We all get festive at this time of year and the turkey has pride of place on the family dining table but have you ever thought about the bird and how important it is to breed them too get the taste and flavour that matches our expectations over the festive period?
I had the pleasure of speaking to Paul Kelly CEO of Kelly Bronze about his families work in perfecting the art of rearing turkeys and I was amazed at the efforts they have gone to in producing high quality birds for the Christmas Season. It’s not just a business for them it’s a passion and a life style and this can quite clearly be seen and tasted. It’s a true family business started over half a century ago with now three generations involved. Each member of the family member is as passionate as the next in all aspects of the farm. They have a vast amount of knowledge as to why they use the methods they do and it was lovely to experience it.
Kelly Bronze Turkey's
All turkeys originate from Mexico and where the bronze variety but have over the years they have been bred to produce different variants of the bird. Before the turkey it was Goose and Peacocks that graced the fmaily table nut it was King Henry XIII that brought Turkey's to our dinner table.
These Kelly Broze birds are entirely free range bronze turkey’s, they forage in their natural woodland habitat at the family farm in Essex. Because they are matured to twice the age of a standard industry turkey they develop at the natural rate. This means that they grow and develop properly through each of the five key developmental stages. First the blood and cells, then then the vital organs, thirdly the skeletal bone growth (most industry turkeys are slaughtered at this stage), they then start to lay down proper muscle and lastly as they age they get fat. What this means is that they are not forced to grow quickly or slaughtered too early before the key development of their bones and muscles has happened. The results are quite clear and visually you can see the difference from a standard turkey - the white meat is white and the legs are darker in colour. As the muscles have matured properly the harder working leg muscles contain high levels of myoglobin making them darker and richer.
The birds are also dry plucked by hand. Without going too much into the science behind it this, effectively it means that their skin is not damaged and they are not submerged in warm water allowing bacteria to proliferate. There are no problems with Campylobacter or Salmonella in these birds because they are then dry hung. Mother nature pretty much does the rest and results in the meat being naturally tenderised with an intense flavour. Restauranterts and chefs across the country are raving about the Kelly bronze and it was great to hear Jamie Oliver talk about why it's so important that we support these businesses.
As you well know I am an advocate of cooking and experiencing food I the best possible way so it surprised me to hear that many of us opt to purchase a turkey crown for one of the most special meals of the year. I guess the perception is that these pre prepared joints are easier to cook, cheaper and more manageable. We also worry about the turkey meat drying out during cooking.
The Truth About Purchasing a Turkey Crown:
We are actually facilitating a huge amount to food waste – what happens to the legs and wings? These are not only the delicious bits that can be used to make gravy and so many incredible leftover dishes. Unfortunately the amount of waste from this is worrying.
Research has shown that the best value for money is always in favour of buying a whole bird rather than a crown. The cost of a crown is almost double the cost per KG of buying a whole bird so you are paying for a whole bird anyway.
If cooked correctly the meat will not dry out - see my tips on cooking a Turkey below.
Benefits of buying a whole bird
- Amazing stock and gravy, this can only be made with the bones and marrow from the legs and the back.
- The glorious leftovers – OMG the best bit is using up all the meat in so many dishes. From a Curry, my Turkey Biryani, a pie, sandwiches to my Bombay & Squeak. Leftovers especially with the dark meat ate incredible.
Top Tips for Cooking a Whole Kelly Bronze Turkey
- Treat the bird like it’s a big chicken and keep it simple.
- Don’t stuff it so it cooks evenly and get a meat thermometer.
- Kelly bronze birds cook in half the time it takes to cook a standard industry turkey and there is no need to baste or brine them - easy right?
Cooking the Turkey
Remove the turkey from the fridge to sit at room temperature for 2 hours.
Preheat your oven to 180ºC or 160ºC for fan ovens.
Remove the giblets and string and place breast down in a large roasting tin.
Add chopped onions, carrots, bay leaf, one pint of water and the giblets and season well.
Place into the pre heated oven without foil.
Remove from the oven half way through the cooking time. Turn the bird over and puncture through the thighs. Season well again and return to the oven.
Check the core temperature with a thermometer 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
Remove from the oven when the core temperature reaches 65ºC. Leave it to stand for a minimum of 30 mins but more like an hour – DO NOT COVER IT IN FOIL!
The bird will continue to cook when you take it out the oven so don’t be tempted to leave it in for any longer. Trust the temperature! This will result in a moist and tender bird that has an amazing flavour. You can very easily remove the cooked skin and place it on a tray and put it in the oven for about 20 mins while you make the gravy. The skin will turn crispy and delicious. The bird will still be hot and when you pour over your stock or gravy it will be perfect.
Carving the bird
Get a very sharp knife.
Remove the wings
Slice off the whole leg from each side
Remove both the breasts as whole breasts
Remove the skin to crisp in the oven
The breast can then be very easily sliced at the table.
The Kelly Bronze birds are slightly more expensive than a standard industry bird but you are paying for all the love and passion that has gone into the rearing of these birds which results in an amazing flavour you will get on this very special day. To find out more about these birds go to www.kellybronze.co.uk
If you want to try a few side dishes this year that have been spiced up then have a look at these: Amazing Christmas Side Dishes
Who said sprouts are horrible - these have been spiced with cumin and mustard and they are amazing!