It’s time to talk [heritage breed] turkey

Oct2017_03

First of all, if you’ve already ordered a bird from us, thank you for the support! If you’re interested please email me at bartongardens@gmail.com for more information.

We know our birds are a bit pricier than most of our farmer friends* (and much, much more expensive than a grocery store bird) but by purchasing one of our birds you will be kickin’ it old school this Thanksgiving and eating a turkey that truly tastes like turkey! It’s also more encouragement for us to keep raising these fun, interesting creatures and you’re doing your part to support genetic diversity among poultry. Kudos!

We’ve been eating our own turkeys for several years now and we are thrilled you’re joining us, and many others, on this heritage adventure. I’ve had a few folks tell me this is their first year ordering a heritage bird and they’d like to know more about them and more importantly, some cooking tips.

Our Blue Slates and  Narragansetts, and other heritage breeds, are quite a bit different than the birds most of us are used to. According to Modern Farmer (2016) 99% of the turkeys raised in the US are Broad Breasted Whites so it’s pretty safe to assume that if you’ve eaten turkey – on Thanksgiving or on a turkey sandwich at a deli – you’ve eaten meat from a Broad Breasted White. They have been bred over time to get very big very fast and the majority of their weight is in their enormous breasts. And the pale feathers make for a squeaky clean carcass which was also seen as a bonus.

Heritage birds are more akin to the wild turkeys from which all turkeys descend. Those heritage breeds recognized by the Livestock Conservancy must fit three criteria: (1) ability to mate naturally (due to their breast size Broad Breasted Whites cannot reproduce naturally); (2) ability to live a long productive life outdoors; (3) slow growth rate. Most heritage breeds are ready around 28 weeks. Side note – Due to an incident at our hatchery that was outside of our control our birds were delayed and will be a bit younger – and smaller – at around 23 weeks. Hopefully we will hatch our own poults next spring and we won’t have that problem again!

The most important take away from all of that is that our turkeys behave like turkeys. They can run and fly and they do. All day. And they fly up into the trees to roost at night. All of that strenuous activity coupled with the fact that they haven’t been bred to have large breasts and the result is a bird with a more equal ratio of dark to white meat. Richer, denser, “gamier” meat is precisely what got us hook, line, and sinker after eating our first bird. Us Bartons are leg and thigh folks.

So what does all this mean when it comes to cooking your heritage turkey? It means several things but most importantly, since you’ve invested all this money, don’t just roast the bird like you’ve roasted all of those Broad Breasted Whites in the past. If you do, you may be disappointed and we do not want that!!

We want you to really, truly taste turkey – real turkey – so please read through a few of these resources and make some decisions based on your personal preferences, desire for ease (or difficulty), and your time constraints.

The Basics:

My first suggestion would be to read this wonderful piece written by William Rubel, a traditional foodways expert,  about the basics of cooking a heritage turkey. Rubel provides a lot of information about heritage birds and some basic cooking principles that are super helpful. Namely, he suggests “undercooking” the bird instead of the over-cautious USDA suggested internal temperature of 180F. He also states, and I agree, that is is very important to bring your bird up to room temp before roasting and allow it to rest undisturbed for at least 20 minutes after roasting.

Most folks roast traditional turkeys for many hours at a lower temperature. Rubel and others suggest hotter, quicker cook times since heritage birds are leaner than Broad Breasted Whites. If you feel more comfortable doing a slower, lower roast Rubel suggests adding fat – butter or olive oil under the skin works. Hell, bacon would probably work too.

The Barton Method:

I use Mark Bittman’s Basic Braised Turkey recipe. Since the legs and thighs are the real showstoppers with these birds a braise is my very favorite method. It’s nontraditional in that there won’t be a big roasted bird on your table but tastewise it’s perfection. And you can still serve the sliced breasts, legs, and thighs over roasted root vegetables on a beautiful platter for one hell of a centerpiece.

This recipe requires a butchered bird in 8 pieces: 2 breasts (off the bone); two legs; two thighs; two wings (I save the back for stock). If this is something you’re interested in just let me know and I can have the processor break down your bird so you don’t have to do it at home. No extra charge cuz I love ya’.

A brined & roasted turkey:

Many of you have probably brined a turkey or at least know what a brine is. It’s a pretty popular method. I haven’t tried the NYT Cooking’s Roast Heritage Turkey and Gravy recipe but I love P. Allen Smith so I don’t doubt it’s a winner. This recipe calls for an apple cider vinegar brine the day before so this is a two-day recipe. It calls for adding butter under the skin and suggests a lower oven temperature. It also includes information to help you figure out your cook time based on the size of your bird.

LocalHarvest’s take on the heritage turkey:

LocalHarvest is a great place to find a heritage turkey and they included the recipe (and tips) from a farmer who raises them – Recipe For A Roasted Heritage Turkey. I haven’t tried this one either but LocalHarvest is certainly a trusted resource.

Heritage Foods USA recipe: 

Heritage Foods USA is a great source for all kinds of information (and products). Their recipe for Roast Turkey with Omnivore Gravy uses a dry brine instead of a wet brine. I’ve never tried this but it sure sounds tasty and the dry brine has me intrigued.

I hope these suggestions help. And good luck!

Oct2017_02

* I’ve made the case in this blog post for heritage turkeys because I adore these birds. We raise them because they are fun and they taste really, really good and we want to share them with our friends and family. Many of our farmer friends raise Broad Breasted Whites but they are doing it much more humanely than the big box store suppliers. Their Broad Breasted Whites are typically pastured and out on grass so they are able to peck around for bugs and plants and feel a warm summer breeze. We understand that farmers who rely solely on farming to make their living, specifically those raising livestock, have a difficult time turning a profit on heritage turkeys – the poults can cost twice as much and they take much longer to reach market weight which means more feed and labor costs. Plus, many consumers want what they’re used to and that means big breasts and mild flavor. I do not want to take anything away from these local farmers raising commercial turkeys. These are good people and damn good farmers who are making a living off the land and raising their animals humanely. If you aren’t ready to make the leap to a heritage turkey but you still want to support local agriculture we encourage you to seek out a local farmer and order a pasture-raised turkey. Three local farms we know and respect that are raising turkeys are Tierra Verde Farms, Mason Kisamore Family Farms, and Brunty Farms.

Maybe you’ll purchase a heritage bird this year and realize that for a holiday celebration they’re worth the extra money. Hopefully you’ll fall in love with the flavor like we have. And maybe – just maybe – you can inspire some of the folks around your holiday table to seek out a heritage turkey next year. The only way farmers will raise these turkeys is if there is a legitimate market for them. We truly believe that our dollars (and taste buds!) can influence and dictate the future market for turkeys.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sincerely,

Mike, Lizette, Ellie, and Max Barton

kids with turkeys

 

 

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Find us & follow us

Find us each week at the Haymaker Farmers’ Market for our old school, all local fruit jams & jellies, fresh cut flowers, crazy hot peppers, and random garden produce.

For info and funsies follow us on Instagram and Facebook.

PicMonkey Collage

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Cherry Clafoutis

A couple of weeks ago we picked up our sour cherry order from Walnut Drive Gardens. The cherries come pitted in their own juice in 10# and 30# tubs from H&W  Farms in MI. They are delicious!

We make jams (Wild Turkey Cherry Jam, Berry Cherry Jam, and Rhubarb Cherry Jam to name a few) and we strain the juice for a very traditional Sour Cherry Jelly. Mmm…

We also order extra cherries for ourselves. Diane and I both ordered 10# tubs for “home consumption.” Diane baked a homemade cherry pie and it was out of sight. I did a cherry cobbler, froze a bunch, and also made one of my all-time favorite cherry desserts – Cherry Clafoutis a la Julia Child.

It is simple and I always have everything on hand. It is delicious. I would even go so far as to use the pretentious adjective “exquisite” to describe cherry clafoutis. It is just awesome.

Aside from being an excellent dessert, clafoutis is also a perfect brunch food. It’s custard like and is also known as French flan. And while cherries are the traditional fruit used in clafoutis you can really use just about any berry.

Mastering the Art if French Cooking

(Or find Julia’s recipe online at food.com)

20150803_204439Since it’s custardy you make a batter and it’s all done in your blender – no stand mixer required! I like to use my cast iron skillet but you could use any oven safe skillet or baking dish.

Ready for the oven. Now for the waiting…..

20150803_204112

Roughly an hour later one of my most favorite things comes out and it looks gorgeous!

20150803_213633It’s best served warm. And you better believe I had a huge slice after I let it “cool” for about 10 minutes. Mmm!!

Do yourself a favor and make some clafoutis!

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Family Dinner

Eating together as a family is VERY important to me. The three of us sitting down together for a meal is something I really look forward to. And Sunday dinners are really and truly the greatest moments of my whole week. 

Loads of research exists about the importance of the family dinner, not only for the part it plays in family dynamics and a child’s well being but also in regards to their palates and their sense of food adventure. 

[See here and here and here for just a few sources.]

We are a family of eaters.

Our family get-togethers revolve around food. Anniversaries and birthdays are always celebrated by a favorite dish. We have “food parties”  which basically entail a bunch of us getting together to drink beer and make things like pierogies or pasta. When Mike and I travel the first thing I research is food. We have been known to drive hours out of our way to sample a local delicacy.

We love food. Well, Mike doesn’t care for raw tomatoes and I don’t care for olives but we like just about everything else. But one thing I really don’t like – picky eaters. UGH! Having a kid who is a picky eater is one of my greatest fears.

Since my day-job is all about reference and research I have been known to research something to death. That is what I did when it was time for Ellie to start on solid foods; I researched the topic to death. I read all about suitable foods and when to give what but the thing that really stuck with me was something I read again and again and again – sit down with your kids and feed them what you are eating. Let them watch you eat and then give it to them to try for themselves.

So far that has been our strategy and I am pretty pleased to say that Ellie will try (and enjoy) just about anything. I’m not so naive as to think that this won’t ever change. Most kids are known to go through a picky phase but I can handle it as long as it’s a short phase and not a life style.

I used to make some pretty elaborate meals back in the pre-Ellie days. Mike and I have always eaten well and I pride myself on being able to make some pretty kick ass meals on a limited budget. But things are different now. I don’t have tons of time after work to prep and cook and sit back for a leisurely 8pm dinner with wine or cocktails.

Nope.

I have a day job that puts me home, after picking up Ellie, around 5:30 (summer) or 6:00 (regular academic calendar). Ellie is hangry by 6:30-6:45 and goes to bed between 7:30 and 8:00. I don’t want to spend all the time I do have with her in the evenings cooking dinner. I want to play outside and read books and walk around the yard identifying bugs and throwing scratch at the chickens in addition to sitting down to dinner together.

But prepping and cooking dinner every single night? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

My new strategy is to get as much done for the following day as possible after she goes to bed. Sunday night I got to work on Monday’s dinner. I had made BBQ sauce earlier in the day for our Sunday dinner of chicken wings so I had that to work with for Monday. I par-boiled some fingerling potatoes until they were fork tender and then once cool I put them in the fridge. And I roasted two whole chicken legs in the oven until they were juuuuust about done. Then those went in the fridge. I also shucked the sweet corn so it would be ready to go.

Monday I put on the water for the corn and fired up the grill. I tossed my fingerling potatoes in some olive oil, salt and pepper and fresh rosemary and got those on the grill. I slathered my roasted chicken legs in bbq sauce and got those on the grill (lowish heat) to warm through. I boiled the corn and cut up some garden cukes while Mike gathered some blackberries.

In 30 minutes we were seated together at the picnic table to a dinner of BBQ chicken, grilled potatoes, sweet corn, cucumber spears, and blackberries.

We were really hungry hence the post-dinner photo.

table2Look at me! I’m super mom! really can have it all! 

No. I am not that woman.

There are plenty of days when I am too tired to prep the night before or it’s getting close to grocery day and we’re rockin’ Old Mother Hubbard’s pantry. Or I just plain don’t feel like doing anything after El’s in bed and instead I sit on the couch with a lemon ice or a fudge round.

There are plenty of days Ellie has mac-n-cheese from a box (gasp!) or black beans from a can (the horror!) or even a pan fried piece of lunch meat ham (the humanity!) but when that is the case we eat the fried ham, canned beans, and boxed mac-n-cheese right alongside her and we all share the adventures of our day.

I know not everyone can sit down to dinner every night. But even just a couple nights a week can really make a difference so I encourage you to do your best to sit down as a family (or sit down by yourself) to a nice meal away from all screens and distractions and just focus on yourself, each other, and something good to eat.

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Cooperstown, NY has got it right!

This past weekend Mike and I traveled to Cooperstown, NY with his sister and brother-in-law to see John Prine and the Avett Brothers at Brewery Ommegang. To say the show was great would be an understatement. It was FANTASTIC! John Prine blew my damn mind and I could’ve listened to him play for like 3 hours. He is a living legend, people!

The venue was great – the music was incredible and the beer and food were top notch. We’re used to $9 shit domestics at venues like Blossom here in Ohio. But Ommegang served their delicious, delicious brews for just $5! And they served up great Belgian style eats along with fellow vendors Dinosaur BBQ (oh…the wings….), Catskill Food Company , Origins Cafe, and others.

But the show was the capstone of the weekend and we had plenty of good times and good eats pre-show too. Let’s talk about the good eats….

We left Friday evening after work and made it to Rochester before crashing at a Holiday Inn. Saturday morning we woke up early and my sister-in-law led the way to the Frog Pond. Oh man. A killer, extra spicy (virgin) bloody mary, eggs benedict with ham and cheese, and a few bites of the table’s banana caramel pancakes were a helluva a way to start the day!

frog pond

With full bellies we headed to Cooperstown and the Aalsmeer Motel. What a gem! A 1950s-esque, family owned (3 generations!) no frills “resort” on the shores of Lake Ostego. It was PERFECT!

aalsmeer

After sitting on the dock and soaking our feet in the cool, crystal clear lake water and enjoying the view we decided to head into downtown Cooperstown for some provisions.

ostego

We hit Danny’s Market and picked up some excellent sandwiches. And then we saw a sign for the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market! Woohoo!

Boy, do they know how to do it in Cooperstown! We were there at 1pm (market closes at 2pm) so a lot of people had already sold out but I noticed some real gems.

Fresh caught trout!!

trout

Something this awesome is absolutely prohibited at Ohio markets. You can’t sell fresh caught fish or foraged anything. A damn shame!!

Gorgeous peonies!

penoies

Gin! Vodka! Bourbon!

gin

The Cooperstown Distillery had a table complete with TASTINGS! Yes, you heard me right. You could taste the booze. No alcohol of any kind is permitted at Ohio markets. Ugh, what a shame! I had a sip of the gin and I was sold – my souvenir from this trip was a delightful bottle of Fenimore Gin. Come October I’m going to enjoy a delightful gin & tonic and think fondly of this trip!

And finally, the best thing I saw – eggs done right!

eggs

Room temperature, right from the hens AS NATURE INTENDED! In Ohio, farmers have to wash all of their eggs and sell them out of a cooler or a refrigeration unit of some kind – eggs like this are absolutely prohibited and I find that to be the biggest damn shame of all.

I have gone on and on about how eggs are the perfect food – nature gives them to us in their own little, perfect package and then the powers that be make us ruin that package before they allow them for sale. Ugh. Sickening. Heartbreaking! But NOT in Cooperstown, NY! In Cooperstown you can get your eggs just as nature intended and this nearly brought a tear to me eye!

After the market we headed back to the Aalsmeer to enjoy our sandwiches and a gorgeous lake view.

alsmeerView

We ate, laughed, drank cold beers, and soaked up the sun – a perfect afternoon capped off with fantastic live tunes. John Prine, dude. If you’re not in the know you need to get there. Now! Right Now!

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Old School Strawberry Jam

I made it out to the pickin’ patch (aka Walnut Drive Gardens) Sunday morning and scored roughly 9lbs of sweet, glorious, Ohio strawberries. Mmm….

Diane and I decided that they were just too good to solely be used for jam so we split 5lbs for ourselves and the remaining 4lbs were destined for jam. Classic, old school strawberry jam. My go-to recipe is from my treasured Blue Chair Jam Cookbook.

4lbs of berries, 2 1/2lbs of sugar, and lots of lemon juice and stirring.

Strawberries are a notorious low pectin fruit and most people jam them using commercial pectin or in combination with higher pectin fruits (like citrus). Jamming low pectin fruits on their own, without commercial pectin, takes time. A lot of time. In the case of this classic, old school strawberry jam we’re talking roughly three hours start to finish. Whew!

I washed, hulled and halved the strawberries and added them to my dutch oven along with the sugar and about 3 1/2 ounces of fresh squeezed lemon juice. Over medium low heat I stirred constantly until the berries started releasing their juice and there was some gentle foaming. This took about 35 minutes or so.

Then I gradually raised the heat until we were at full force and the berries were boiling vigorously.  This stage requires near constant stirring as well because if you’re not careful the berries can scorch and stick – no good. The jam boiled for about a half an hour and and then I continued to cook the jam for another thirty minutes, again stirring almost constantly.

At this point the jam was shiny, dark red and a bit thick. I added another 2 ounces of lemon juice and cooked just another 5 minutes or so. I tested the doneness via the ol’ spoon in the freezer test and skimmed the remaining foam.

Then it was into the jars and into the water bath canner. Well, minus the few tablespoons I saved for myself. Oh man, soooooooo tasty!!

Strawberry_PicMonkey CollageI am torn on this one. It is so much work and there isn’t too terribly much money to be made. Should we hoard it all for ourselves or share the love at the Haymaker Farmers’ Market? I’m still undecided….

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The first taste of summer!

Even though summer doesn’t technically start until June 21 many people mark the start of summer with Memorial Day Weekend. I do start to feel summery around then but the real mark of summer, for me anyways, is the arrival of strawberries.

Oh how I love those sweet little gems. I crave them all year long, especially when I bite into a gigantic, tasteless, out of season, imported berry. In-season Ohio strawberries are some of the best in the world. I will eat them till my belly hurts and then eat some more. They are perfect and one of my very favorite things on earth.

SUMMER!

MorningDewStrawbs2Saturday marked the first day of strawberry season at the Haymaker Farmers’ Market thanks to Doug of Morning Dew Orchards. We knew these babies would sell out fast so Diane and I each snagged some as soon as he was open for business.

My favorite local pickin’ patch, Walnut Drive Gardens, isn’t picking yet but I’m checking their website everyday. Doug’s berries are delicious but pick your own means more berries for less money so I gotta go with what makes sense.

At the end of the market on Saturday our new market neighbor Mrs. Hyde of Hyde Park Farms very graciously gave me some rhubarb odds and ends. Woohoo! In turn, I swapped her some of our Strawberry Rhubarb Jam (made with the rhubarb I bought from her last time) and purchased a pack of her baby beef T-bone steaks.

When we got home from the market Saturday we laid a blanket out in the yard and enjoyed some berries. Ellie has really enjoyed eating those imported, tasteless berries I mentioned earlier so I was pretty excited to give her some local strawberries.

She enjoyed them with gusto! Red juice ran down her chin as she toddled around the yard. Her enjoyment brought a tear to my eye and together we ate an entire pint of berries.

EllieEatingStrawbs

So I was left with a pint of berries and a bit of rhubarb. Strawberries. Rhubarb. The obvious thing to do was bake a crisp.

During Ellie’s Sunday mid-morning nap I pulled out a great cookbook my sister & brother-in-law got me for Christmas – Susie Middleton’s Fresh From The Farm: A Year of Recipes and StoriesIt’s a pretty righteous book and her recipe for strawberry-rhubarb crisp with brown sugar-pecan topping sounded pretty damn good.

Update: it WAS damn good.

crisp for blogAnd even though it was like 40F today and we had to start the fireplace I’m still hopeful for summer.

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