Friday, December 3, 2010

Ground Turkey: Kids, don't try this at home!

I woke up at 6:30am today with high hopes of getting a few things done and off of my mind. 

Thursdays are my favorite day of the week.  I love Thursdays because they are the next best thing to Fridays.  And don't we all know it--Friday is here and gone swiftly and Monday is back in your face again.  So I guess it is the anticipation of Friday that makes Thursday my favorite day.  But I am getting off track...

And much like this post, today was a day that got off track!

First thing this morning, while the wee one was still in bed, I decided I would sit down and finish all of my Christmas shopping online.  Normally, I save a lot of time and aggravation by shopping online because I am not a shopper at heart and I don't enjoy the hunt and I have no desire to step out of my house on Black Friday and brave the malls or the traffic--not for any kind of deal.

I've been so busy this week processing venison and trying to put my house back together after my husband's two-week hunting vacation.  A lot of things have gone by the wayside and I missed Cyber Monday.  I figured if I was going to have time for things to be shipped, I had better get 'er done.  I didn't have much on my list, but somehow I still spent a large part of my morning doing that.

By the way, I found a really nice deal on a Cabela's work jacket to wear when I go out to do my chores in the cold.  Part of what took up most of my morning was trying to get my husband's feedback on whether he would rather have his in cotton duck or canvas (like a Carhartt jacket).

Lunch and a few chores later, I decided it was time to get on with dinner.

I bought a 22-pound turkey on sale at Krogers the week before Thanksgiving.  It was a pretty good deal at 49 cents a pound and since it was limit one, I bought the biggest turkey I could find.

This turkey was supposed to be for Thanksgiving dinner with my husband's family.  My mother-in-law was supposed to work on Thanksgiving, so we were going to get together the day before on Wednesday.  I thought I would try to help out by cooking the turkey, but her schedule got changed around last minute and she did get Thursday off.

Well, the only problem was I had to be at my sister's for Thanksgiving at 2pm and wouldn't be able to stay home and babysit a big turkey.  They require much basting and close observation and I vividly remember one of my Mom's turkeys catching on fire when we were kids.  All of us kids had to run out of the house into the cold until they could get the thing under control, so I wasn't about to leave the turkey home by himself to cook.

So why didn't I take my turkey down to my mother-in-law's and let her roast him, you ask?  I did think of that, but her primary oven wasn't working.  All she could accommodate was a little turkey breast using the mini-oven over in the apartment where my husband and I used to live as newlyweds.

Giant 22-pound turkey was already unthawed so he had to be dealt with.  My husband wanted to know why wouldn't I just put him back in the freezer, but every good housewife knows that you'll ruin your meat by double freezing it!

I don't know about you, but for a family of three (one of which happens to be a picky three-year-old), 21 pounds of leftover turkey is a lot of turkey.  So this is where the catastrophe comes in.  Rather than cook the whole bird and suffer the leftovers, I got the bright idea to bone out the legs, thighs and wings to make my own ground turkey from it.

This is a cautionary tale about the horrors of beastly turkeys.  Believe me when I tell you it was the most disgusting thing I've ever touched.  I naively assumed that all poultry was created equal.  I was not prepared for the greasy, slimy mess that I unleashed when I cut into this turkey.

A few weeks ago we butchered another batch of chickens.  A couple of days ago I butchered two deer and even fleshed a doe hide for tanning.  I did not expect this store-bought turkey to make me feel so icky and squeamish.

He was so heavy and slippery that I could hardly keep ahold of him, but I did finally get the appendages removed and put the breast part into the oven to begin cooking.  I stopped short of removing the backbone because I didn't want to mess with it anymore so my turkey sat up on the roasting tray looking much like a big, melted blob and nothing like the store-bought turkey breasts I've prepared in the past.  (And before you get to poking fun at me, I'll have you know I have cooked a turkey before--and several!)

I set to work taking the remaining dark meat off of the bones.  This quickly got to be exhausting.  I could hardly keep ahold of the slippery legs and wings because of all the weird fat on the bird.  It took forever and I had to try to remove most of the muscle casings and tendon fibers because I knew they would clog up the grinder (a Kitchen Aid with grinder attachment).

After an hour or so I started to worry that the meat was getting too warm.  For fear that I would give my loved ones food poisoning, I opened my kitchen window to the 35-degree December day.  This made my hands cold, which made them even more clumsy along with the turkey grease, so I poked and cut myself a couple of times with the knife.  Not enough to really bleed--just enough to make me angry, so I lit into the turkey with a vengence, determined to get it done. 

With bits of greasy turkey slung all over my shirt, my counters and the wall above my sink, I paused to wonder what kind of gruesome and indiscriminate mechanical process it must take to render the ground turkey that you buy at the store.  I know they wouldn't take the time to cut out the fat and gristle like I do (because I must).  I've eaten a lot of turkey burgers over the past several years and enjoyed them.  Although they are widely regarded as a health food, I am not so sure about that now.  Sorry Jennie-O, I will never look at turkey burgers the same again.

I gave up on the neck meat, the mid-wing and tips.  I decided those would not be wasted if I cooked them up and gave them to the chickens.  I did make stock from them.  By now, my 49-cents per pound mega-turkey was becoming much more expensive by the minute as my precious time and labor increased its value.

I had been so involved in my greasy turkey massacre that I took little note of my daughter playing behind me so quietly.  She asked me for an "orangin" and when I turned around to tell her my hands were too greasy to peel one for her at the moment I couldn't believe the destruction she had wrought and quietly too.

This is just what she did to the kitchen...

I don't know what she did to the dog water to make it green, but they drank it anyway.

Grinding the meat was the easy part.  I ended up with 5 pounds of ground turkey that I mixed with finely crushed Pepperidge Farm herb-seasoned stuffing, salt, pepper and dried onion to make twenty turkey burger patties.  I've lost my appetite for turkey for the time being, but I'm sure that a couple of months from now when I'm over it, they'll taste really good.

Lesson learned; I will never cut up a turkey again as long as I live.

I got nothing else on my list accomplished today.  By the time we had dinner, I was just too tired to go on.

Stick a fork in me--I'm done!!


  1. I remember that flaming turkey from your youth! The liquid in the pan had accumulated to an overflow level....When I pulled on the roaster to slide it out so that I could reach safely in and baste the bird, the liquid splashed out into the flames of the gas oven! Whoosh! To quote lines from The Santa Clause (movie): "Those flames were really high, Dad!...Turkey is funny that way!"

    Reading your blog today has made me feel really queasy! Tofu turkey is sounding better and better........!


  2. What a lot of work! I bet it'll taste amazing though.

    Just linked here from SS.

  3. Whew... I am weary just reading about it. And your little one reminds me so much of my little one! Always creating and making things up!