By Adam Hjelm, Makin' Waves column
I love turkey.
There are few things in this world better than a whole, plump, beautifully basted, browned and baked Butterball in my opinion. Carefully, calculatedly, and specially cooked to poultry precision. The dark meat just barely cooked through, while at the same time the white meat is still moist and pulls apart in long strands of sumptuousness. Sweltered and steamed in a glorious spa bath of natural juices to maintain moistness. The skin golden, a little crackly, and hiding the best essences, aromas, and flavors.
They are the big bird of celebration, with 50 million eaten on Thanksgiving, 25 million on Christmas, and 20 million around Easter. It is a shame, in my opinion, that whole turkeys aren’t enjoyed more than just on holidays. We should revel in the poultry perfection, but maybe that would take away the celebrated novelty and make them just another mundane Monday night meal?
My household is not the only one that gorges on turkey, in fact around 250 million turkeys are raised for consumption every year. They have become a staple of celebrations for decades without any decline in sales; in fact, they are on the rise for popularity. As a good source of lean protein, vitamins, and minerals, turkeys are a good balance of flavor and nutrition. Conscientious cooks can opt for organic, open-range or pasture-raised birds. Savvy shoppers can also double check labels to steer clear of birds pumped full of saltwater to raise the weight and extend the shelf life.
Turkeys also hold a soft spot for many Minnesota farmers. After all, the state holds the leads for both turkey production and processing in the whole country. In Minnesota alone, we raise nearly 50 million birds on 600 farms. Many of those are fourth and fifth generation family farms. Just take a drive around our little piece of paradise in central Minnesota, and you will spot several turkey farms just outside of city limits.
So without further ado…shake your snoods, kick-start your caruncles, and waddle after a turkey or two. Not just for the holidays but for the flock of flavor. Hit the grocery stores and snatch some savings with birds on sale after Thanksgiving. Enjoy those leftover turkey sandwiches and delightful soups and stews. Try smoked turkey and turkey jerky for snacks and quick bites. Just go gobble up some turkey for goodness sakes!