This story is sponsored by Ferndale Market.
On Thanksgiving Day, a golden brown turkey takes the spotlight, but it often causes a variety of worries for the cook. Dry breast meat, bland flavor, stringy dark meat, undercooking, overcooking, thawing, brining, basting — so many variables seem to stand between you and a delicious holiday bird.
One element that cooks often fail to consider is the quality of the turkey, itself. It is worth thinking about the raising and processing of your bird when searching for a moist, flavorful turkey for Thanksgiving.
With an estimated 45 million+ turkeys being roasted, smoked, and deep fried each Thanksgiving, large turkey providers stockpile frozen turkeys throughout the year, from hundreds of different farms, to ensure they can meet holiday demands. If you are getting your turkey from the typical grocery store, that bird has likely been in a freezer for many months. You may find it be impossible to learn the conditions under which the turkey was raised or whether the packaged bird contains additives.
For a turkey free of additives, that was raised free-range and without the use of antibiotics, you need only look as far as Ferndale Market in Cannon Falls, Minn. John Peterson, a third generation turkey farmer and owner of Ferndale Market, believes you can taste the difference in a bird that is raised outdoors and without additives.
“Our farm was started in 1939 by my grandfather, and he really believed that the best contribution he could make to the world was to grow happy, healthy turkeys to feed the average American family with affordable food. We still stand by that legacy today,” says Peterson. “We are doing things very much the way he did 75+ years ago.”
These enduring farming practices mean that the Petersons are raising their turkeys without antibiotics and moving them to fresh pasture all summer long. These birds are getting fresh air and exercise, making a difference you can notice in the meat.
“Chefs tell us all the time that the color is so rich, particularly the dark meat, because those birds are getting such muscle movement,” Peterson explains. Because Ferndale Market does not use growth-promoting antibiotics in its turkeys, the birds take 4-6 months to reach maturity. Ferndale feels that natural growth is better for the turkey and better for the consumer.
Without the immense freezer storage utilized by large-scale turkey producers, Ferndale Market grows the flock destined to be their frozen Thanksgiving turkeys right before the holiday. This means they must carefully estimate how many turkeys they will sell each year. As Peterson says, by September, “we can’t add any more turkeys because the birds are already running around on our farm.”
Ferndale Market also offers fresh turkeys for Thanksgiving. These turkeys have never been frozen. “Fresh turkeys are a unique thing,” Peterson explains. Not only do fresh turkeys eliminate the need for thawing, they also cook faster, and according to some customers, taste even better.
Fresh and frozen Ferndale Market turkeys are available at the on-farm store in Cannon Falls and at retailers across the Midwest. “We are incredibly unique in that the turkeys we grow are destined for consumers who have a chance to know us, our practices, and hopefully see how we do things here and value the way that we continue to grow our turkeys differently,” says Peterson.
To see where you can find a Ferndale Market turkey near you, visit www.FerndaleMarket.com or call 507.263.4556.
A great time to visit the farm and pickup your Thanksgiving turkey is Nov. 19 and 20 during Ferndale’s TurkeyFest event. Enjoy delicious samples from local food makers, find all the fixings for your holiday meal, and enjoy live music. Make sure to sign up for Chef Donald Selmer’s renowned Turkey Roasting 101 class from 9-10 a.m. on November 19! He will show you how to make a deliciously moist, herb-roasted turkey and homemade gravy. He will answer all the questions you have about brining, prepping, roasting, and carving. Reserve your seat for this class by calling 507.263.4556. TurkeyFest is a great way to get into the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday and learn more about your holiday turkey!