Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Great White Turkey harvest (warning somewhat graphic)

The great white hoovers are gone. I had been procrastinating doing the deed (it's not my favorite thing to do), but when I realized that I was just not doing it, I called my friend Sue, and made an appointment for her to come help. She had offered, and I was just being a wimp and putting it off.

So Friday, in the midst of a cold, very windy day, I found a semi-sheltered spot for us, and when Sue arrived, we chatted a bit, and got to work. I had set up the slaughtering spot in the lee of my shed, using the dog kennel gate frame to hang them from. A trashcan with bag and old ashes (to absorb the blood), was placed under the hanging area.

We started with the hen. I carried her up, and while she seemed big, she wasn't huge. I had cut a corner off of a feed sack and put her in that with her head sticking out. Her legs were then tied together, and we hung her up. The feed sack helps keep the flailing to a minimum. I held her head down so that she drained appropriately, and then we cut her down.

Since it was not my intention to pluck them (they are destined for sausage and ground meat), I was going to use my tried and true chicken method - cut them down the backbone with ratcheting pruners, scoop out the guts, and then skin them. Unfortunately, I couldn't even find the backbone through the feathers and fat, so had to partially skin her first, and then the pruners weren't up to the job on an 8 month old, double-breasted bird. What to do...

My face lit up, and I told Sue, "I have a battery-operated sawz-all!" She looked at me like I was nuts, but I gathered up the battery and attached it to the saw, and buzzinga - the backbone was toast. More power, arr, arr, arr!

We proceeded to remove all the parts I wasn't saving, and finished skinning her out, removing the wing tips and feet, and placed her in a clean, cattle protein tub full of cold water. The heart and liver were cleaned (bile sac removed, and heart chambers cleared of blood), put in a baggie, which joined the carcass in the tub.

Did I mention that it was cold? It was about 27, but with the wind, even out of it, it felt about 15. I had popsicle toes! 

We decided to get the tom and dispatch him and leave him to hang before we went inside for a break (and lunch). Neither of us wanted to carry him - he was huge... So we walked him up to the gallows, stopping to let him catch his breath, and since he wouldn't fit in a feed sack, tried to truss him up to minimize the flapping. It took both of us to heave him into place, so I could cut his throat. 

Unfortunately, my trussing job didn't work, and I was soundly beat around the head and shoulders for my efforts. The noise and movement even had Tang running around!

After a nice couple of cups of tea and left-over frittata, we went back to work. Somehow, it took less time with him - partially because both of us worked on skinning him, and partially because I used the saw more to disjoint the pieces that were being discarded. His neck was 3" around at the base... I used the saw. 

The reason he kept having to stop to breathe? He had 1" of sub-q fat. What a surprise! His liver was not the nice, deep red one associates with a healthy liver, having a brown cast, with some seemingly solid areas, so it was discarded (there was no evidence of any other abnormalities) and off he went to join the hen in the tub.

During this entire operation, there was much gallows humor, with the most memorable (at least to me) being, "Don't mess with farm girls - we know how to take you apart!" Lyra was very happy to try to clean up the red-snow popsicles - to the point of being annoying all evening, wanting to go out to sample... 

Yesterday afternoon, I went to get them out of the tub to begin the boning process, and, wonder of wonders in 27 degree weather, they were stuck to the sides! I brought the tub (sans water) into the house so that I could thaw it a bit, and begin.

It took 2 hours to get all the meat off of them. I weighed the carcasses before I began and the hen weighed around 21 lbs; the tom was about 38. My scale sucks, and since they were skinned, there was some additional weight loss there, too. After the first drumstick, I decided not to bone out the legs - saving them to cook later.

I ended up with a total of 37.736 lbs. of meat, of which 5.706 lbs. was the legs, leaving 32.03 lbs. of boneless turkey.

My chest freezer is now back to full status...

I roasted the bones last night, and this morning pulled them apart to become stock. In the bottom of a 16 qt. stock pot, I sautéd 1 onion, 8 +/- cloves of roasted garlic, a shake of celery seed and about 2 t. of poultry seasoning in 2 T. of butter. When it was beginning to develop a fond (the brown goodness on the bottom of the pan), I added in the bones, 8 chopped carrots and enough water to cover. I returned the roasting pan to the oven for about 35 minutes to develop the drippings, from which I'll either make gravy, or add it to the stock for flavor. The Tom's keel (breastbone) wouldn't fit, so it's in the freezer for the future.

The stock is now bubbling merrily away on the stove, where it will remain for most of the day. The weather is warmer today, with the temps predicted to reach 40, so tonight, I'll pack the stock pot in snow when the temps drop below freezing to quick cool it.

I have canned stock in the past - with 2 freezers, I'm freezing it in quart freezer bags, with 5-6 cups in each. 

I'm now on the hunt for some good sausage recipes, and Sue has agreed to smoke some in exchange for some of the finished product. She's so interested that she's providing me with links (no pun intended) to recipes online!.

Lest you think this was a light-hearted lark, I do slaughter my animals with a great deal of respect and thankfulness for their sacrifice. Prayers are said. I remember them every time I partake of their bodies. I laugh at the memories of their silly antics (with turkeys, there are many). While there will be more turkeys in my future, these two will have a special place in my memories...

1 comment:

Theresa said...

Well, sounds like a job well done! Kudos and lucky you to have such a good full freezer. All of our animals for consumption should be so reverently handled.