When my mom and I made the Thanksgiving turkey roast video, I found I had a lot of extra outtakes after editing, and one of those included a discussion of leftovers. So I figured this weekend would be a good time to share Mom’s recipe for a cacciatore using leftover turkey.
Here’s the short video with our leftovers discussion and then the recipe follows below.
DP: What do you like to do with leftover turkey when you have some?
NP: Oh, leftovers are the best part. First of all, when I’m done carving the turkey and I’ve strained the broth out, I put the carcass and the giblets and I start my soup. So I cook that down and then after dinner I take the leftovers and I sort them up into two cup packages. I save some big slices for sandwiches but the rest of it usually in two cup packages because most casseroles will tell you about two cups.
NP: So that’s where I go from there. And we like to make chicken cacciatore, chicken tetrazzini.
DP: Just with turkey?
NP: Yeah and all the recipes always say chicken. Around here turkey goes! You know, we love turkey. You freeze it. It doesn’t go bad. It can freeze for a long time if you really seal it when you wrap it, you know, and put it in the freezer. And same with the broth. If you don’t make soup right away you can save that into one quart containers and freeze it. And then you can take your leftover turkey and your leftover broth and make soup if you want or make another casserole.
DP: Just freeze it in yogurt containers or something like that?
NP: Something like that. Anything that’s sturdy. And that’s what we do.
Cacciatore originally was a rustic style of food. In many contemporary interpretations it has evolved into a more complicated preparation. But at its origin, it was a meal prepared by a hunter. Think of bold chunks of vegetables, a limited range of ingredients, and a simple and probably not over-long simmer over a fire as everyone hungrily waits for their food to be ready.
Leftover Turkey Cacciatore
- ¼ cup Olive Oil
- 1 cup Sliced Peppers
- 2 cups Sliced Onions
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 ½ cups sliced mushrooms (such as baby bella)
- 1 lb cooked turkey leftovers
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 1 ½ tsp dried organo
- 4 to 5 cups crushed tomatoes with juice
- 3 oz tomato paste
- ¼ cup red wine
- In a large saucepan or a heavy bottomed pot, add olive oil and set stove to medium heat.
- Saute peppers, onions, garlic, and mushrooms for 3 minutes.
- Add turkey, salt, pepper, and oregano and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and red wine and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 more minutes.
Hey, this is Dave from Wrong Direction Farm. Today I wanted to take you behind the scenes. I’m doing some repairs on the tractor. So it’s not some of the more pleasant things that we do on the farm like move the chickens and take care of the cattle, but sometimes we get to fix stuff too. And often when we’re fixing equipment we need to be a little creative with solutions because, unless you’re made out of money, you can’t just buy your way into the solution for every problem. You’ve got to sometimes build your way into it. The tractor — this is the only tractor we have on the farm — it’s a 65 horsepower tractor. It’s, you know, it’s about six years old. It’s a little beat up by now. And we had problems with the quick attach brackets. These allow us to attach to a bucket, or to forks for fork lifting pallets, or for spears that go on the end of the tractor so we can lift up big hay bales. But we had a problem where the brackets, where they hold on to the bucket or the bale spear, the brackets were starting to wear out. I had repaired them many times over the years but the steel was starting to wear to the point where it was no longer repairable. So I had to buy a new set. Every year I ended up fixing this thing so I wanted to find a more permanent solution. So what I did is I ended up finding a bracket that goes onto a much heavier loader from the same manufacturer. I put the forks on there and I noticed when the forks were at ground level I couldn’t get them to be even with the terrain. They were always pointing up a bit so I couldn’t get them underneath a pallet. So I realized I had a geometry problem. I noticed that this upper pin on the bracket was too far up, it was up about here originally. So I needed to cut it down and weld it into a new position. So what I did is I took the plasma cutter, I cut all the way around this, cut this whole section out, moved it down, trimmed it up, welded it in position, welded this extra gusset in here. There was quite a bit of trepidation as I made those cuts into the steel. I was just thinking, you know, if I mess this up I’m not going to be able to get these two holes aligned. Or I’ll get this one at a different level from this one and then the whole bracket will be messed up. And so I took a long time to get my jig all set up. I had a customized jig I made up to be able to plasma cut each of these ones identically down the line. And all four cuts came out really close to each other so it’s… I’m glad it worked out. So that’s the solution we came up with. Everything around here requires a little creativity but, you know, we find our way around things.
Sometimes the farm life isn’t all pastures and soil. It often involves fixing the farm equipment. We only have one tractor, so we’re not as caught up in engines and wrenches as a more mechanized farm, but we still manage to spend a lot of time with the tools spread out in the driveway.
We had a problem with the tractor’s quick attach bracket, the connector that allows us to switch between a bucket, a forklift, or a hay bale spear attachment. Instead of continuing to repair the poorly-designed original equipment as I’ve done many times before, I decided to replace the whole connector with something from a better-designed tractor.
It seemed to work. I found a bracket with the right sized pine holes and everything bolted up. But when I tried using it, I realized that the hole spacings were wrong, and that the buckets wouldn’t tip up or down as far as I needed them to.
So, out came the plasma cutter, angle grinders, and welding equipment. I cut the brackets apart and welded the pin holes into new locations. On a farm like this, we can’t always buy our way into solutions for problems, we often have to build our way into those solutions.
After I wrote last week’s blog post answering the question of how long a raw turkey can be kept in the fridge, I realized I should have started with a more fundamental topic: how should we defrost a frozen pasture raised turkey?
It doesn’t have to be complicated. Just follow these three steps:
- Leave turkey in original packaging. This will prevent the turkey from picking up any odors from other foods in the fridge, especially seafood.
- Place turkey, breast side, in a large pan up to catch any leaks. If a pan is not available, double bag it in a large, heavy duty bag such as a garbage bag.
- Store turkey in a refrigerator below 40 degrees to defrost it. 40 degrees is the important number to remember!
A turkey will require approximately 1 day in the refrigerator for every 4 lbs of weight. This relationship starts to break down for turkeys above 20 pounds, as they normally don’t require much more than 5 days in the refrigerator. But the general guidelines would be:
- 12 lbs: Allow 3 days
- 16 lbs: Allow 4 days
- 20 lbs: Allow 5 days
My default advise is to place the turkey in the fridge the Friday or Saturday before Thanksgiving. This should allow for enough time to have the turkey fully defrosted and ready for baking on Thursday.
Saving Time with Brining
If you are brining your turkey, you can subtract two days of defrosting time by placing a partially thawed turkey in your brining liquid. The turkey will defrost as it brines. I discovered this when preparing whole frozen pigs for pig roasts, and this has become my go-to technique ever since. It works well for turkeys too.
This week we walked the pastures with a soil probe and a bucket, collecting core samples. On our farm all the soils are similarly composed of clay and silt, but there are variations between the fields. Soil sampling will allow us to understand how our farm management is affecting different soil profiles.
Today I’m out with the pasture soil probe. I borrowed this from some friends. We’ll be doing some soil testing
It’s just a stainless steel cylinder. It’s got a tapered end here. We stomp using this tread here, stomp the whole thing right into the ground, and we can extract a core sample of the soil. Now the top is going to contain some of the plants and the roots so we’ll chop that off and we’ll take the center core of the soil. What I’m going to do is I’m going to get about 15 plugs from various spots in the same general soil area. And then we’ll mix them together and send that to the lab for testing.
So the purpose of soil testing is to find out what’s in the soil: what minerals, what pH, what amount of organic matter. It helps us to understand what’s happening as we manage the farm, how the soils are developing. Soils tell us a lot about what’s happening in them by what’s happening on top of them. Obviously, the plants that are growing, even the palatability of the plants to the animals, are affected by the soil. We can actually improve the grass composition. We can improve the soil composition. We can do work that enhances the water cycle. And as we do each of these things we should see some compounding effects. So we’re excited to see the results that this soil test gives us from this year.
We know by observation of pasture growth that our least fertile soils are at the rear of the farm. With the test data in hand, we might be able to determine where to bring our chickens next year. As we graze our chickens across the pastures, they deposit plenty of manure behind them. See this post for a time lapse view of the pastures after our chickens move across them. The only problem with getting chickens out to the back of the farm on these fields is related to infrastructure. I need to build more fencing in those fields first, and I need to extend the laneway farther back so we can work on those fields in rainy weather. Right now we need to cut across a soggy spot that is hard to traverse in wet years like this one.
While we were at it, we also collected samples from a few different spots in the garden and tested our compost. At this point we aren’t a vegetable farm, but our family depends on a productive garden for our own table, so we’re interested to learn how the different parts of our garden are doing. Ammending the soil in the garden is a bit easier than managing soil across large pastures. With the garden we can be more intensive with loads of compost in the spots that need it most.
All of this compost will end up in the vegetable garden. The rest of the pile will be spread on the pastures.
I’ll follow up on this when I get the results of all the testing to share what I’ve learned.
If you are like me, you want to defrost your Thanksgiving turkey with plenty of time to ensure that when you start the cooking on Thursday, everything will be ready to go. But a question I’ve heard repeatedly is: how early is too early? Will my turkey spoil in the refrigerator?
The simple and reassuring answer is you probably don’t need to worry about it. As long as your refrigerator is able to hold a temperature below 40 degrees, everything will be fine. The standard reference document for cold storage by Bruce Tomkin, PhD shows the following relationship between storage temperature and days before bacteria counts begin to proliferate:
|Meat||Temperature (F)||Days to Spoilage|
This data set doesn’t include turkey, but if it works for chicken it will apply for all poultry.
At a temperature below 40 degrees you will have a comfortable week of refrigerated storage with no risk of spoilage. So if you want to get a jump on defrosting your turkey starting the Saturday before Thanksgiving, you have nothing to worry about.
For further reading about our Certified Organic, pasture raised turkeys, here are some other posts that might be of interest:
Cooking a turkey is not a scary thing. It’s just like cooking a chicken, except a big chicken.
Hi I’m Dave from Wrong Direction Farm. Today I’m with my mom and we’re going to discuss how we cook a turkey. Mom’s been cooking turkeys for quite a while and, yeah, she knows a thing or two about them. So I wanted to just get your process and hear how you would cook a turkey.
Tell us about yourself.
Well I am Nancy and I am Dave’s mother. I’ve been cooking turkeys for as long as he’s been alive, so it’s been a while. So we enjoy cooking turkeys because they’re a nice easy meal to make.
Today we took the turkey and you did all your prep work to it. Can you describe your process for prepping the turkey? After it’s defrosted where do you go from there?
Well once it’s defrosted and you put it in the sink, you take it out of the bag and you rinse it out with cool water. And you take it out of the sink and you put it in a roasting pan. I have a big old roasting pan that used to belong to my grandmother and it’s still in good shape so we use it.
In the cavity I put some fresh celery, fresh parsley, fresh rosemary. I chopped up an apple, chopped up a half an onion, a couple pieces of garlic, and put that all in the cavity. And that’s just for flavor, it helps to flavor the turkey, helps to flavor the drippings. And then on the outside I take a garlic and I cut it in half. And I took a knife and I put two slits in the breast side, one on each side of the turkey. And I put the garlic all the way into that so it’s down below the surface of the skin. Then I poured some red wine vinegar on it and some olive oil. You could also use butter. After I put the olive oil on it I put salt and pepper and Italian seasoning. And there’s no measuring – you just pour it on, what looks good. So it’s really to your taste. Then I put a little bit of water in the pan just to kind of make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
Alright, so just a little splash of water at the bottom?
Yeah, just…, it helps it just helps keep it extra moist in there.
Then I put it in the oven at 550 for about 15-20 minutes until it’s nicely browned. You’ve got to keep an eye on it because every oven is different.
So some ovens 15 minutes should be enough. But when it’s brown, crispy brown on it, but not burnt you want to put a lid on it. Now if you’re using an aluminum pan you’re going to have to put a enclosure of aluminum foil over that. So you want to do that, measure that out before you put it in the oven so that you have enough enough oil to cover foil to cover it.
You want to cover it and you want to crimp the edges with that too. And I put it back in the oven and turn it down to 350. And then I cook it for about two to three hours at 350. Start looking at it when your nose tells you that the turkey smells good. You can check it with the instant read thermometer. Another way to tell if a turkey is done – if you’ll see the skin around the, where the leg comes into the the thigh, comes into the …
Right, so the thigh joint starts to loosen up and as you pry it.
Yeah you see the skin will break and you’ll be able to see that it’s done. They’re all ways to tell if you don’t have a thermometer.
Right, the food safety guidelines would say you need to cook it at least to 160 degrees. Do you have a temperature preference besides that general guidance?
No, I always go on the low end because the turkey will continue to cook after it’s out of the oven right because you let it sit for about 10 minutes before you cut it. Cut it up like you do a chicken except there’s a lot more to it.
Well I’m looking forward to seeing how this turkey comes out.
Oh, me too. Yeah, and eating it. I’m looking forward to dinner tonight.
Well thanks, thank you mom. And thanks for watching. That’s our tutorial, that’s our introduction on roasting a turkey. That’s how we do it. I’d like to hear from you if you have any other comments or suggestions. Thanks.
Alright, bye-bye. Thanks for watching.
My mom has been roasting a turkey for Thanksgiving almost every year, starting that tradition about the time I was born. And many years she cooks an extra turkey or two for other occasions. I thought, with her decades of experience, it might be a good thing to shoot some video with Mom in her kitchen, and to discuss her turkey roasting techniques. So a few weeks ago I traveled to NJ to spend a day at my parents’ house, bringing along one of our Certified Organic, pasture raised turkeys and a camera and tripod.
I get the impression from conversations with customers that some folks are intimidated by roasting a turkey. What I’d like to convey here is that roasting a turkey doesn’t need to be difficult or frightening. There are many ways to go about it, each with slightly different results, so this is not prescriptive.
Mom’s technique is traditional, using a roasting pan, rapidly browning the turkey first, followed by an extended bake at lower temperature. Some people brine the turkey; she doesn’t. Spatchcocking the turkey can be a great alternative route. Or roasting the turkey upside down. Or using a cooking rack instead of a roasting pan. Or forgoing the oven altogether and deep frying the turkey. Or smoking the turkey.
There are many methods to cook a turkey; this is just one. In the internet ecosystem, everyone shamelessly labels recipes “the best way to cook XYZ” to get clicks. This, however, is not presented with the hyperbole of being the absolute best way to cook a turkey. This is something that works reliably. Good food without pretense.
Why Pasture Raised Turkeys Cook Better
While a lot of recipes are developed to avoid overcooking turkey into desiccated powder, this is not as much of a concern with pasture raised turkey. Of course, if you cook your turkey breast to 210 degrees, it will dry out, but there isn’t as much to worry about compared to a conventional barn raised or so-called “free range” turkey.
One important thing about our pasture raised turkeys is that their muscles contain more collagen than conventional turkeys. Our turkeys walk around the farm all day, grazing, hunting for bugs, just being turkeys. We place their roosts up above the ground so they exercise their breast muscles by flying, even as they reach large sizes. Because our turkeys are athletic, their muscle cells are jacketed in collagen. As you heat it, the collagen renders out and bastes the meat, preventing it from drying out as quickly as a conventional turkey would. So some of the concern over cooking technique is made less important just by choosing a better turkey.
Keeping It Simple
One of the things I appreciate most about Mom’s approach to turkey is that she strips out unnecessary complications. Big holiday gatherings can be challenging to pull off on their own, even before considering the added work of food preparation.
One thing Mom wisely avoids is cooking the bird with stuffing. Stuffing is prepared separately. This allows the turkey to roast more evenly, with less concern about achieving proper temperatures.
Another step to avoid is trying to make a gravy at the last minute. Mom just serves pan drippings as gravy. If you prefer a more traditional thickened gravy, you can prepare it ahead of time using turkey or chicken broth. If your goal is to bring a bunch of hot food to the table at once, it is far easier to do that if you aren’t distractedly stirring a gravy reduction simultaneously.
A happy, unstressed cook will make a better contribution to your feast than a frazzled cook striving for meal perfection.
However you prepare your turkey, or even if you skip the turkey, I wish everyone a great Thanksgiving this year. I hope you enjoy pleasant eating, but I especially hope you can find ways to strengthen your connections to the family and friends with whom you share your holiday meals.
Chef Katy Sparks crafted a cozy meal of chicken thighs using garden herbs, leeks, and a bottle of dry cider. This takes simple, local ingredients and arranges them into a fine meal. I love that this recipe is so approachable and simple. No hard-to-find ingredients or complicated techniques are required.
Hard Cider and Leek Braised Chicken
- 4-6 large, bone-in pastured chicken thighs
- 2 T olive oil, butter or bacon fat from pastured pork
- 1 cup thinly sliced leeks
- 2 cloves garlic
- 6 oz hard cider I used JMash Farmhouse Hazy from Hilltop Orchards in Canaan, NY.
- 1 tsp freshly ground coriander seed
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp minced rosemary
- 1 tsp minced thyme
Originally published at Rural Intelligence.
Photo Credit: Katy Sparks
Chef Katy Sparks does it again with another seasonally on-point recipe. This time she used Wrong Direction Farm grass fed ground beef to make a wonderful beef chili mole. Ground beef slow cooked with chocolate, poblano chilis, and ground pumpkin seeds, what’s not to love?
Grass Fed Beef and Bean Chili Mole
- 1 T olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 poblano chili, seeded and minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb grass fed and finished ground beef
- salt and pepper
- 2 T ground dired red chili powder Try to find dried ancho chili powder, the fresher the better.
- 1 T freshly ground cumin pseed
- 1 tsp ground coriander seed
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 T unsweetened cocoa powder I use Guittard's Cocoa Rouge Powder
- 2 T tomato paste
- 2/3 cup finely ground raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds You can substitute raw unsalted almond butter
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2 cups crushed canned tomatoes
- 2 cups beef broth or vegetable broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cups cooked white beans
- 1 cup cooked red kidney beans
Originally published at Rural Intelligence.
Photo Credit: Katy Sparks
I wanted to pass along an article I wrote for Cornell’s Small Farms Quarterly about Wrong Direction Farm’s pasture raised turkeys. My plan is to develop a short series on various aspects of pasture raised turkeys in the upcoming editions. I’ll cover topics like caring for young turkeys during the brooder phase, considerations for turkeys on pasture, and thoughts on marketing opportunities. Here’s the link to the first article:
This article is more farmer-oriented than what I normally include here on the farm website. But I thought it might be interesting for our customers to read something from a different perspective.
Along with the article, our turkeys featured on the cover photo. This tom turkey seemed pleased with himself. I like that the photo captured the turkey with a blade of grass in its beak. I like to emphasize that our pasture-raised turkeys are always on the move to fresh green grass, so this helps to tell that story in pictures.
When I wrote the blog post about how our cattle use their noses as a grass guidance system, there was one detail I overlooked: cow nose maintenance. Even if you’ve got a precision instrument, there’s always some maintenance required.
Here are a series of pictures that show the nose maintenance procedure. These three stooges have just stopped over at the salt lick to recharge their electrolytes, and now they’re about to go back to grazing. Before they hit the grass again, here’s what they do:
If you have a pet dog, you’ve probably noticed that it will lick its nose often throughout the day. Cattle have noses every bit as sensitive (if not more sensitive) as dogs, and they also need to keep their noses moist. Wet scent glands are more receptive to odors than dry skin. So they use their tongues to clear out their nostrils and to wipe off the outer nose. This refreshes their olfaction system for finding grass, scenting predators, and when the time is right, determining who in the herd is in heat. The heat detection function is worth its own write-up because the cattle make a curious face when they’re smelling for estrus, so I’ll wait until I get some good pictures of that and cover it some day as a separate topic.
For all the snuffling cattle do while grazing in tall grass, I wonder how much grass seed and dandelion fluff must end up in their noses. It makes sense that they need to take a moment and unclog the pipes before grazing along again.