We suggest 1 pound of uncooked turkey per adult - 1 1/2 pounds per person if you want leftovers or are feeding teenagers. Consider buying two or more smaller birds instead of one large bird. This can cut down the cooking time as well as provide more drumsticks!
We recommend putting the turkey in the fridge to slowly thaw, either on a tray or "cupping" the bottom of the bird in foil to prevent accidental drips. Check occasionally to be sure it is really thawing. The usual rule of thumb is 24 hours in the refrigerator per 5 lbs of bird. A thawed bird in the original wrapping will be OK in the refrigerator for a day or so but should be cooked within three days.
First, a good meat thermometer is really helpful in getting your heritage turkey cooked to perfection. There are several good recipes available but the description and recipe from William Rice, then the food and wine columnist for the Chicago Tribune, is one of the best we've seen. Here is his article and the recipe that appeared with it. The essence of a free-range heritage turkey is its flavor. No industrial bird can tickle so many taste buds or provide the satisfying savor found in each bite of these throwbacks. The fact that the meat is firm and has recognizable aroma and texture will come as a surprise to many who have eaten only the bland turkey designed for mass consumption. It should be noted, however, that the diner has to invest some time and energy chewing heritage-turkey meat to break down its texture. These turkeys are not tough. They are firm. You chew longer but, as a result, are more fully satisfied with a smaller amount.
There's no trick to preparing one of these heritage gems, but the first-time cook should know that they contain little fat and do not respond well to high-heat cooking. Cooking the bird at a low temperature, with moist heat at least part of the time, is a more common approach in farmhouse kitchens. Another tip: While it robs the meal of the drama of presenting the whole turkey before carving, many veteran cooks choose to cut their heritage birds into pieces before roasting. This allows dark and white meat to be cooked separate lengths of time to the same degree of doneness. Turkey farmer John Caveny suggests cooking your first heritage turkey without seasoning, avoiding even salt and pepper. "That way," he said, "you will learn what our birds really bring to the table. Add seasoning the next time, if you wish."
1 heritage turkey (10-12 pounds), at room temperature, cut into 7 pieces, with backbone, heart and gizzards, giblets reserved
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut off the turkey wing tips and fat from the turkey tail; place in a Dutch oven or stockpot. Add the turkey neck, backbone, parsley, carrots, onion, celery, bay leaf and sage. Roast until browned, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven; add reserved heart, gizzards and giblets to pot. Add water to cover. Heat to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to a simmer. Cook 2 1/2 hours. Strain; return to Dutch oven; cook until broth reduces to 4 cups, about 1 hour. Let cool 30 minutes. Refrigerate at least 4 hours to congeal fat; remove fat.
2. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat 1 1/2 cups of the turkey stock to a simmer. Season with optional salt and pepper. Arrange pieces in a large, shallow roasting pan. Pour hot stock into pan to reach a level of 1/2 inch. Cover with foil; roast until an instant-read thermometer placed in thickest portion of thigh registers 175-180 degrees, about 1 hour, 45 minutes.
3. Remove thighs, wings and drumsticks to a platter; cover loosely with the foil. Return breast to oven. Roast, uncovered, until meat registers 160 degrees, about 15 minutes. Return pieces of turkey to pan; roast, uncovered, until nicely brown, about 20 minutes. Remove turkey pieces to a cutting board. Let rest 15 minutes; carve.
The stock may be made the day before; this recipe makes more than you will need, but you can use the extra for gravy or stuffing, if desired. Canned chicken broth can be used if you do not want to make your own turkey stock.
Preorder Caveny Farm Bourbon Red turkeys for pickup before Thanksgiving or Christmas. All turkeys are pre-sold. No additional birds are available at pickup. Processing is done at an inspected plant in an Amish community. All turkeys are processed shortly before pickup and delivered flash-frozen for peak flavor.
The facility processing our turkeys (and much of the turkeys raised by small Illinois farmers) will not clean gizzards. This is good news for those not using the extra bits stuck in the bird as they no longer pay for them. It is bad news for giblet gravy lovers but outside our control.
Caveny Farm delivers to select local & Chicago farmer’s markets for pickup for the holidays. Or choose on-farm pickup and get a $12 credit per bird! Order your Heritage turkey for Thanksgiving or Christmas now before some sizes sell out!