On preparing for the high holy day of local food

Ruby (center) and Earl (top left) with this year’s birds

The American Thanksgiving holiday:  there’s a lot to like about this day of belt-loosening gluttony.  All the world ’round has harvest festivals of some slice or another that’re trussed in tradition and stuffed with myth and baked to a golden brown glory mostly by the women of the household.  Ours is no exception, as we like our edible myths here.  The reality, though, is that it is a lot of work, especially for this hausfrau.

My call to the butcher’s wife a month ago had me crestfallen at her guffaw of laughter.  “Sorry, sweetie, we closed our calendar for turkey processing three weeks ago!” she snickered.  Sigh.  See, I have not one turkey to do in, but two, actually three; one for selling, one for eating…the other, well, she’ll just be “dinner on the hoof” until we feel like eating her.  And my father in law emailed recently to say “can’t I just buy you a bird for the day?  I mean, I don’t like the idea of eating something that I’ve talked to every time I come over to your house,” which made me laugh.  (“Don’t talk to them then,” was my response.)  So it looks like I will need to take a day off to actually butcher the birds.

It’s okay, really.  Every year, I shuck another side dish; by this point, well, the side dishes are spare (three) and the desserts are singular (pie).  Soup course, salad course, cheese course, check; everything else though?  It gets baked in the masonry oven this year.  And yes:  I made sure to size the oven door to fit a 25-pound, rack-lifted, home-grown bird in a roasting pan.  Functional design does matter, after all.

I wish all of you a great harvest holiday…and may we all be thankful for, and appreciative of, what we have.

Earl concurs, as he’s thankful he’s not table fare

16 responses to “On preparing for the high holy day of local food

  1. Nice pics of the Bourbon Reds. Ours is definitely a hen. She has til New Years, since she won’t feed a crowd this week. Has Ruby been through a molting? Or has Earl been at her quite a bit? She looks a bit worn. Our hen looks like the one on the left. Good thought on the size of the oven door. I’ll be sure to think that through carefully if and when we ever get around to building one.

    • Hi Kate, yeah, Ruby is moulting. She’s sat three clutches of eggs this year and so was late with the yearly feather loss so she’s living in the warmth of the chicken coop. The girl on the far left is a big-breasted Bronze. I found her in our woods, and she’s a month younger than the girl and big tom, so it shows the difference between heirlooms and not!

  2. I remember growing up that my mom would always butcher a bird. OK I don’t remember her butchering as I never saw that part, but I did see her pluck it. Very time consuming. Now I have Thanksgiving with friends and I don’t do the bird.

  3. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, El. We’re being “adopted” this year by young friends who have loads of enthusiasm about food and cooking, and talent, to boot.


  4. Happy Thanksgiving, El! It’s been a wonderful year!


  5. I love that you made the oven fit the turkey pan. 🙂

  6. do you do anything with those gorgeous feathers?

  7. Hope you have a fantastic Thanksgiving, your birds are looking good and I just love that brown and white color. Thanks to the son-in-law we will be having a wild free range bird this week…April turkey hunting. I guess they are supposed to be all dark meat, should be good.

  8. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

  9. We processed six birds last Saturday, our first batch(!) It was a rough day, lemme tell ya. But the one we’re serving on Thursday weighed (gulp) 30 pounds! Dressed! On nonsteroidal, nonantibiotic, nonwhatever else feed. Yowza. I really wanted Bourbon Reds this year but we ended up with five Naragansetts who will be spared, and six Broad-Breasted Whites.

    P.S. The jake of the bunch weighed in at 29…

  10. Happy thanksgiving!

    Earl is awesome, I’m glad he’s not on the menu 🙂

  11. Happy Thanksgiving to you & your family!

  12. Only three sides? I live for the sides.
    Happy Thanksgiving.

  13. Daphne, very wise on getting others to do the heavy lifting for you!! Granted this is my one and only holiday where I do it all, it’s nice to be catered to on occasion. And yeah, plucking is kind of time-consuming…especially with a couple of birds to do.

    Thank you, Brett. I hope your day was entirely enjoyable…ours sure was. It’s nice getting adopted! And I am quite sure you brought some great stuff.

    Hellooo Linda! I hope your day was very merry, it had to have been I am sure. Glad to hear the year has been wonderful too!

    Emily, thinking, always thinking…it would have killed me if it didn’t fit!

    Oh Aimee that’s so practical! But no, I don’t…I am quite glad to be getting rid of them at that point…though I do dry-pluck so I do suppose they’re prettier that way.

    Mike, I think you will find a lot of dark meat and it’s always quite surprising how dark the meat is. Frankly turkey was never one of my faves but now that I grow our own it sure is…it just tastes so much better. Hope your day was festive.

    You too, Liz!

    Yipes, TJ! was that a broad-breasted white that was so big? I do agree it’s a rough day…it was rough on me because I started late and the hose was frozen, yoops! So are the Naragansetts big? I have heard they get the biggest of the heritage breeds. There’s no way Earl is anywhere near 29 pounds, and he’s been packing in the feed for 3 years now! I do recommend the Bourbon Reds but do caution anyone that they will fly. A lot.

    Sara, Earl is a big sweetheart, there’s no way I would ever consider him dinner. He loves people. Hope you had a great long weekend…

    Thank you Barb! Hope your holiday table was full!

    Ah Pamela. I know. It’s a sad loss, so…I went ahead and made my cornbread custard AND sweet potatoes, two things not on the original menu. Hope you had a great day.

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