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Turkeys, again

After reading ALL the recent threads on Thanksgiving turkeys I STILL cannot decide what kind of turkey to buy. Here's my concerns:

Diestel: I had one last year. I've more recently bought Diestel turkey parts. I just don't like them. They're not all that tasty or tender, IMO. Maybe the ones I had were frozen? Do they come fresh?

Willie Bird: I was thinking of these, but people have reported that they have very large breasts (what do they do? give them silicone implants?) and very small rib cages. Since dark meat and stuffing are my favorites parts of the meal, Willie Bird might not make sense.

Aaron's: (the one Cook's Illustrated liked best). While I generally trust CI, I don't know. My experience is that unless you brine the bird it's never moist enough and it cooks unevenly. You can't brine a kosher bird since they're so salty to begin with. Too salty, in my experience.

Fulton Valley Farms: I love their chickens, but I've yet to see their turkeys sold anywhere near where I live (on the Peninsula) and their website is uninformative. Any leads? I'd be willing to try a FVF turkey this year.

At least one poster says that it doesn't matter which brand you buy as long as you get a turkey that's fresh, not frozen. Do other people concur? Does anyone have any ideas for where I could find a fresh, not too salty, not overdeveloped breast-wise bird with enough room for stuffing?

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  1. While I can't vouch for any of the other turkeys you mentioned, we get Fulton Valley Farms turkeys from Cal-Mart, our local grocer. I ordered mine a while ago and they will be ready for pick up on Sunday. You might want to give them a call to see if they have extras. I know that doesn't help you much on the Peninsula, but you never know, it might be worth the drive!

    Cal-Mart is located in Laurel Village, on California and Spruce, in San Francisco.

    1 Reply
    1. re: meggie t

      Canyon Market in Glen Park is probably closer for the peninsula.

    2. For years we have used Manor House turkeys from Safeway. Remember that "fresh" turkeys have usually been stored for months at the USDA permissible 25 degrees below, and may suffer some cell leakage if the temp rises. Also, the thawed "fresh" turkey may sit aound for days before being sold. There are many far wiser than I who feel that properly frozen fish and fowl are better than fresh. However, some feel that paying $95 (minimum) for a fresh Wiilie Bird makes the turkey taste better. And impresses your guests.

      8 Replies
      1. re: OldTimer

        In the interests of accuracy, the $95 for the Willie Bird turkeys on their site includes FedEx overnight shipping. If you buy it from a local retailer, you won't pay anywhere near that much.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Well, Cafe Rouge told me that they're selling them at $7 per pound, so for a 14 pound turkey, that would be more than buying direct from Willie Bird. There might be other places where you can get them for cheaper, but that price was a little much for me.

          1. re: JasmineG

            Andronico's has Willie Birds for $2.59/lb.

            1. re: Humbucker

              Wow, really? Cafe Rouge has a crazy markup, then!

              1. re: JasmineG

                I believe that Cafe Rouge is selling them brined.

              2. re: Humbucker

                Berkeley Bowl has the "free range" Willie Birds for $2.39/lb and the organic ones for $2.99/lb.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  That's the same price as at the Willie Bird retail store in Santa Rosa. On Sunday when I picked up my order, the largest size turkeys left were 18 pounds. All the bigger ones are gone or spoken for.

                  Talked to a couple friends over the weekend who are getting ready to pick up their heritage birds in Petaluma. They're about $7.50/lb. These were raised by Sonoma County 4Hers and FFA kids in conjunction with Slow Food Russian River. Jim Reichardt (Liberty Ducks) is taking care of the poultry processing. According to this article in the local paper, there were still some birds available at publication time.

                  John Reynold's column in the Sonoma Sun, 11/8/2007 -
                  http://www.sonomasun.com/pub/a/2063?f...

              3. re: JasmineG

                Cafe Rouge is selling Heritage Birds this year. They sold Willie Birds last year.

          2. What about Mary's? We're getting a heritage from her this year. Both her heritage and her organic free-range have been fabulous in the past. They're out of Fresno, family-run, and Mary answers the phone herself at her toll-free number. What more can you ask... You can order them at Baron's, the Berkeley Bowl, I think Andronico's, and more--check the informative website:

            www.marysturkeys.com

            1 Reply
            1. re: heidipie

              I love Mary's poultry! We buy skin-on boneless chicken breasts for a recipe, and Mary's flavor is way better than the ordinary free range skin-on boneless that Cal-Mart also offers. I haven't had Mary's turkeys, but might have to try that next year.

            2. I'm kinda in the same boat; I buy Diestel from Mission Market and I'm not overwhelmed by the flavor profile. I have always understood that turkeys naturally have little flavor and questionable tenderness and that's why they benefit from brining.

              Then there is the question of fresh or frozen..... The CI article recommends frozen because fresh tends to be a bit chewy, even with brining. Keep in mind too that all the tens of millions of turkeys eaten on Thursday aren't butchered on Wednesday! The USDA definition of frozen notwithstanding, most turkeys are kept pretty darned cold.

              So, I dunno, I'll probably just get another Diestel since it is a known quantity and work on an alternative for next time. My family doesn't seem to mind; it's my own obsession that's driving this.

              1 Reply
              1. re: JockY

                I strongly disagree that turkeys have little flavor, and I grew up on frozen Butterballs and have only had a brined turkey once. Fresh versus frozen should matter more in texture than flavor.

                I wouldn't worry about which one you buy too much though; the bigger pitfall is overcooking, not getting the wrong deluxe brand.

              2. Hmmm, more flavorful turkey, don't care for the oversized breast--sounds like you're a prime candidate for a heritage bird. Mary's should be the easiest to find.