Learn how to cook the juiciest, tastiest, healthiest pastured Thanksgiving turkey ever!
When we think of Thanksgiving, we often think of eating until we can’t eat any more. After all, Thanksgiving was traditionally a celebration of the harvest, so what better time to indulge on the bounty of foods that are so plentiful in the fall?
In fact, Thanksgiving may be one of the few meals in America that is still traditionally prepared at home and enjoyed by the whole family. And contrary to what you might think, Thanksgiving food can actually be quite healthy! Real foods, made with fresh, whole ingredients, are the best things you can put into your body. The problem comes when the real foods on our Thanksgiving table are replaced with processed, adulterated, and artificial ingredients…
Take the traditional Thanksgiving turkey, for example: Modern turkeys you buy at the supermarket are typically injected full of water, vegetable oil, salt, emulsifiers, artificial flavorings, and more. Not only does this increase the weight of the turkey (so you’ll pay more for the same bird just because it is pumped full of all this stuff), but it also adds nothing good to either the taste or the nutritional value you are getting. Plus, these birds are typically raised in cramped cages with no access to the outdoors, and fed antibiotics to keep them alive and make them grow fatter before slaughter.
If you’re looking for a healthier bird this holiday, try a free-range, pasture-raised turkey instead. Pastured turkeys have not only been raised outdoors on fresh, natural fodder, but they won’t contain any of the injected ingredients mentioned above.
However, this also means they will need special consideration when preparing for your Thanksgiving table. Since they don’t contain extra water or oil, the best option for a moist, flavorful bird is to brine your turkey in advance. While it will take a bit of advance planning, brining is very easy, and well worth the bit of extra time it takes!
After brining, your pastured Thanksgiving turkey will be moist, juicy, and flavorful, and may even cook slightly faster. You can include your favorite seasonings to make your bird even tastier.
Below is a wonderful recipe from Mommypotamus.com for a delicious, juicy pastured Thanksgiving turkey that will have everyone’s mouths watering for more! (For more healthy, real, whole-food recipes for the Thanksgiving table – including fermented foods and grain-free/gluten-free/Paleo options, check out this handy list at WeedEmAndReap.com.)
Basic Brine Recipe:
- 1 cup sea salt
- 1 gallon filtered water
- 1 cup raw sugar or honey (optional)
- 1 bunch fresh sage (optional)
- 1 bunch fresh thyme (optional)
- 3 tablespoons black pepper (optional)
- Bring all ingredients to a boil; remove from heat and refrigerate.
- Place thawed turkey in a deep roasting pan that is large enough to allow most of the turkey to be submerged in the brine, or use a commercially available brining bag. We use a 5 gallon food grade plastic bucket lined with a large, clean plastic kitchen trash bag. If you use just the pan, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (or put in an ice chest if your refrigerator is full). Turn the turkey in brine every few hours if it is not fully submerged. Keep turkey in brine for 12-24 hours.
Preparing & Cooking Your Pastured Thanksgiving Turkey
- When it is time to cook the turkey, lift it out of the brine, rinse with cold water and dry with paper towels. Slide a small rubber spatula between the skin and the meat to separate them.
- Insert half of the herbed butter mixture (recipe below) under the skin and spread evenly. Rub the remaining butter mixture on the outside of the skin.
- If you wish, fill the body cavity with stuffing.
- Truss the bird loosely with butchers twine, season with salt and pepper, and place in roasting pan. Add 1 cup stock and roast until internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165 degrees. The turkey should be loosely covered with foil for part of the cooking time to help retain moisture.
- The foil should be removed for the last 45 minutes or so of cooking so the skin can be beautifully browned and crisp by the time the turkey is done.
- Be sure to baste the turkey often with juices from the bottom of the pan.
See Full Recipe at Mommypotamus.com for cooking times, herbed butter recipe, and more tips…