This is our second year with turkeys. We raised two last year and were so pleased with the results that we decided to do it again this year.
We got Mr. Turkey this spring as a young chick and cared for him all summer. After I got ready to write this blog entry I realized I didn't take many pictures of the birds this summer, which is a shame because this bad boy became semi-famous this weekend.
I'll be honest, I'm not really sure what to write about raising him over the summer, except he was well-taken care of and he loved being a part of the chicken flock. We raised him with the chicks we got this spring, so as far as he knew he was just a big chicken.
Halfway through the summer he came into his own and started doing the displaying turkeys are famous for. He was extremely camera shy so it took a while before I was able to get him on video.
The video above shows how big he is next to chickens the same age.
This video shows him gobbling for all his worth.
Okay, now we get to the heart of this story.
If you haven't guessed, we raised the turkey for our Thanksgiving meal. A couple weeks ago it was decided to celebrate Thanksgiving on Saturday this year. Family was coming out of town and the more the merrier.
Thanksgiving day we set out the big pot, I snapped a picture and posted it to Facebook. This was the beginning of a story for many people on my friend list.
As soon as the photo was shared, many people knew what would be coming and were eager to hear the details, post-processing. No nitty-gritty details, cause I'm nice that way.
A lot of people on my friend's list would love to be able to live a farm-type lifestyle but are unable to, for one reason or another. So they enjoy when I write and share about all the farm-life type things.
Processing was fairly quick. From the time we set out the pot, till the the end, it took under an hour.
When he was all cleaned up we pulled out the kitchen scale weighed him. The turkey dressed out at just under 50 pounds.
Yup, you read that right. A 50-pound, homegrown, farm-fresh turkey for Thanksgiving. He was measured and it was determined we'd need a roasting pan at least 21" by 13."
That's when I started panicking a bit. The "big" roasting pan wasn't going to cut it. It was 15" by 10" and was good for a bird not much bigger than 30 pounds. Here we are, a couple days from D-Day, and I didn't have time to order anything online.
Both of us hit the Internet and started doing research on how to cook a bird this size. If people are cooking birds this big, very few of them are actually writing about it.
Meanwhile, I was posting updates on Facebook and people were throwing out ideas on how to cook this big bird. Some people nicknamed him Turkeyzilla.
We knew we didn't want to cut the turkey up. We weren't even sure what we'd use for cutting if we decided to go that route.
I tried thinking creatively and thought a steam table pan could be used, but they aren't big enough. The disposable foil pans aren't big enough. We even thought about deep frying the turkey. Turns out the pots for deep frying turkey's aren't very big. Then, I thought I had the solution: A nesco roaster.
Nope, *still* not big enough to hold the turkey.
It was decided we would go shopping on Friday and look at what was actually in the stores. When it got right down to it, trying to find stuff on online websites wasn't working out.
Friday, we got up bright and early to go shopping for chicken feed. The Fleet Farm down in Rice Lake had a Black Friday special. We hit Walmart first thing and checked out the pots and pans.
We found some *huge* Nordic Ware cookie sheets. I think they are a three-quarter sheet. We knew we found the "base" for our roasting pan. Then we found a roasting pan a smidge bigger than our current roasting pan, and it had a roasting rack which would hold the bird up a bit higher than a typical rack. It also allowed the bird to hang over a bit so we wouldn't need to try and squish the bird into a small space.
Once we arrived back home we started setting things up. After all my reading the night before, I knew I'd need to start cooking Friday evening for a Saturday meal.
We put an over-sized piece of aluminum foil on the cookie sheet. Then put the roasting pan on the cookie sheet and loaded the bird onto the rack. I stuffed the turkey with four boxes of stuffing. I could have easily done six boxes and still had room for more.
My husband trussed up the turkey, and then he and I each grabbed a size of the cookie sheet and placed the turkey into the oven.
It just barely fit, side-to-side. The neck is touching on one side and the legs are hitting the wall on the other side. There wasn't a lot of room between the bird and the top of the oven.
I never dreamed we'd be cutting it so close.
After making sure it fit in the oven we draped the turkey in bacon, to help with basting. I read in a few places about basting with bacon during a slow cook, to keep the skin moist. The bird was covered in foil, the oven was set for 165 degrees Fahrenheit and turned on. This was about 6 p.m.
Saturday morning, at about 7 a.m. my husband turned the oven up to 200 or 250 degrees Fahrenheit, then about 10 a.m. we turned the heat up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and checked on it at noon. By this time I was able to put a second rack in the oven and get a few other things for our meal going. The turkey was in the oven about 18 hours.
At about 2 p.m. we pulled the bird out and admired it. No kidding, we all pretty much stood around it and went "Wow, that's a BIG bird." It took two men to pull the turkey out of the oven. They had to be very careful so they didn't spill any goodness or tip the turkey over.
P.S. The bacon tasted AWESOME! One person remarked about how it should be the *only* kind of turkey bacon allowed.
Then we had to figure out how to get the bird out of the pan so I could get the turkey drippings and make gravy. One person thought we could just carefully tip the pan, until they actually tried lifting just one side of the pan.
Thankfully I have two big platters and we lifted the turkey and placed it on one. The turkey just barely fit onto the platter.
Here is my husband and I with the turkey. My SIL insisted a picture should be taken of us with the bird.
After we all admired the bird we carved the turkey up and ate dinner.
The flavor of the meat is indescribable. The meat was also incredibly tender and juicy.
Once the meal was over we did the typical "here, you take leftovers for home" bit. I might have been a little aggressive on that. Even with eight people eating their fill of turkey and me foisting leftovers one everyone ("Are you sure you don't want more?") we still had enough turkey leftover that is more than what people usually start out with.
This morning, after ignoring my kitchen for the evening I set to taking care of the leftovers.
The stockpot got filled with some of the turkey bones. There simply wasn't enough room for them all. I thought this stock pot was *SO* big. I purchased it so I could waterbath on the stove. Pulling it out of the cupboard to use I thought "This suddenly isn't so big."
My husband cleaned the carcass a bit and left me a huge slab of meat to cut up and pressure can.
Before cutting up I knew I better take a picture, with a ruler. Otherwise, no one would believe how big it was. It was 12 inches long.
At the time of my writing this I have a pot of turkey stock that still needs to be taken care of so I don't know how much stock I actually have.
I have 10 pints of meat cooling and a mess of turkey I decided I wasn't going to process or freeze.