s placed below to help create a super tasty gravy. Plus, elevating the turkey means the heat can go around the whole bird for even cooking and crispy skin.
- Roast these pastured turkeys for approximately 2.5 hours, and use a meat thermometer to check the temperature, which should be at 165 degrees.
- When the turkey is done let it rest 15 to 20 minutes so those tantalizing juices can soak back into the meat rather than escaping when you carve the bird.
Super Simple Turkey Recipe
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Dry turkey with paper towels, inside and out.
- Make sure to remove any gibbets and replace those with aromatics such as onion, rosemary, sage, apple, whole lemon, garlic and celery. Don’t over pack, it’s just for flavor and not eating later.
- Rub the outside of the bird with butter, and season with salt. pepper and any other spices you want baked into the crispy skin. Rosemary, thyme and parsley are good additions.
- Place turkey breast-side up on a roasting rack in a roasting pan. Make a foil tent over the turkey with room for the air to circulate inside.
- Cook for two hours, leaving the oven shut the whole time.
- Remove the foil and baste the bird with more butter and the juices in pan.
- Raise the oven temperature to 425 degrees and put turkey back in, uncovered.
- Let cook for another hour, or until the temperature is 165 degrees.
- Pull turkey out and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes.