Friday, November 27, 2009

Heritage Turkeys in the News

A piece from yesterday's New York Times on heritage turkeys.

Monday, November 23, 2009

How to Cook Heritage Turkeys

Turkey Brining 101:

Why Brine?
Brining your turkey before cooking is the best way to ensure that the meat is juicy and flavorful. The salt in the brine solution breaks down some of the muscle protein in the meat (making it more tender) and also allows the meat to absorb whatever flavoring you add to the solution.

Basic Brine
2 cups salt
2 cups sugar
2 gallons of water (orange juice or apple cider can be substituted for some water)

Optional ingredients for flavor:
3 bay leaves
1/2 cup of your favorite dried herbs and spices (sage, oregano, thyme, basil, cloves, cinnamon, etc.)
1 tablespoon cracked black peppercorns
lemon or orange slices
crushed garlic cloves

First: In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, combine 1 gallon of water, salt, sugar and optional flavor ingredients. Stir until sugar and salt have dissolved, but do not boil. Remove pot from heat and let cool for 15 minutes.

Next: Spread a layer of ice into the bottom of a cooler that is a little larger than the turkey. Set the brining bag inside cooler of ice and place turkey, breast side down, inside bag. Pour cooled brine over turkey, plus an additional 1 gallon of water or juice. To further cool brine, add 2 scoops of ice into brine bag. Seal bag, making sure to let out as much air as possible. Add additional ice to cooler so that your turkey stays at 40 degrees Fahrenheit while brining. Brine for one hour per pound of turkey. Do not over brine, or turkey will be salty.

Last: Remove turkey from brine, scooping some of the herbs and spices from brine solution and spreading onto the skin of the turkey for extra flavor. Brush turkey with vegetable oil or melted butter and cook as desired until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. Discard brine and clean area exposed to raw poultry.

Cooking your heritage turkey:

Besides the fact that these heritage turkeys have been raised the old fashioned way--with plenty of grass and sunshine--they need to be cooked differently than their modern, factory-farmed counterparts. Heritage turkeys are much leaner and smaller than sedentary commercial birds. Fast cooking at high temperatures is a better method than slow roasting. Heritage turkeys should be roasted at 425-450 degrees F until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature in the thigh! Butter (plus flavorings like rosemary, sage, maple, etc) can be added under the breast skin to add flavor and moisture during roasting. Loosen the skin around the breast with your fingers and insert butter between the meat and the skin as well as on the inside of the bird's cavity.

Remember your giblets inside!

Giblet Broth:

- 2 cups white wine
- 2 cups water
- Giblets (look inside body cavity of turkey)
- Bay leaf

Simmer everything in a small saucepan for 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Giblets can be discarded if they aren't your type of thing or they can be finely chopped and added to the broth. Giblets can also be used to make gravy.

Finally, take a picture of your bird on the table - and maybe even with the family! - and send it to us and we'll put it on the blog. If you include cooking/eating notes, we'll post those as well!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Farm Fresh Eggs!

We are now proud to offer fresh pastured eggs from Ecotone Farm.

These hens were raised on our farm from day one with integrity and care, on an all-natural, custom-mixed diet free of antibiotics or hormones. Living entirely on pasture, rotated every few days to a fresh paddock, the eggs from these hens are naturally healthy and delicious, with deep orange yolks that stand up tall in the pan and a smooth, rich taste you'll remember.

Why are these eggs so good?
* Truly free range

* All-natural diet

* No antibiotics

* No hormones

* Local: Joelton, TN

Egg deliveries are on Tuesdays and Thursdays to the Nashville Metro area. Individual dozens are $4 each, or $35 for ten dozen. Commercial accounts welcome.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Farm Photos

Two weekends ago, several good friends visited the farm. One of them, a good friend of mine and documentary photographer Briget Ganske, brought her camera and got some photos. Check out her website to see more of her work. Also pictured are Sam and Pete, two of John's good friends from college. Thanks for visiting everyone!

A poetic break, courtesy of Briget as well:

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

- Mary Oliver

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Avoiding Facotry Farm Food

Here's an article I found this morning that is a nice outline of the various categories at work in contemporary food culture: Avoiding Factory Farm Food, by Nicolette Hahn Niman.

Note that all our animals fall into Niman's "Pastured" category. That is, all of our animals are raised entirely outside on pasture, and are rotated to fresh paddocks every few days. As Niman also points out, the labeling for eggs these days is specious at best. Our laying hens are outside all of the time (even at night, when they sleep in portable "tractors"), and are free-ranging within movable electric fencing. Our turkeys are raised the same way, and are indeed the heritage turkeys Niman writes about.

Also, to clarify, our eggs, turkeys, and pigs are raised on an all-natural ration that is custom mixed without any antibiotics or hormones. We use this term instead of "organic" because, to be organic, all the feed must be organic. Not only have I been unable to find organic feed in middle TN, but if I were, it would raise the price of everything to almost twice its current rate! One of the most surprising things about getting into farming was the almost total lack of any standard feed that is without antibiotics and/or hormones; as such, for this season I've been driving to Lebanon to get a custom ration from Edward's Feed every few weeks. So you can be confident in the integrity of our products, and that we are not adding anything to the feed ration or misleadingly labeling anything. We take this quite seriously.

I would be more than happy to talk with anyone about the details of this article, or the details of how and why we raise our animals the way we do. Also, please feel free to come out and visit the farm to see for yourself. We're only 15 minutes from downtown Nashville!

Friday, November 6, 2009

To Market, To Market

I joined C.J. at the west Nashville farmer's market this past weekend on its last day of operation for the season. In addition to selling 2 turkeys and and almost all of his eggs, he generated a whole lot of interest in Ecotone. It's amazing what a homemade sign and an educational poster - along with some homegrown enthusiasm - can do.