Let’s talk turkeys for a minute.
We’re two weeks out from Thanksgiving, and it’s quite possible that whatever you did for last year’s holiday might not work this year because this Thanksgiving will probably be a little different.
I’d been holding out hope that my Austin-area family and I might be able to get together for a socially distanced dinner, but that’s looking less likely by the day, so I’m starting to plan for a smaller dinner, maybe just for my immediate household.
My first thought was that I should try to get a smaller turkey, but then I talked with Jim Richardson, the longtime farmer and rancher in Rockdale who has been raising turkeys (and cattle and pigs and chickens) for decades.
He processed this year’s batch of turkeys last month, and they were all between about 18 and 20 pounds, which Richardson says is just right. "That’s how big they are if they do real well and don’t have any setbacks," he says. "If they are stunted in any way, maybe with a medical issue, that might slow them down."
Those 12- and 13-pound turkeys you might find at the store are likely what he calls "poor doers" — the birds that didn’t do as well as the rest of the flock — or they could have been processed when they were younger, which means they didn’t have a chance to fill out naturally as they got older.
"Turkeys do well when they get to be a certain weight. That’s when they taste really good," he says. "The smaller ones don’t really have the flavor."
Richardson Farms is already sold out of his turkeys this year, but that’s something to think about when you’re thinking about which turkey to buy this year.
I’m planning to cook a sizable bird and then use the leftover meat in several casseroles and soups over the holiday weekend. Whatever isn’t used by Sunday night will go into zip-top plastic bags, and I’ll try to use that up within the month. (Cooked turkey doesn’t last as long as raw poultry in the freezer because it can dry out quickly.)