If you're like me and responsible for cooking the Thanksgiving feast (which I do with lots of help from my mom), now's the time to be ordering your turkeys. That is, if you go for the non-antibiotic, humanely raised, room-to-roam fowl. I, for one, think they taste better and cook easier than the conventional old frozen Butterball version you get at the grocery store.
I'll be hosting about 20 people this Thanksgiving. Over the years, I've learned many lessons in presenting the feast, and most of those came because, being a know-it-all novice determined to start my own traditions, I mostly refused to listen to the wisdom of my mother.
Here's a lesson for you newbies: People want the classics, and even if you make an elaborate cornbread oyster dressing, they'll still mostly eat mom's stuffing, a dish that's been perfected over generations. My mom's is made with stale bread, scallions, parsley, and butter (lots and lots of butter). It's simple and it's delicious and I've finally realized that instead of making a companion dressing, I should just make another batch of that stuffing. That way, we can double the amount that gets stuffed in the bird (yeah, yeah, it's not kosher to stuff a bird these days, but you can't beat the stuffing that comes out of the turkey).
For the last seven years or so, we've ordered our turkeys at Earth Fare. This year, I am considering ordering from Keegan-Filion Farms in Walterboro. They are letting the Our Local Foods shop at Thornhill Farm up in McClellanville handle the sales. You can reserve a 12-15-pound or 15-18 pound bird via email. They cost $4.50/pound. You can either pick them up at the farm or get it delivered to the Tru Value Hardware on East Bay Street. Delivery is planned for sometime next week.UPDATED: Native Meats in the upstate is sold out of the turkeys that come from Sharon Rose Farm in Woodruff, S.C.
If you're not ready to invest $70 in your Thanksgiving turkey but still want to give thanks locally, Ted's Butcherblock has a less expensive but similarly raised option. They're taking orders for Bell & Evans birds, priced at $2.49/pound under 20 lbs. and $2.79/pound over 20 lbs. Bell & Evans birds are grown in Pennsylvania Dutch country and are fed no by-products, allowed to roam free, and bred to grow slow to produce a broad breast. They also have 55 percent less fat and 25 percent less calories than conventionally-raised poultry. For $10, Ted's will brine the bird for you and will even cook it for an extra $25. Not a bad deal at all. Pick up some pre-made sides, and you might not even have to turn on the oven.
Earth Fare is taking orders for their turkeys from Plainsville Farms in New York. These are no-steroid, no-hormone, free-range birds for $2.29/pound. They come in sizes of two-pound increments starting at 10 pounds and topping off at 24. Personally, instead of cooking a beastly 24-pounder, we've opted to roast two smaller turkeys. It takes much less time, and there's less risk of the underdone turkey at 3 p.m. when everyone's drunk and starving. If you prefer organic, Earth Fare has those for $3.99/pound.
Whole Foods is stocking poultry from Koch Farms in Pennsylvania. No need to pre-order as they plan to have plenty fresh birds in the grab-and-go case for $2.29/pound. Or you can get a brined turkey from Jaindl Farms for $2.79/pound, a kosher turkey for $2.99/pound, or a frozen Nature's Ranch turkey for $1.49/pound. Whole Foods also has a limited supply of heirloom turkeys from the Diestel Turkey Ranch in Sonora, Calif. This is a premium, certified organic turkey that's part of the American Heirloom Collection, if you're into that sort of thing.
Whole Foods also has market for sides and such, which I'll be delving into more detail with my next post.