As we are in the festive season and everyone is getting ready for their Christmas dinner, let us enjoy a little bit of history of our good old friend the turkey
Most people will be sitting down this year to the commercial white turkey known for its double breast and plenty of white meat, but there is also the old fashioned single breasted heritage turkey, which is making a comeback on a lot of rural farms today.
These birds are full of flavour and succulence. It is sad to say that all the heritage varieties of turkeys in the UK are on the Rare Breed Survival Trust Watch list.
So why trust me that these turkeys taste better?
Well, check the organic authority in America where they list five reasons to buy a heritage turkey.
To me the key ones are:
n It’s tastier: Trying a heritage turkey for the first time may be a bit surprising, because it will actually taste like something – a bit gamier and richer than most supermarket birds.
This stronger flavour stems from both the heritage breeds and the age of the bird at slaughter, something that can also make these birds a bit more textured than the turkey you may be used to.
In Bon Appetite taste test, people found heritage turkey more flavourful than the commercial white turkey.
n It’s a better conversation piece than politics: I think we all will agree on this one, especially after the year that we all have had.
Also, in another study in America in February 2008, about 70 people congregated at the Ayrshire Farm in Upperville, Virginia, to take part in a blind taste test comparing one variety of industrial turkey and eight varieties of heritage turkey.
All the food professionals, chefs, food connoisseurs and food writers who attended had one thing in common – an extreme interest in outstanding food.
During the competition turkeys were scored based on flavour, tenderness, texture, aroma and appearance. After tasting all of the turkeys, the excited crowd was invited to vote for their favourite variety before the big reveal.
Each of the nine turkeys had supporters, but after the tally was calculated, all eight of the heritage varieties ranked higher than the lone industrial variety.
The obvious winner in this historical taste test was the midget white turkey, with second place being secured by the bourbon red. These two top favourites each gathered nearly twice as many votes as any of the other varieties.
The other six heritage turkey varieties participating were the royal palm (pied/Crollwitzer), slate, Narragansett, chocolate, bronze and black.
Heritage turkeys are well-known for slow to moderate growth rates and many are considered rare by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.
Hopefully now you can see the importance of keeping these wonderful birds, as I have.
I have been fortunate to have shown turkeys in England and won Best Turkey at the English Federation Show with a Crollwitzer/pied.
I always liked to see a turkey strutting around the yard and my first memories are of rushing into the poultry shed at Balmoral Show each year to see the turkeys and listen to them gobble.
A great website on Heritage breeds is www.heritageturkeys.co.uk and some of the breeds that they keep are Bourbon Red, Bronze, Buff, Harvey speckled, Narragansett,
Norfolk Black, Crollwitzer/pied, Slate and white.
So please go out and find yourself a heritage turkey and breed them pure so that you and your family can have a real traditional dinner next year.
n May I, on behalf of Poultry Matters, wish you and your loved ones a wonderful Christmas and a prosperous New Year.