By Himanee Gupta-Carlson
Fresh and local defines the ethos of the farmers who bring their products each week to the Saratoga Farmers’ Market. That commitment presents an especially strong challenge to the farmers who raise turkeys for market customers, when one considers what it takes to sustainably raise a delicious turkey from birth to maturity.
Bobby Chandler, of the Mariaville Mushroom Men and one of three vendors approved to offer turkeys at the Saturday market, puts it quite simply: “They’re big birds that require a lot of time and a lot of grain to grow to their best eating size.”
That size is about 16 to 25 pounds, according to Megan Baker of Malta Ridge Orchard & Garden, which also will have turkeys available at the market tomorrow and on Saturday, Nov. 18. “We like them to be no smaller than 13 or 14 pounds, and ideally a bit bigger than that,” Baker said. “Otherwise, the meat tends to be stringy, and not taste very good.”
Raising a high quality turkey requires about 24 to 26 weeks. Chandler, for instance, typically receives his poults in May and feeds them a high-quality grain in brooders until they are feathered out enough to forage outdoors. Throughout the summer and early fall, his turkeys grow slowly to maturity on a combination of grains and whatever they can forage on his grounds. That style of feeding along with the active outdoor exercise that the turkeys receive deepens both the flavor and nutritional value of their meat.
Another crucial factor in raising turkeys is waiting for them to gain the added layer of fat beneath their skin. This fat adds weight to the birds and moisture to the meat. Fat does not begin to accumulate until the turkeys are 22 weeks old, or about 5-1/2 months. As a result, turkeys tend to be a big and at around $6 a pound, a premium purchase.
The cost, however, is worth the flavor. To order a turkey, you may contact the following vendors via telephone or e-mail, or visit their stalls tomorrow at the market:
Blind Buck Farm
Malta Ridge Orchard and Gardens
Mariaville Mushroom Men
The Saratoga Farmers’ Market invites you to celebrate the holidays with us 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays at the Lincoln Baths in the Saratoga Spa State Park.
Adapted from recipe by Ina Garten
Prep time: 1 hr 50 min
Cook: 45 min and based on weight
With nearly 100 basic preparations for roast turkey available online (and thousands more probably in recipe books and family histories), we were hard-pressed to come up with one singular recipe. We settled on the go-to recipe for mother of Saratoga Farmers’ Market director Julia Howard, the Accidental Turkey Recipe by Ina Garten:
*Ingredients currently available at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market
• Kosher salt
• 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, minced*
• Grated zest of one lemon
• 1 fresh turkey (12-14 pounds)*
• 1 large yellow onion, unpeeled and cut into eighths*
• 1 lemon, quartered
• 10 sprigs thyme*
• ½ stick unsalted butter, melted
• Freshly ground black pepper
1. Two or three days before you plan to roast the turkey, combine salt, rosemary and lemon zest.
2. Wash turkey inside and out. Drain well and pat dry.
3. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of salt mixture into turkey’s cavity and rub the rest on the skin, including under the wings and legs.
4. Place turkey in a shallow dish to catch drips and wrap the whole dish tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate.
5. The day before you plan to roast the turkey, remove plastic wrap and leave turkey in fridge, uncovered, so skin can dry out.
6. On the day of roasting, preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
7. Place onions, lemon and thyme in cavity. Using kitchen string, tie together legs and tie wings close to body. Brush turkey with butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
8. Roast turkey for 45 minutes after placing in oven, legs first
9. Brush turkey with fat. After doing so, return turkey to pan.
10. Then, lower temperature to 325 degrees F. Roast for another hour or so, until it is 160 degrees F in the breast area and 180 degrees F in the thigh area.
11. Remove from oven, cover tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 20-30 minutes.
12. Carve and serve with pan juices.