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Let’s Talk Turkey

Posted November 23, 2008 3:00 PM by SavvyExacta

In the U.S., many people eagerly anticipate a Thanksgiving dinner full of food – including a traditional turkey and some suspicious cranberry sauce still shaped like a can. Nonetheless, each family's dinner has some history. Let's learn about the turkey – from the beginnings of the bird to some lesser-known facts. The photo is me as a child with my family's flock (or rafter, if you want to get technical).

Some History of the Turkey

Classified as large birds, turkeys are animals we usually only think about around Thanksgiving. Native to the eastern U.S. and northern Mexico, the wild turkey was first hunted by Native Americans. It was utilized for its meat (food), wing bones (turkey calls), and feathers (decorations for ceremonial clothing).

The turkey was probably domesticated by the indigenous peoples of Mexico. Spanish explorers brought the bird back to Europe. Farmers raised turkeys and walked them to market in groups with protective covering on their feet so they could travel safely.

We don't know for sure if the pilgrims actually served turkey at "The First Thanksgiving". It's pretty likely, however, considering that turkeys were native and plentiful to the area at the time. In fact, according to one source, the wild turkey "nearly disappeared in the early 1900s because of overhunting". There was also a loss of habitat (turkeys roost in trees) as forests were cut down to build new homes for settlers.

Turkey Science

Some people like dark meat; others prefer white. Luckily, each turkey can serve everyone's preferences. The breast and wings are comprised of white meat while the legs and thighs are made up of dark meat. This is because of the muscle type and its ability to store oxygen.

Today's turkeys are bred for extra white meat, which is found on the breast. Because of their extra-large chests, these turkeys cannot breed. Artificial insemination is used to fertilize domesticated turkey eggs that are meant to provide adult birds for food consumption.

Wild turkeys can fly and glide for short distances (usually under a mile), typically when they want to reach a roost in a tree. Turkeys can also run up to 20 miles per hour. Can you keep up?

More Turkey Facts:

  • Sesame Street's Big Bird is covered in dyed turkey feathers.
  • Ben Franklin thought the turkey should be the U.S.'s national bird;. we wound up with the bald eagle instead.
  • The floppy piece of skin hanging over the beak is called a snood; the pouch under the throat is called a wattle.
  • What's that noise? Toms (males) gobble while hens (females) cluck.
  • The largest variety of turkey is the Bronze turkey, with toms weighing in at 50 pounds. My family raised a Bronze which was, according to my mother, "32 pounds without feathers and innards, and would not fit in the oven"!
  • Most turkeys raised on farms for human consumption are White Hollands, which cannot fly.
  • When you bowl three strikes in a row, it's called a "turkey" – GlobalSpec holds a Wii bowling tournament – the "Turkey Bowl" – the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkey_bird

http://www.history.com/minisite.do?content_type=minisite_generic&content_type_id=872&display_order=1&mini_id=1083

http://www.pilgrims.net/plymouth/thanksgiving.htm

http://www.saskschools.ca/~gregory/thanks/tkyinfo.html

http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/turkey/history.html

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#1

Re: Let’s Talk Turkey

11/23/2008 4:54 PM

Oh ya, I love turkey. I eat it often throughout the year. Next to a grilled rib eye, or a salmon fillet, it's just about my favorite. There is just about nothing better than a traditional turkey dinner. My mother was French, and would make a meat stuffing. It was ground beef and pork, with Bell's seasoning. I've tried to reproduce it, but I can't seem to come close to hers.

Every once in a while, I have a flock, (gaggle?, not sure), of wild turkeys that pass through my property. Absolutely beautiful birds. But those aren't the one's for eating.

Every year I go to my sisters house for Thanksgiving, she lives about a half mile from me. She traveled to Germany yesterday, so we had our holiday last Sunday. I'm a lucky guy, as I'll be spending another Thanksgiving with friends. Two, wicked, mint, awesome turkey dinners, mashed potato's, gravy....Aawww, drooling like Homer Simpson now....

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#7
In reply to #1

Re: Let’s Talk Turkey

11/24/2008 8:06 AM

A group of turkeys is called a rafter. A pair of dead turkeys resulting from hunting is called a brace (so yes, the wild ones are edible!).

There was a large "rafter" behind my house as well. One day I was walking my dogs through a cornfield and we came upon them roosting in a tree. Apparently my beagle forgot she's a rabbit dog and thought she was a turkey dog - she tracked them to the tree and then started barking up a storm!

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#2

Re: Let’s Talk Turkey

11/23/2008 5:42 PM

On the contrary, I think of turkeys every time I see them cross the road (mostly in the winter). Oddly enough, I have never seen turkey roadkill even though there are a lot of turkeys. Perhaps they had it right with safety in numbers.

Wild turkeys may be able to fly and glide for short distances, but they cannot for the life of them ice skate!

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: Let’s Talk Turkey

11/23/2008 6:04 PM

LOL Jax.

Turkey's have a bad rap. I find them to some of the smartest animal's there are in the woods, (not that there's any stupid one's). The Tom will stand up to anything, he's an intimidating character when he pumps up and is about 5 feet wide.

Your right though, I never see road kill turkey, and no squished ducks, (I have a retired neighbor, that's life's work, is to keep the pond clean, and feed about 500 wild ducks). But nope, no flat ducks, people just look after them.

I'll keep an eye out, and let you know if I see any on skates.

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#5
In reply to #2

Re: Let’s Talk Turkey

11/24/2008 8:02 AM

While you may not have seen them as roadkill, it does happen. Be wary when you see them crossing the road as they may take flight - right into your windshield! It happened to a friend of mine, not once, but twice. One badly damaged her windshield; the other dented her hood.

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#4

Re: Let’s Talk Turkey

11/24/2008 6:40 AM

Here in the South, Cajun-fried turkey has become popular. I find a 12 to 14 lb bird does well. After getting it thawed, I rinse it, pat it dry and rub it with olive oil. I then dose it liberally with Luzianne Cajun spice, including inside the cavity. I make slits in the breast and thighs and pack them with spice. I use almost a whole can of spice on one bird. I then put it inside a clean plastic trash bag and let it marinate in the refrigerator over nite. We can get turkey-frying pots which are tall 4 or so gallon size and come with a propane burner for use OUTSIDE ONLY. Put almost 3 gal of cooking oil (peanut is preferred, but peanut/soy blends are common) and heat to 400F. While heating, put the bird head down on the stand that comes with the turkey pot. When the oil reaches 400F, use the hook and GENTLY lower the bird into the oil. If you drop it in, oil will splash and likely start a fire. The bird will cause the oil temp to drop to around 300F. Get the temp back to 350F. Cook the bird for 3 to 3.5 minutes per lb. YUM!!! My favorite way to eat turkey! When the oil has cooled after cooking, I filter a few times and drive my diesel on it.

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Guru
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#6
In reply to #4

Re: Let’s Talk Turkey

11/24/2008 8:03 AM

Thanks for sharing a different take on cooking a turkey... AND a way to reuse the resources!

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Anonymous Poster
#8

Re: Let’s Talk Turkey

11/24/2008 8:09 PM

Nice to meet you this is friend from China !

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