Blog | November 23, 2009

Staff Recipes: Roasted Heritage Breed Turkey

KariEven though my Thanksgiving will be a party of two, I like to prepare for the possibility of ten! When I heard Wendy was getting a Lilac turkey from Wells Tavern Farm in Shelburne, Massachusetts I jumped on board for a bird.

Wells Tavern has raised about 30 of their turkeys for fresh Thanksgiving birds. They are selling heritage breed birds that have had access to pasture throughout the spring and summer, eating natural Vermont grain and scratch feeds – with no antibiotics or added hormones. The turkeys are kept in large fenced pastures, which allows them to naturally scratch and forage, and provides them with protection from predators.

Wendy has been talking about her delicious turkey for a while now, and I am excited to see if I can find success with my first attempt at making Thanksgiving dinner.

Here is her recipe from last year:

Whether fresh or frozen, bring the bird to room temperature before cooking.

Cover the breast with a piece of brown paper cut from a shopping bag, rub it with cooking oil, and tie it in place with cotton string. Alternatively, soak a piece of cotton cloth in unsalted oil, such as corn oil. Remove the covering about 30 minutes before the turkey is done so the breast will brown.

Roast heritage turkeys in a hot oven pre-heated to 425F-450F and cook until an internal thigh temperature of 140F-150F is reached. Don’t let the tip of the thermometer touch the bone. (Note: The USDA recommends turkeys be cooked to 160F-180F, but these temperature will dry out a heritage turkey. Heritage birds are much more free of disease and bacteria, unlike commercially-raised birds, and do not need extreme temperatures to make them safe for consumption).

Truly the thought of cooking at such a high heat terrified me but it worked out great. We had a 17lb turkey that cooked in 1 1/2 hours.

Cook any stuffing first and put inside the heritage turkey before roasting. Due to the reduced cooking time, stuffing won’t become fully cooked. Alternatively, try adding a quartered orange, apple and/or pear inside the cavity instead of stuffing.

Let the roasted bird rest 10-15 minutes before carving.

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