There’s nothing like the taste of fresh turkey, especially naturally-raised, free range and organic. You’ll be surprised at the slightly gamy, firmer breast meat and juicier thighs and drumsticks. Some say you will lose these benefits if you brine the bird and that when you’re paying extra for fresh, you shouldn’t mess with the flavor.
Others say there’s little or no difference. In any case, your fresh turkey won’t be loaded with antibiotics, hormones and water-weight, nor will it come with the unreliable plastic internal temperature popup. You’ll need a meat thermometer (inserted at the thickest part of the thigh without touching bone), unless you’re a champion at determining doneness by wiggling the leg. Experts agree that you should roast the bird to 165 (slightly pink)-170 (white) degrees farenheit, then let it rest for 20-30 minutes.
Don’t be fooled by the ice-cold hard bottom of a fresh turkey. They really haven’t been frozen, but are blasted with cold air when they’re processed, to maintain the necessary freshness until they’re cooked, especially since some have to be shipped to the stores where they’re sold. You can keep a fresh wrapped turkey 5-7 days in your refrigerator. Here’s a tip for a crispier skin: unwrap the turkey the night before, leaving it exposed, to dry the skin. Before you put it in the oven, rub the exterior with whatever dry blend of herbs you prefer and layer the meat underneath with herbed butter. The dried skin results in a superior ‘crustiness.’
While some turkeys can weigh in at as heavy as 48 pounds, those are truly extra-ordinary birds. Fitting them into your oven could be a problem! You can base the size of the bird you need by figuring 1-1/2 to 2 pounds of turkey per person, allowing for bones and leftovers. Go for the higher number is you’re looking forward to turkey sandwiches! Remember, leftover turkey is also wonderful for turkey pies, turkey soup, turkey tacos, turkey barbecue—and the list goes on.
Some stores require that you reserve your turkey well ahead of Thanksgiving day and that you pick it up as scheduled. Others are fine with you arriving at your convenience. You may have to stand in line either way. Don’t be impatient! Chat with other customers about menus, recipes, what the day of Thanks means to you. If the store doesn’t take reservations, make sure you go to get your bird while there’s still a selection so you can buy the size bird you need.
Here are some stores and farms from which you can buy your fresh Thanksgiving turkey here on the Island.
1. Raleigh’s Poultry Farm
335 Old Indian Head Road, Kings Park
- Birds raised in Pennsylvania. Order in 2-pound increments from 6-8 lbs to 14-plus lbs.
- Order deadline: November 18, 2016
2. Total Health
166 Fulton Street, Farmingdale
- Birds are brought in from Mary’s Turkeys in Central Valley, CA
3. North Sea Farms
1060 Noyak Road, Southampton
- All turkeys raised on Long Island! All poultry, eggs and produce are organic.
- Order ASAP. Quantities limited.
4. Miloski’s Poultry Farm
4418 Middle Country Road, Calverton
- Turkeys become available on November 19. No reservations.
- The Miloski family raises between 3000 and 4000 turkeys each year. All turkeys are free-range, organic and raised on Long Island
- Expect to pay $4.87 per pound (from 10 to 30-plus pounds)
5. Garden Of Eve
4558 Sound Avenue, Riverhead
- Garden of Eve’s turkeys are free-range, pasture-raised and fed an all-organic, vegetarian grain feed with no hormones or antibiotics.
- Try their heritage turkeys! Bourbon Reds are a slow-growing heritage breed of turkey with a more pronounce flavor. By buying and eating these birds, you’re contributing to the survival of these wonderful and historic farm breeds.
- Turkeys will be fresh, not frozen, and available for pick-up at the farm in Riverhead on Monday and Tuesday, November 23 and 24, and at farmers markets in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Forest Hills, Queens on Saturday, November 19 and 20.