A Week of Thanksgiving: The Ferndale Turkey

Recently I was reading a book In Winters Kitchen. In it the author talks about key foods, her relation to them and the journey she took in finding them locally in Minnesota. The book also goes into a lot of major farming issues but we won’t get into that. The irony is I have been pacing myself through this book for a while, digesting each chapter, so to speak. It just so happened that I read the chapter on Turkey in October. In it I learned a lot about Ferndale Market, how they have been farming turkey for over70 years, and how their son, upon returning from college, came home only to discover that their turkeys were not identifiable in stores due to the fact that all the turkeys were being process in the same place. This lead him on a journey to create Ferndale Market. This is a small shop on the farm itself that not only features their turkeys but it also features only midwestern purveyors mainly Minnesota but also a few Wisconsin and Iowa purveyors as well. 

Being curious about this market I knew I needed to go check them out. One issue I should mention is that by this point I had already placed my Thanksgiving Turkey order with the butcher I love located in St. Paul Minnesota that focuses specifically on local small livestock farms.

My husband and I made a day of it running errands and went to the market. The staff was warm and welcoming and best of all at the end of the parking lot there is a big sign that reads, “For the health and privacy of our turkeys – Employees only beyond this point”. I don’t think you can get any more local than that! Browsing around the store I was delighted to see a whole array of wonderful things. They had wonderful meats, cheeses, baked goods, dairy, and so much more. Being someone who loves supporting local farmers and the fact that I have tasted a noticeable difference in local ingredients, this store was heaven to me!

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I should pause here in the story and tell you that one issue I have with prepping Thanksgiving is that getting my turkey from a local purveyor meant I had to pick it up on their schedule. At best the weekend before Thanksgiving and at worst one of the weekdays learning up to Thanksgiving. Being someone who loves to get things done ahead of time this is a real issue for me. As I said I had place my order with my butcher and the earliest I could pick up the bird was going to be the Monday before Thanksgiving… Now back to my story.

As I was browsing I came across the multiple freezer cases of their turkeys and discovered that their birds were only $1.75 per pound! I went ahead and grabbed the biggest bird I could get my hands on! I got it home, thawed it, butchered it, de-boned it, made my stock, and had this all done more than a week before Thanksgiving!

I opted not to cancel my turkey order from my butcher as I was curious as to the differences of their bird versus the Ferndale bird. Yes, this meant I was going to have to sacrifice a whole day of prep work to drive to St. Paul (about an hour and a half a away) to get a bird, that at this point, would be “extra”. I wasn’t exactly thrilled about this but there were other things I needed as well so I gave up the day of prep and ran errands.

When I got to the butcher they pulled my bird out of the back (it was still wrapped from the farm) and sure enough… it was a Ferndale Turkey! This was both funny and painful as they had it at a marked up price. This might have made some made or refused the turkey (since I didn’t need it) but I do love my butcher and they are so great to me I didn’t make any fuss about it. If anything it reassured me that I made a GREAT find and selection of my turkey!

What’s great about it is that now, in future years, I know I can get my great turkey straight off the farm at a time that works for me instead of them.

Preparing this turkey was a delight. I have processed a lot of varying qualities of poultry so I know when its going to be good right from when I unpackage it. There’s a certain smell that’s almost peppery in the flesh itself, and the feel of the raw meat is not slimy or mushy but firm and nice to handle which made butchering and de-boning my bird all that much more pleasant of a task to do. With the help of Chefsteps.com I was able to butcher my whole bird and remove the bones and tendons form the legs with ease.

I then took my lead from Chefsteps on how to approach my turkey this year. I made roulades. The legs and thighs were rolled with a simple blend of herbs in them and the breasts had a delicious Italian stuffing in them. I then cooked them via sous vide and finished them off in a multitude of ways. I have to say the preparation, presentation, and flavors were AMAZING and certainly how I will always do my turkey in the future! No more trying to figure out how to get the whole bird to cook evenly, no more trying to carve the bird at the table and navigate around the bones when the bird itself it still almost too hot to touch. No more having to stop eating to carve more bird for those who want seconds.

Now, after my roulades are done and I have done my preferred finishing method on them all I have to do I slice them up and they are easy to plate or arrange on a platter.

The other part about doing my turkey this way is that I much more effectively use the bird which is ALWAYS important to me. The carcass, back, neck, and bones form the legs and thighs are used to make my stock for the soup, gravy, and green beans. The wings and the giblets are used to make the gravy and I can do all this BEFORE Thanksgiving! Thank goodness I discovered Ferndale Market and their amazing turkeys!

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