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Thanks!! and another question... LIVE TURKEYS!?!?!? in Turkmenistan - seriously.

  • w

First off, thanks fellow 'hounds on the good sauce ideas for the beef tenderloin. I ended up preparing 3 whole beef tenderloins and 6 racks of lamb for our guests as the meat course (salmon as fish course)... used the cognac sauce that was recommended, with a few adjustments, and it turned out GREAT. Also doctored up a raspberry, black currant, port wine reduction sauce for the lamb which was quite good.

So here's another challenge.

I have a cousin in the Peace Corps. She is in the country of Turkmenistan, which is bordered by Iran, Afghanistan and the Caspian Sea... an old Soviet republic. I just recieved an email from her that her and a group of her fellow Peace Corps volunteers have gotten a couple of live turkeys that they plan on slaughtering and cooking in a few days on or around Christmas.

Here's the problem... none of them has any idea of how to get from live turkey to roast turkey. It sounds like one or more of the host families may have some experience in slaughtering the birds, but that is far from certain. Also, since in Orange County, California, turkeys come in boxes or bags, and we don't have to get quite that close to our ingredient, I have no idea what to tell her... other than to brine the bird.

So.... Any help you fellow 'hounds could give in providing advice to my young cousin and her hardworking fellow Peace Corps volunteers in creating an "American style" holiday turkey dinner to ease their homesick hearts would be GREATLY APPRECIATED.

Thanks in advance for your help.

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  1. Invite a local family to share the meal. I am certain that people from the FSU have probably dressed a few chickens over the years. Generally, birds have similar anatomies.

    1. I have cleaned pheasants, quail, chukars, doves, ducks, geese, and chickens but not a turkey. But, I will try to explain.

      I am going to guess, a turkey will act the same as a chicken.

      Since you have more than one, (or rather they have more than one) set up a processing area. For one, you wouldn't need as much overhead.

      Big sturdy table, big pot of hot water (for plucking, not necessary, but some find it easier to pluck a dipped bird), run a "clothes line", put up a plastic shield if available/needed. Please note: I dry pluck.

      Dispatch the bird, I would use a machetti and cut off its head, (easier to use than an axe) then I would immediately hang the bird, from its feet from the clothes line. They will have to make two nooses per bird on the clothes line, I would use two because of the weight of the bird and the potentionally violent flapping of the wings, running of the legs. Let the bird do its thing while hung from the line. If your friends want some extra work, just cut off the head and toss the turkey. A chicken will run around, crashing into things for a couple of minutes after loosing its head, I expect a turkey to do the same. Wild birds will also move after getting their neck broken. The plastic shield will prevent the blood from being splattered. The plastic shield is a long sheet of plastic, set up so the people are on one side of the plastic and the birds on the other. A pheasant/duck/goose will try to "fly" after being dispatched. Since turkeys and chicken don't fly as much as pheasant/ducks/geese, I expect them to "run" after being dispatched. And my experience with chickens is they will run. Please be humane, don't let one bird watch another bird die. Kill them both quickly.

      Now, they have two head less turkeys hanging from a clothes line. Dip each bird into hot water and start plucking. Plucking is pulling the feathers out by hand. Some will use the feathers, I have friends who want my duck/pheasant feathers. If the feathers will not be used, then discard. Expect 15-30 minutes per bird (plucking time), based on ~3-5 minutes to pluck a duck. Pliers, tweezers will help with pin feathers, difficult feathers. Some will burn/singe remaining feathers.

      Make a cut close to the anus, I make a slit from the end of the breastbone to close to the anus, put a finger inside, get the intestine, follow the intestine to the anus, cut a circle around the anus, leaving the anus attached to the intestine. Careful, you don't want to cut open the "guts", you don't want turkey poop to come in contact with flesh. The area you remove the guts from, is the area used for stuffing. Then, I make a cut around its throat,the throat cut is for the esopagus, if done correctly, the entire gut package will come out. Find the giblets, heart, liver save if desired. Decide how much neck they want before cutting of the head, and decide if the desired neck will stay on the turkey or with the head. There will be some tugging when removing the gut package.

      I don't use water, but paper towels to clean out the bird. Often, when hunting, there is not potable water, so I don't use "pond" water to rinse my birds, but I don't want the blood to stay inside the bird, blood spoils quicker than flesh. If fresh water is available, then rinse as desired, but I have found, rinsing is not necessary.

      Regarding brining. Years ago, many cooks "bad mouthed" saline injected turkeys. Brining is the same thing.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Alan408

        this qualifies as the most interesting thing that I will read today. Thanks.

        1. re: Tamar G

          I just changed plans from Turkey to Prime Rib for the holiday. Please....... no post about slaughtering cattle. ;o)

        2. re: Alan408

          Alan... You're DA MAN. Great info! I just sent this link to my cousin. Thanks so much for the help... and if any other 'hounds have any suggestions, please let me know. There are a group of homesick Peace Corps volunteers that really appreciate the help, and are looking forward to eating meat that isn't goat... :)

          Can you tell I'm super proud of my young cousin? :).

          By the way, Alan, you don't happen to live in/near Jackson do you? I used to work with a fellow who was an avid hunter and lived there... his name is Alan... just checking if you might be that guy...

          1. re: woo!

            I am in Silicon Valley (Sunnyvale).

            I have two friends who joined the Peace Corp. One went to Africa, I sent a lot of packaged food with him. When he returned, he said they ate all of it, but not at once. He liked the pizza in the box best, with hamburger helper second. The other went to the Dominican Republic, he did not have the food source problems Tony had.

          2. re: Alan408
            r
            Reared on Home Cookin

            Regarding brining, read what Cooks Illustrated says about it: they tested many many preparation methods, and the test was all about what did the people who ate it think of it in comparison. Brining won. I'm not defending it, I've never tried it. I'm defending science and knowledge over mythology.

            1. re: Reared on Home Cookin
              e
              Eldon Kreider

              Cook's Illustrated taste panels seem to prefer salty food and familiar foods. I regard their results with considerable suspicion. As with frequent CH posters, one can see their biases and react accordingly.

          3. we just home-slaughtered a chicken over thanksgiving weekend and, while smaller, our experience followed Alan's advice pretty closely.

            Some differences/other suggestions:

            --We kept our plucking water hot on a campstove. You'll need a BIG pot for turkeys, so maybe keeping a pot of water hot on an outdoor stove to reheat the bigger bucket woiuld be a good idea. Keep the water at about 150-180, not boiliing, but better too hot than too cool. I don't have any experience dry plucking so I can't compare, but plucking the scalded bird was very quick and easy.

            --Good tip for the beheading part: You'll need a chopping block or large, heavy cutting board. Drive two nails into the block, far enough apart to fit the bird's neck, but too small for it to slide its head through. Then, when the moment comes, lay the bird down on the board, fitting its head above the nails and having your partner hold the bird down by its feet and wings. The bird-holding person should pull on the bird gently, to keep its head in place. This makes the operation extremely easy and precise, even for a first-timer.

            --We have a tiny urban backyard, so rather than let the headless bird run around, we simply held it down into a bucket to bleed out. I chopped off the head with a small hatchet, and my wife immediately lifted the body (by the feet) and held it down into a bucket while it flapped for a few minutes.

            1. we just home-slaughtered a chicken over thanksgiving weekend and, while smaller, our experience followed Alan's advice pretty closely.

              Some differences/other suggestions:

              --We kept our plucking water hot on a campstove. You'll need a BIG pot for turkeys, so maybe keeping a pot of water hot on an outdoor stove to reheat the bigger bucket woiuld be a good idea. Keep the water at about 150-180, not boiliing, but better too hot than too cool. I don't have any experience dry plucking so I can't compare, but plucking the scalded bird was very quick and easy.

              --Good tip for the beheading part: You'll need a chopping block or large, heavy cutting board. Drive two nails into the block, far enough apart to fit the bird's neck, but too small for it to slide its head through. Then, when the moment comes, lay the bird down on the board, fitting its head above the nails and having your partner hold the bird down by its feet and wings. The bird-holding person should pull on the bird gently, to keep its head in place. This makes the operation extremely easy and precise, even for a first-timer.

              --We have a tiny urban backyard, so rather than let the headless bird run around, we simply held it down into a bucket to bleed out. I chopped off the head with a small hatchet, and my wife immediately lifted the body (by the feet) and held it down into a bucket while it flapped for a few minutes.