The traditional Christmas bird, on our tables since the times of Henry VIII, is to many the highlight of the Christmas day feast. With so many differing options available to buy, here are our top tips for selecting the perfect bird.
Our recommendation is a free range bronze. The bronze turkey has risen in popularity over the past few years and has all the subtleties and depth of flavour to stand up to the occasion.
Responsible rearing and good husbandry are of utmost importance and slow growing traditional breeds that reach full maturity naturally will always result in a tastier mouthful on the fork. Our birds spend their days exploring the downland meadows and trees of the Walters’ Family Bower Farm in Berkshire, enjoying the freedom and fresh air.
We always recommend buying a fresh turkey for Christmas although a frozen bird will still be tasty as long you steer clear of mass produced and intensive farming methods, which does not result in a stress free life for the animal. A good indicator of this level of care and attention is to ask your butcher if the birds were produced by a member of the Traditional Farm Fresh Turkey Association (TFTA). This also ensures the birds consume a natural diet without the addition of growth promoters or any other hidden nasties.
We are often asked how large a bird is necessary. A general rule of thumb when selecting a turkey is to use the 1/2 kg per person measure, this includes both brown and white meat. It’s important to remember here that birds which have been reared in an ethical manner are rarely available at less than 4kg. Alternative options if you are catering for a smaller gathering are turkey crowns on the bone and boneless turkey breasts. In any case if you do happen to have some left over, turkey being such a versatile meat, offers up all manner of tasty recipes from curries to delicious cold cuts with mashed potato.
You will want to select a bird that has been dry plucked. Dry plucking is a more labour intensive process than the industrial alternative of wet plucking but produces much better results. The plucking is done by hand and leaves the skin of the bird smooth and silky. It also benefits shelf life. By removing the moisture element of wet plucking, the growth of bacteria is slowed and you are able to store your bird for longer.
Lastly, buy a turkey which has been hung. Hanging the bird in the same way that game or aged steaks are hung ensures the turkey is moist, tender and develops a fuller, mature flavour.