Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thanksgiving 101 Part 2 - Selecting The Perfect Turkey

In all honesty, if you plan to buy a frozen (heaven fore fend) or even a freshly butchered and dressed bird, you might as well be blindfolded. They are all the same. Naturally, weight is a consideration; (about 5 pounds for each adult and 3 for each child.) To be cautious, if you will be serving any teenage boys plan on 7 lbs for each; Slightly less in California, more in New Jersey.
Besides weight, if you will need 30 pounds or more, you will want to have more than one bird. For example, you could have 3 fifteen pound birds – 2 for eating and one more to hold extra stuffing.  This is also helpful when you plan to make a more sophisticated stuffing recipe. There will always be one or two guest who prefer the basic version. Better still buy a box of Stove Top and let the heathen slobs have at it.
Then there is color. A pale pinkish hue indicates freshness but the bird may be dry and require excessive basting. A yellowish tinge indicates high fat content or, in some cases jaundice. In either instance I strongly suggest you throw away the liver, kidneys, gall bladder, etc. Just take that disgusting package they stuff inside the cavity like a Cracker Jack prize and chuck it. Don’t even feed it to your dog, unless you were planning to get rid of it anyway. (The dog, that is.)
If you really want a turkey worth eating, however, there is no substitute for choosing the Gobbler while he can still gobble.  There is more to be gleaned from looking them square in their dark little beady eyes, watching the swagger in their step, the feel and form of their feathers  and the wiggle in their waddle.
Everything I know about selecting fowl I learned from “Turkey” Tom Nexwinger, “The Turkey Whisperer”.
“Turk”, as his friend called him, was my Grandfather.  In the interest of time and space I can best pass along his wisdom in terms of what you don’t want to see in your live bird:
1.       You don’t want a smart bird. You will be cutting off the head anyway, so brains are of little importance.
2.       You don’t want an athletic bird. muscle makes a lousy sandwich.
3.       You don’t want an angry, sullen or crazy bird. All of these are caused by hormones which tend to detract from flavor.
In short, you want a fat stupid lazy mild-tempered bird.  As Grandpa Turk used to say …well, actually I couldn’t really understand anything the old fool used to say. He didn’t so much whisper; he wheezed, slurred and had an unusually strong sibilant “S”.  My cousins and I would get him to sing Miss The Mississippi And You , and then pee ourselves laughing behind his back.

Now that you have selected your perfect Thanksgiving turkey we can move on to Part 3 – preparing to roast. Hold on tight you inglorious basters, things are about to start heating up!

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