But not really. Vin and I realize that our planned Thanksgiving meat post is coming a bit late for the holiday. BUT, there’s some good advice here! And Christmas is just around the corner, so file it away for December if you must. Here’s the Butcher’s take on Thanksgiving…enjoy! -Mary Susan
If the rest of you are like me, when you think about holidays, specifically Thanksgiving in this instance, we have an idea of what we imagine the atmosphere and meal to be like. Personally, I picture my whole family gathered around a beautifully set table. Everyone is dressed up for supper in their finest with pleasant expressions upon their faces. A blessing is said and a razor sharp carving knife artfully works its way through a perfectly roasted turkey in order to serve up Thanksgiving Day perfection to all those in attendance.
In reality, I’ll probably be wearing a dirty t-shirt, hungover because my brother is in town and we can’t control ourselves. People will be grumpy due to the kitchen being too small and bumping into each other for going on 5 hours. The table will be set, but is going to have glasses of V8 at each place because somehow V8 juice is a holiday beverage(?) WTHeck. There will be a razor sharp carving knife but, let’s face it, I’m a butcher not a surgeon.
All the details can vary because the things that really matter are in order. Family being together and healthy is more important than if we’ve pressed our collars and haven’t dribbled gravy down our shirts yet. No matter how much my mother and I might disagree on things in and out of the kitchen, I like to think that we work really well together during the holidays. We’re good at putting a meal on the table that we both are super proud of each year.
Planning, preparation and execution are all equally vital to the success of such a grande feast.
If any of you have the misfortune of being my friend on Facebook, you are aware of the silly questions that flood the meat department once the holiday season rolls around regarding ordering meats and the like.
Woman: I would like to order a 34 lb turkey.
Handsome Butcher: Turkeys don’t get that large ma’am, perhaps we can get you two 15-17 lb birds.
Woman: I’ve gotten a 34 lb turkey the last few years!! I can’t believe you don’t have them. Two turkeys just won’t do!
Really Handsome Butcher: I apologize ma’am, but turkeys just don’t grow that large. I have a few birds around 22lbs. Other than that I think an emu is the next possibility.
Woman: **stares blankly at really super handsome butcher, probably due to lack of brain matter, and walks away.**
So that pretty much sums up each day at the “office” for me and it makes my heart weep. I can’t wait for Wednesday. The day before Thanksgiving is my favorite day at work because tons of people come in to pick up a frozen turkey and inevitably ask if it’ll thaw and be ready by 2 PM the next day. To which, I reply, “No.” Hahahahahaha, yes. **maniacal laugh**
It’s all sad because the food industry has created an environment that makes it so “convenient” to “cook” that people don’t know how to cook anymore. (I hate microwaves, crock pots and meals in a bag.) But, I digress…
So, let’s talk ordering a turkey right quick here. It’s super easy but there are a couple things to remember:
1. Fresh or frozen – Self explanatory, just remember that if you order a fresh turkey and it feels like it’s frozen, it’s not. These bad boys get shipped on trucks that have to be set at around 33 degrees. They’re going to firm up but will not be frozen solid, so please don’t yell at me across the counter that it is actually frozen. If you do, I’ll make fun of you after you leave.
2. Brand – Butterball, Honeysuckle, organic, store brand… In my experience there isn’t a big difference unless you’re talking organic versus non organic. Butterball claims to inject a “butter solution” in their birds, but whatever it is they’re squirting in the little fellas is a non dairy solution. I’m not sure how I feel about this yet.
Most of the store brand birds are coming from the exact same farms as the Honeysuckle birds. So when you call and I tell you the store brand is $1.49/lb and the Honeysuckle is $1.69/lb and you get the Honeysuckle, the store just made more money. Score.
Organic birds are a completely different beast. Raised on a vegetarian diet, no drugs, they don’t taste the same and they don’t cook the same. If you have had them before and know what to expect then go for it; I think they’re delicious. If you’re just getting on board with the organic party then do some more reading on how to prepare your turkey. They lack the same poultry fats as non-organic birds and it’s super easy to end up with a dried out turkey that will turn you against all things organic in no time.
3. Be Flexible – We’re trying our best but sometimes it might not be possible to find a 17.75 lb turkey. Throwing a tantrum in a grocery store isn’t going to help your cause much. Figure out a weight range for the bird you need so when you order you can say “anything between 15 and 19 lbs.”
Be prepared to get a 15 lb bird if it’s a small year like it is this year. (Turkeys are small this year due to the drought two summers ago. Lack of corn production left turkey farmers with expensive feed costs. In turn they couldn’t feed the birds as much and therefore, no 34 lb birds this year… or any year, they don’t get that big, ugh!)
I always tell people to plan .75-1 lb per person when talking whole turkeys. More than likely you’re going to have way too much other food anyway so to expect each guest to actually eat a whole pound of turkey is almost laughably funny. (A half pound of meat is about the size of a baseball, so plan on all the other goodies you’re going to make, plus each guest getting two turkey baseballs…see it’s funny!)
This is way longer than it needs to be and if you’ve made it this far it because my wife has doctored this post to the point that it’s tolerable. Happy Thanksgiving,
Vincent Delagrange is a journeyman meat cutter and certified cheese monger for a major grocery store chain. He is a lover of all things manly, especially raw meat, the great outdoors, John Muir, shaving with a straight razor, and living room dance parties. He enjoys drinking beer (only the good ones), shooting guns, and has a giant crush on the magnificently beautiful woman who wrote this bio. He thinks she’s really cute and should probably take her on a date soon. She hears the new Hunger Games movie is pretty good…