Raising a Turkey for Thanksgiving

YOU GUYS. We did it. I still can’t believe it, but we did. We brought home a little fluff ball in June that became the star of Thanksgiving dinner last Thursday.PSX_20151201_171049

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It was both easier and harder than I expected. Rest assured, it was
absolutely more expensive. Between the cost of the chicks ($10-$12 a pop), the grandiose shelter they just had to have but refused to use, and the exorbitant amount of feed they went through… Well, I think you get the picture.Red Bourbon

Raising them to maturity came with its fair share of headaches, too. In the end, only 1 of the 5 Red Bourbon Heritage chicks and the 1 Broad Breasted Bronze we purchased survived. The heritage breeds are generally known for being more fragile than the BB varieties, but many a night was spent cuddling Fat Amy back to life because he couldn’t figure out how to simply step out of the rain into the heated shelter. There’s something to be said for the “dumbing down” that happens though selective breeding.

It was really interesting to see the differences raising a heritage and a BBB along side one another. The Bourbon was definitely more “wild,” and retained much more of her natural instincts. They were both full of personality, but we couldn’t help but favor the BBB. I’m certain it was because he was a Tom. Fat Amy’d gobble at everything – a passing car, the lawn mower, a C-130 flying overhead, Fat Amyan unexpected breeze… you name it. He was single-mindedly obsessed with trying to attack the dog, despite repeatedly having walked away with fewer feathers than he started with, and would even start wars with her through the back door. (Baby Jesus bless that dog’s patience. She will ascend to sainthood. I’m certain of it.) He would side-eye everyone and everything, and was constantly strutting for his lady. With all that bravado, it was impossible not to love-hate him. Bourbon

While we would prefer heritage breeds for a number of reasons, next year we will be sticking to BBBs. Flighty Heritage breeds are not conducive to neighborhood living. Trust me on this. We’ll have to save that for a time when we’re a real farm and not a house with a yard in a residential area.

The Bourbon came out to 16.8 lbs live weight, 13 lbs dressed, which is pretty standard for a heritage hen. She went to freezer camp for another day. On that note, the neighbor kids have started asking about her. Who wants to tell them?

For those of you who follow our Facebook page, you saw that Fat Amy topped the scales at 44.5 lbs, and dressed out to an epic 36 lbs. Which amounts to entirely too much turkey, if you’re wondering. We had to special order an XXL roasting pan, which he only just fit in. He barely fit in the oven and took 7 hours to cook, when it was all said and done.

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After God only knows how many cheers around the table in his honor, the happiest Thanksgiving turkey that ever was fed the happiest urban farmers that ever were, their friends and their family.

Framily

Turkey Leg

And then there were leftovers. And more leftovers. And more leftovers…

Turkey sandwiches, turkey tacos, turkey salads, turkey scrambled eggs, turkey soup, as well as 3 turkey pot pies and 4 trays of turkey enchiladas for the freezer. So if you invite me to a potluck any time soon, you know what you’re getting.

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(Pssst tell me your favorite leftover turkey dish in the comments)

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Winter Blues… and Greens

These Winter days are the hardest. Always. Everything outside is dead and sad looking. The days are short and cold.

Unusually cold.

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But not inside… It is Spring in my living room.

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As I sit here sipping my coffee, between trips outside in the 8°F weather to defrost water for the poultry, I can bask in the beauty of my young garden.

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If you haven’t already, NOW is the time to plan and plant your garden! This is especially important for plants that require long growing season like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and tomatillos, but you can also get a head start on your herbs, cabbage, kale and the like. It is recommended that you start your seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost in your area. You can find that forecasted date in your region here.

But don’t go rushing off to the big box store for those Burpee seeds just yet! You will find a wide variety of better quality seeds online. My favorite companies for rare, organic, heirloom and non-gmo seeds include Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Territorial Seed Company, TomatoFest and Potato Garden.* Baker Creek and Territorial both publish beautiful seed catalogs, so be sure to request one when you visit their websites. They will get you all kinds of inspired for Spring! I’ll give you a little sneak peak…

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See!? Aren’t you inspired already? And yes. That is what I’ve been doing the last couple months – ogling seed catalogs and pinning a billion photos of ripe heirloom tomatoes.

Meanwhile, the Handy Man built this amazing contraption for all of my seedlings to reside on. It has completely revolutionized how I grow transplants. Seriously. These seedlings are 3 weeks old. More on that soon.

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In the mean time, I hope you can stave of these Winter Blues with some green of your own!

*I am not affiliated with or compensated in any way by any of the aforementioned companies.

Strawberry Rhubarb Wine Icecream

Let me start by saying, you need this icecream in your life. Need. It is everything delicious and lovely and spring, and is a little evil. But sometimes, that’s ok. This is one of those times.

Strawberry Rhubarb Icecream

Rhubarb, strawberries, honey, wine, heavy cream… this is all I need in life.

Rhubarb & his accomplices

The beautiful rhubarb in my garden was the inspiration for this endeavor. It really is one of my favorite perennials. Although I also have strawberries in the garden, we never seem to have enough to make something out of. Actually, we never have enough for them to even make it inside the house, despite having six very healthy, productive plants. How do you say ‘no’ to a ripe, sun-warmed berry? They’re consumed just as soon as they’re picked. So, to insure that next spring we would produce enough organic strawberries to make it in the house, we planted over 60 baby strawberries in the front yard as attractive edible groundcover in the flower beds. The manual labor eliminated any guilt from this indulgence.

Strawberry plants

I used to think that making icecream from scratch was excessive; that it was one of those things that is ok to just buy…but then the Handy Man surprised me with an icecream attachment for my Kitchenaid and I learned that I had been so misguided. Homemade icecream is just divine and superior in every way to that stuff at the grocery store labeled “icecream.” This is one of the few items that really isn’t cheaper to make than buy, but the price is comparable, and the quality superior. I like that it also gives you the ability to control the ingredients by using organic dairy, seasonal, local, organic fruit and less sugar.

On that note, this icecream has much less sugar than typical icecream recipes. If you like it sweeter, by all means add more honey, but we really like it this way! It allows all of the flavors to come out, particularly the tartness of the rhubarb, as well as the subtleties of the red wine. These are some pretty adult-flavors, but they also pleased the pallet of our youngest dinner guest at three years old.

And speaking of adult flavors – let’s talk about wine! Wine selection is important because the reduction imparts a surprising amount of flavor, so be sure to pick something you like! I selected a blend that is a little bit fruity, but not sweet, with a Pino Noir-like finish. Merlot would work nicely as well. But the type of wine is much less important than simply selecting something you like. Just try not to eat it all at this state, when it starts to smell really delicious…

Rhubarb-Wine reduction

I wait to churn the icecream until just before it’s time to serve dessert. Mostly because I love to serve it straight out of the icecream machine, while it has that thick, creamy, soft-serve consistency. It’s also a fun party-trick and only takes 10 minutes. Our very wonderful friends baked a strawberry rhubarb pie to pair with the icecream… it was heaven. HEAVEN, I tell you.

Strawberry Rhubarb Wine Icecream

Ingredients

2 cups heavy cream

1 ¼ cup half-and-half

½ cup sugar

½ cup raw, local honey

3 egg yolks

2 cups chopped fresh rhubarb (4-5 stalks)

3 cups chopped fresh strawberries (1 pound)

¾ cup red wine (reserve the rest of the bottle for drinking)

1 heaping tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. To make the custard base, combine ½ cup sugar and egg yolks in a large bowl. Whisk until pale yellow and set aside. Combine heavy cream and half-and-half in a saucepan over medium heat. Heat until scalding (180°F), or until tiny bubbles start to form around the edge. Do not boil. Slowly add ½ cup of the hot dairy mixture to the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly, to temper the eggs. Gradually add the rest of the dairy mixture, stirring continuously. Pour dairy and yolk mixture back into saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until mixture reaches 160°F, stirring constantly. Pour mixture back into the large bowl, and place bowl in an ice-filled bowl until custard cools completely, stirring occasionally (about 20-30 minutes).
  2. While that cools, combine ½ cup honey, rhubarb and wine in a saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a soft boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and let wine reduce for 10 minutes, or until rhubarb is tender and the liquid has a more syrup-like consistency. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
  3. In food processor, combine strawberries, wine-rhubarb reduction, cinnamon and vanilla; process until smooth. Fold rhubarb mixture into custard base and refrigerate until cold (at least 2 hours, or overnight).
  4. Freeze icecream according to your icecream-maker’s directions. Eat immediately for soft-serve consistency, or freeze for 2 hours, if firm consistency is desired.
  5. ENJOY!