The following post was written by my mother, WWW. Thanks, mom. You rule the roost. (Ha!)
Thank you for all of your insightful comments on last week’s post. I think you're right. I have to either tell everyone there won’t be a turkey at Thanksgiving and give people the option of bringing their own or cook one myself. The problem with having someone else bring the turkey is that I will have no control over where that turkey came from. It is frightening and unethical the way most turkeys are raised these days. I don’t really want to get into the graphic details right now, but for those of you interested, go here.
So…I have embarked on a quest to find a turkey that lived as much of its life as possible in a pasture and can actually walk without breaking its legs and hips. Today I have the time to really research this as I am at the hospital with my dear mother (Rebecca’s Nana) while she is getting a shoulder replacement (the doctor just informed me that the operation was easy as pie! Yay!) I will only buy a turkey from a farm where I can actually see the grass with my own eyes, either on a video of the farm or in photos. I have been known to even call farms and ask the farmer exactly how the animals are raised. I learned from reading Michael Pollan and Jonathan Foer that free range and organic are misleading terms and don’t have anything to do with humanely raised meat so I am very wary of any claims of any meat markets as to how their meat is raised. For instance, I just called a local “sustainable” meat market selling Samuel’s Ranch “free range” turkeys for Thanksgiving. When I searched the Internet to find out about this farm, it turned out that Samuel’s Ranch is a fancy name for Zacky Farms and Zacky Farms is a factory farm!!
After that discovery, I was almost ready to give up, completely disgusted with the deceptive practices of the food industry. But that is when I discovered HERITAGE turkeys!
Here is the definition of a heritage turkey.
Heritage turkeys are more expensive (about $5-$8/pound) but they should be…The animals are not genetically modified to grow big breasts in two months. They must live at least 28 weeks before they are slaughtered and can actually reproduce themselves (yes, it’s true…the turkey you buy in the grocery store was artificially inseminated because the factory farm turkeys have been bred to have such huge breasts that they are too heavy to mount each other, let alone walk). Heritage turkeys can stand and run around like turkeys were meant to and they aren’t filled with antibiotics and hormones. They are raised in conformance with humane practices and traditional farming.
It seems to me, serving a heritage turkey is about as close as a person can get to the meaning of our ancestral Thanksgiving dinner. And really, with all of the other dishes I am cooking, we don’t need a big bird, especially since only 7 people will eat it, anyway.
After great deliberation and too much thinking, I have decided that buying a heritage turkey is probably more aligned with my ethics than letting someone else bring their own turkey because my decision to not eat meat is wrapped up entirely in the ethics of how meat is raised, bred and processed. The brand I have decided to buy is Mary’s heritage because it is from my state and easy to get locally, but you can find many different brands by going to this website or google “heritage turkeys YOUR STATE” to find a local farm. Make sure you order NOW as there is a limited supply of them. Make sure your turkey says HERITAGE and not HEIRLOOM. Diestel has an heirloom turkey which is basically the same breed as the factory farm turkeys, not able to mate and hybridized to grow quickly with large breasts. Diestel is selling them as “heirloom” so people will think they are heritage. I got this off of the heritage turkey site:
“The fact remains that [Deistel turkeys] can be raised faster, with less feed, and they can therefore be sold cheaper, to drive genuine heritage turkeys out of the marketplace.”
We should all be writing to our congressmen so that the food industry will stop these deceptive practices!!! If you are as outraged as I am by all of this, join local harvest or slow foods or go to Michael Pollan’s website for a plethora of ways to get involved in food policy.
OK…I promise that I am done with the turkey debate!
I am going to make my traditional stuffing in a crock-pot (not in the turkey) so that everyone, vegetarians and carnivores alike, will be able to eat it. This stuffing recipe comes from my grandmother and is made with corn flakes. I have no idea where she got it, but she grew up in Chicago and it’s possible that it was a mid-western recipe or that her mother thought it up (especially since corn flakes were invented when she was 6). It’s much lighter than a traditional bread stuffing and has a great flavor. Make sure you use Kellogg’s corn flakes. I’ve tried it with other varieties and it doesn’t turn out as well, unfortunately.
As I said in my last week’s post, I have never written this recipe down before. All of the herb measurements are approximate since I just throw everything in. I use lots of herbs to taste, so keep tasting it until it tastes right to you. (Before you add the raw egg!) This was my favorite job as a kid…figuring out if there was enough herbs to make it flavorful! You can also leave out the egg. It will fall apart a little more, but it still will be delicious!
Traditional Recipe: Mimi’s stuffing
1/2 cup butter or olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 BUNCH celery, tops and bottoms cut off, chopped
2 bunches parsley, washed and chopped fine, thick stalks removed (I use food processor)
18 oz Kellogg’s corn flakes
¼ cup raisins or currants (optional—you can also add a chopped and peeled apple)
2-4 teaspoons dried whole sage or 1 T fresh (or to taste)
2-4 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped or 1 t whole dried (crunched up)
2 teaspoons thyme
2 teaspoons marjoram
Juice of half a lemon
1 egg, beaten
2 cup vegetable broth (about)
Toasted pine nuts or toasted almonds
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Cook onions in butter until soft.
2. Add celery and continue cooking until soft but not brown:
3. Put in LARGE bowl or soup pot with parsley, currents and herbs.
4. Add corn flakes and lemon and mix well (with your hands), adding salt and pepper to taste and adjusting herbs to your liking. Add eggs and mix well.
Normally, this is when you would stuff the above contents into the turkey, but we're going to cook it in a crock-pot, instead.
Add 1 cup of broth and cook on low in crock-pot for about an hour, adding more broth as needed. When it’s done, you shouldn’t be able to tell that it's made from corn flakes:
***For this next (vegetarian) gravy, I basically adapted my traditional turkey gravy recipe substituting roasted onions and mushrooms for the meat drippings and mushroom broth for the turkey broth. I made it this morning and it turned out amazing! I am going to freeze it until Thanksgiving so I have one less thing to make at the last minute.
New Recipe: Wendy’s Mushroom gravy
½ cup butter or olive oil (I used goat butter)
1 large onion, cut into chunks
12 oz flavorful mushrooms, such as crimini, sliced
½ cup flour
2 cups mushroom broth
2 cups water or vegetable broth
1 T Better than Bouillon mushroom base
Preheat oven to 425. Put a ¼ cup butter or oil in a large roasting pan and add onions, coating on all sides.
onions in chunks, smothered with butter or oil
Turn oven down to 350 and roast until brown and around the edges, about 30 minutes. Add mushrooms and continue cooking until mushrooms are brown (about 10 more minutes).
use flavorful mushrooms, such as crimini or shitake
When onions are brown around the edges, add mushrooms and brown
When the mushrooms are done, put pan on stove and add rest of butter and melt over two medium flames.
Add flour to stir till you get a roux.
Cook over medium-high until the flour starts to brown, stirring constantly. Add the mushroom base and stir. Take off heat and add broth and water, a LITTLE at a time, stirring constantly so no lumps form.
At this point, you can transfer gravy into a pot. Cook stirring constantly until the gravy comes to a boil. Turn down and stir until thick. Add a few tablespoons of wine to taste if desired.
Makes 4 cups gravy!
To be continued….