Saturday, November 14, 2009

Talking Turkey

We've had such fun with our Iron Chef Pumpkin week. Next month we'll be featuring another secret ingredient, suggested by our winner Molly Ebert. But don't despair. We're taking suggestions for a secret ingredient to cook with in January. It's not too early to send in your suggestions. And just for the holidays, this time the prize is a Junior's Cheesecake, delivered right to your door!

Today we're kicking off a week of Thanksgiving recipes here at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen. Most of us are heading to the grocery store to buy a turkey this week, so I thought I'd start with some information to help us all understand what we're buying.

Next Saturday, I'll post about the basics of brining and roasting a turkey. If you're picking up a turkey and you plan to brine it, don't forget to buy a box of Kosher salt.

Heritage turkeys are probably the most expensive turkeys you'll find. Considered by many to be the cream of the crop, they supposedly have a richer flavor, are moister, and have a preferred texture. Most turkeys you'll find in the grocery store are broad-breasted white turkeys. Heritage turkeys include breeds like Narragansett, Bourbon Red, and Jersey Buff. These birds are often organic and free-range as well. You'll note that I said "supposedly" above. These birds come with a hefty price tag ranging from $95 to $225. I have not eaten one so I can't claim to know if they actually are better. Most heritage turkey farmers take orders very early in the fall, so you may have trouble finding one now, although some specialty stores may have ordered extras. One of my favorite sources of local foods is and you might still find one there.

Apparently, the label "organic" is evolving, at least where turkeys are concerned. A bit of research indicates that the label means, at the very least, that the turkeys have been fed organic feed, have had access to outdoors, and no antibiotics have been administered. Hormone use is prohibited in all poultry, so that shouldn't be an issue in any turkey. Organic turkeys are generally available between $30 and $80 depending on the size.

These turkeys have had access to the outdoors. Not only is it kinder and more humane to raise turkeys with room to roam, their diet is more varied, which many claim produces superior meat.

Kosher turkeys are slaughtered in a method designed to rid the bird of blood. They are prepared under Rabbinical supervision and salted. Because of the salting, these birds should not be brined, but are often considered superior in flavor.

These birds have been injected with a solution to make them moister and more flavorful. The solution can be a variety of ingredients, including water, butter, fats, broth, and spices. The ingredients are generally listed on the front of the turkey. Since they have already been injected with a solution, these birds should not be brined.

Fresh food is always better than frozen (well, except for ice cream!). But frozen turkeys are perfectly good. You simply have to remember to thaw them well in advance. Don't worry, you'll get a reminder from me next Saturday when I tackle the basics of roasting.

~ Krista

Is it turkey yet?

Not yet, Queenie. Soon. Very soon!


  1. Who would have guessed there are so many different types of turkeys out there. I guess I'm just use to the frozen ones in our local supermarket. Thanks for the great tips and looking forward to the reminder next week.

  2. Would you believe mine is already thawing? My husband LOVES turkey (he'd better, this one is 22 pounds!). Our daughter arrives from Australia Nov. 30th and wants Thanksgiving dinner when she gets here. But we wanted turkey on the real Thanksgiving too. So we're cooking one turkey next week, freezing some for Thanksgiving, and will cook another for her.

  3. Turkey. I love turkey. Love the smell of the kitchen when a turkey is cooking. Thanks for sharing about all the different kinds. And thanks for sharing a picture of Queenie. What a love!

  4. Mason, the frozen turkeys in your market probably come in basted, non-basted, organic, Kosher, and free-range versions. I was amazed by the variety in my grocery store.

    Hmm, I think I know why Anonymous posted without a name -- Queenie and I would be packing our bags for a visit. Two turkeys! Sounds perfect to me. I'm working on a Christmas book for next year and just wrote in a second turkey. After all, who doesn't love turkey sandwiches from left-overs? Those are almost as good as turkey hot from the oven!

    ~ Krista

  5. OMG, Queenie's face is so full of longing.
    I love it. Thanks for the most excellent
    turkey post, Krista. I am feeling a smidgen
    less panicky now. LOL.

  6. Thanks, Avery and Jenn! Queenie likes that photo because she looks slender. The truth is that she considers herself a Canine Foodista and likes to hang around the kitchen in case a morsel of cheese should come her way. I see that longing expression a lot! LOL!

  7. Krista - I LOVE Queenie!!! What a great photo of your pup and what an outstanding post. You have really helped me sort out the turkey labeling, which is no mean feat. And it could not come at a better time. We just love turkey at our house and will probably be cooking three or four birds between Thanksgiving and the New Year. Leftovers are the best, too!

    Happy (almost) Thanksgiving!
    "Where coffee and crime are alwways brewing..."
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  8. Wow, those heritage turkeys are a big chunk of change! Thanks for the information on all of the different types to look for.

    My Golden, Cooper, looks exactly the same whenever I cook anything. "Is there anything on the counter for me?"

  9. Queenie is such a cutie! Those big brown eyes..awww!

    This is some great information, Krista. I discovered I really don't know anything about turkeys! This was a really helpful post...thanks for the turkey talk.


  10. Cleo, if you're cooking three to four turkeys, Queenie and I are coming to your house!

    Janel, I would love to try a heritage turkey to see if there's a difference. I've found a big difference with heirloom tomatoes. Our Goldens certainly know how to turn on the sweet eyes. No wonder Queenie isn't svelte!

    Thanks, Elizabeth, Queenie is a sweetheart. I hope this helps when you pick out your turkey!

  11. Re: Kosher turkeys. Sorry this is a few days late,but I just found your blog. I enjoy reading the comments and recipes. However, I have to jump in about something I know from life long experience and study: Kosher turkeys are slaughtered by an extremely sharp special knife to cause them the least pain and suffering, not to get rid of the blood. They are soaked and salted to remove as much blood as possible. The same is true in the slaughter and kashering (making kosher) of cows. Unlike the slaughter of non kosher cattle, kosher cattle and fowl are NOT hit over the head first. The soaking and salt draws the blood to the surface and out so it can be washed off. Have a happy Thanksgiving. Judy in California