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TURKEY in Toronto

So searched around and couldn't find a current turkey discussion, other than one asking for turkey suggestions in Waterloo.

So, where is everyone buying their turkey from this year? I usually buy a fresh one (usually a 20-22lb) from either Pusateri's or Nortown. But this year I'm open to other suggestions. I think I asked Cumbrae's last year but it was somewhere in the area of $120 or something crazy like that and although I might pay that much for that amount of good meat, there's just something that holds me back in paying that much for a turkey, I don't know.

Look forward to hearing everyone's suggestions on where to buy.

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  1. Try Fresh From the Farm, the turkeys are good.

    Location: 350 Donlands, just south of O'Connor.
    Schedule: Tuesday - Friday 11 - 8; Saturday 9 - 4.
    Phone: 416-422-FARM (3276)
    Website: www.freshfromthefarm.ca

    10 Replies
    1. re: foodyDudey

      Thanks. You've tried them, I take it? Good flavour? Just quickly checking on their site, the one thing I can say I'm not thrilled with is their statement of: 'We cannot guarantee exact sizes' - and then they give a range like 16-19lbs. I've never seen anyone say that before. Seems a little strange. Why can't they weigh the birds exactly?

      1. re: Restaurant Dish

        Yes I have bought these turkeys when I host Thanksgiving/Christmas/Easter and everyone always comments on how good they are. The reason they can't guarantee an exact size is probably that they don't get turkeys of an exact weight as ordered, and they don't usually order many more than the quantity that people order in advance. I think they must have to order turkeys in a certain weight range so if you ask for 14 lbs, that may get translated into "13 to 15 lbs".

        1. re: foodyDudey

          I always get my turkeys for the holidays from Fresh From the Farm also and they are always great, tasty, juicy birds.

          1. re: foodyDudey

            Fresh from the farm is a great place. Have always been happy with birds from there. Best to order in advance.

            1. re: Full tummy

              yeah, it may be too late to get a turkey. and they have the strange wknd hours.

              but I've ordered from Fresh From the Farm a few times. really nice turkeys, not injected with that basting crap that other big-name companies use, they are from Amish (i think) farms outside of Toronto and they are organic. and not insanely expensive.

              so its a win-win.

              1. re: atomeyes

                As of Wed. night they are still taking orders on the website.
                They are Mennonite. Few Amish are in Ontario.
                There is no mention of organic, or free outdoor ranges, or prices.
                I got the impression I would have to order online and be stuck with a price, "what the traffic will bear".

                1. re: jayt90

                  It's odd they don't have the price on the website. They have in the past. Unless it's changed drastically, they are not usually that expensive. I don't recall spending more than $30 on my "medium" size turkeys there in the past.

                  p.s. they are not organic, but I believe they are free range and at the very least raised by smaller, local farmers and are antibiotic free. Here's a bit about what is says on their website about their animals (turkeys are not listed, but I would imagine they are raised similarly to the chickens?: http://freshfromthefarm.ca/animalsrai...).

                  Honestly, the few times I've gotten one from them, they were very good turkeys.

                  1. re: jayt90

                    Best bet is to call them today, if you're still interested, and order by phone. I'm sure you could speak to someone who could answer your question with respect to free-range, etc. If you do call, perhaps you can post any info they gave you here.

                    1. re: Full tummy

                      According to the online order form on their website the turkey is $3.10 per pound and is sold out.

                      1. re: basileater

                        I called today and reserved a turkey to pick up tomorrow. They only had 18-22 lb. range turkeys though, which is bigger than I'd been hoping, but I'll just have to get creative with leftovers. And yes, she did say it was $3.10 per lb.

        2. The PC turkeys basted with real butter produce a good tasting bird quite reliably (assuming that you don't overcook). Available fresh, frozen, or frozen/thawed/. Very reasonable.

          I've found that the turkeys from genuinely conscientious purveyors are more likely to be dry, which is sad but, given the nature of a turkey, not surprising. Brining would help but, really, does a turkey provide $120 of eating satisfaction (as opposed to the tradition aspect)?

          The whole smoked turkeys that Nortown sells by advance order are great, but I've never found their fresh, raw turkeys to be anything special.

          The Empire kosher turkeys from the US are probably good if you can find one (try calling the Clark Av Sobey's). I don't know about the local Chai brand, but they would probably have the taste benefits of the kosher processing.

          6 Replies
          1. re: embee

            When you asked about whether a turkey could provide $120 worth of satisfaction, I was left with the clear image of the Mr. Bean Christmas episode, available all over the web. That's as far as I'm going down that road....

            I find the whole free range, six degrees of Kevin Bacon about how well the butchers knew their birds is getting silly. Read Proust, did yoga and voted green was the latest version I saw. If you dial back your expectations to simple free range from places that don't have adjective consultants you can get fairly decent birds. Sherwood Market is one such. I've had their birds and enjoyed them greatly. Follow the traditional lumibnaries such as Traill and Moody, use cheesecloth, baste with butter every 15 minutes, and use stuffing that doesn't suck all the moisture out of the bird. Beware how much bread you use. Ingredients that have moisture or will sweat (mushrooms, onions).

            1. re: Snarf

              I have been cooking my whole turkeys and chickens butterflied, with stuffing underneath. It is easier, much faster, more controllable, and produces an excellent result. Even better, do a riff on beer can chicken and put the bird on a rack over a beer-filled pan.

              I wonder whether a bird that did yoga would be especially tender (from relaxation), or especially tough (from those toned muscles)....

              1. re: embee

                I would imagine that stuffing in a butterflied bird gives you the same flexibilities with moisture that larding, basting, injecting, yoga and tai chi are helping the rest of us with. Do you choose your stuffings based on what part of the bird you are bolstering?

                Where in town have you tried your birds?

                As for the tenderness question, I haven't checked, I've yet to find a butcher with definitive and traceable yoga practices. Maybe that goes back to the old adage about the bird not being done until the legs and wings move freely. That seems to be true when looking at human yoga partners (though not in a food context).

                1. re: embee

                  I'm sure it depends on the practice. Your Hatha or Vinyasa poultry are probably lean, but tender, while Ashtanga birds aren't worth bothering with - might as well roast Madonna. The Bikram birds, though...those basically come already braised. ;)

              2. re: embee

                the pre-basted turkeys - never understood the reason why. i've never done that and, even for the first-ever turkey i made, my worry was undercooking, not overcooking. slow and steady and a good stuffing always lead to a moist bird.
                and i kind of feel ill thinking about all that butter injected...

                1. re: atomeyes

                  It depends on what they use for "pre-basting". In those PC birds, it's European style butter. It tastes good. (Some are injected with a "broth" substance; some with a chemical soup.)

                  Today's price at No Frills is $0.99/lb. Some, but not all, Loblaw stores are also selling them at that price.

                  I don't know why you would feel "ill". Actually, strips of beef suet under the skin make the turkey taste even better than butter.

                  I often brine a turkey, sometimes including Coke or Seven-Up and many spices in the brine. I do not stuff the bird. As noted, I usually butterfly it and put the stuffing underneath. If the weather cooperates, I'll use my gas grill and some gentle wood chips.

              3. I usually feed a mob but for max price/quality quotient, Costco's fresh birds aren't bad. Agree that "meat boutique" birds are staggeringly poor value.

                1. I just wanted to post that I was at Grilltime today, on Laird near Eglinton, and I saw that they are selling turkeys from Hayter's farm, for under $4.00/pound. Haven't had one, but might try it another time.

                  http://www.grilltime.ca/
                  http://www.hayterturkey.com/

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Full tummy

                    I read the website, and these are battery birds, restricted to a barn with a screened enclosure. The fresh Kirkland birds mentioned by Kagemusha are just over $2/lb

                    1. re: jayt90

                      Yes, I read that, but the area pictured in the photograph does not seem particularly confining. They do make some claims about caring for their turkeys, and being a small, family-run business, and the sign in Grill-time definitely said "free-run" or "free-range". I don't know anything about the Kirkland birds, do you?

                      1. re: Full tummy

                        No, I don't have any information on Kirkland, other than it is a very reliable house brand. They have recently dropped Maple Leaf and Lilydale (grainfed, no antibiotics) and replaced with Kirkland.

                        This morning on CBC 1, the Healthy Butcher, Mario, gave us his take on getting a good bird: He gets free range, naturally raised turkeys from Mennonite farms
                        There was no mention of organic, which would make the price of these birds even higher.
                        The turkeys are raised outdoors under a portable canopy enclosure, which can be moved every day.
                        Mario is less concerned with organic, and its regulations, than the use of antibiotics, which keep the animals alive when consuming un-natural feeds, such as feathers, or by products etc.

                        I have always been somewhat shocked at the sticker prices at Healthy Butcher, but there is some thought behind their provisions.And more information than you will get at the other places.

                        1. re: jayt90

                          I wonder how his Mennonite sources compare with Fresh from the Farm's Mennonite sources...

                          I have read that raising an organic turkey would make the cost prohibitive even for those of us used to paying a premium.

                          I agree with the Healthy Butcher philosophy and trust them more than other providers, but locations are challenging for me (I'm an east-ender), and, to a lesser extent, the price is as well, especially when I look at basic things like stewing meat, chicken legs, etc.

                          1. re: Full tummy

                            we've been getting our turkeys from healthy butcher for a few years now and they are delicious. they do look for producers of heritage breeds, because those birds are much tastier than the typical commercial turkey (i don't remember the name of the most common breed). their price has come down a bit this year, but it is still expensive - 4.39/lb i think. so a medium sized turkey will set you back around $60. we are having thanksgiving dinner for 16 people though, so we just look at it as $4 per person for meat, which then sounds not so bad:)

                  2. George's Butcher Shop aka "Meating on Queen" in Leslieville is taking orders, $3.29/lb, free range naturally raised yadda yadda from a farm near Kitchener. I've had his turkey before, a bone-in breast, and it was very good.

                    I need to buy some turkey stock just in case the drippings aren't what I want them to be for my gravy, anyone know of a good spot for that downtown?

                    1. Has anyone tried Reesor's in the York Farmer's Market at Yonge and Clarke? My friend is ordering one from there, but I haven't heard of it before.

                      1. I ordered ahead from Gasparro's on Bloor (two capons - don't like dealing with big turkeys for a large group). If you call and check, they may have lonely turkeys looking for their forever home. I've always been pleased with the quality of their chicken.

                        1. The Healthy Butcher 416-ORGANIC
                          Just called today and they had a few left so I grabbed mine ASAP!
                          $4.49/lb for a free-range, organic bird

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: suddenly susan

                            Apparently even "free range" chicken (in Canada) & turkey (in Ontario) are no longer options, unless they're imported. Check out Saturday's article "Turkey Wars" in The Star (link in my other post below).

                            1. re: ATPope

                              There IS another option: Purchasing turkeys directly from farmers who do not own "quota" and are not certified organic but who do raise their turkeys naturally, out of doors. I drove to Barrie a few days ago to purchase a turkey directly from the farmer who raised it in the environment every turkey should be entitled to be raised in.

                              1. re: Tatai

                                For over 25 years I've been buying fresh turkeys from a farm just outside Peterborough. They are raised in sheds, but I think under as pleasant circumstances as might be possible for such a critter. The turkeys are not certified organic, but they only raise a certain number of birds a year - for Thanksgiving and Christmas markets. Our Thanksgiving turkey - which we devoured last night - was over 26 lbs. and cost $58. Absolutely delicious. If anyone is interested, I can pass along contact information. But you'd have to be prepared to trek out to the farm to get your bird.

                                1. re: Nyleve

                                  Tatai and Nyleve, please do post info. Thanks.

                                  1. re: Full tummy

                                    Grayridge Farm - 705-295-6606. You can order now for Christmas, from what I understand. They only have so many birds and when they're taken, they're taken.

                              2. re: ATPope

                                AT Pope, the link disappeared, but the story is disturbing.

                                http://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/a...

                              1. re: Crispy skin

                                Not in Toronto but I've been getting Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys from Hilltop Acres for quite a few years. I haven't been disappointed to date with their turkeys. I make a day of picking the bird up, strolling around the St Jacobs Farmer's Market and hitting Picard's nuts.

                                http://hilltopacrespoultry.com/

                              2. Just wanted to report back I ended up purchasing from Nortown (York Mills location). Turkey was 23lbs and paid $66. Brined it overnight and it was delicious--moist, tender, and flavourful. I'm always worried that a bird that size will be tough but it wasn't. Interesting aside: Went to McEwan and saw the SAME EXACT bird ie. in same packaging from same supplier for a couple bucks more per lb.