By Vernon Summerlin
Turkey restoration has been incredible in my home state of Tennessee. I usually see two or three fields with birds numbering from just a few in the spring to more than a couple of hundred in winter, and I can frequently hear them from my back porch across the holler in the woods. I’ve seen them in my trees and walking in the yard.
With so many birds out there, I’m sure you or someone you know has had a few birds in their sights, hence, this month’s food feature – turkey.
The wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), native to North America, is the heaviest member of the galliformes (chicken, grouse, quails, and pheasants). There are about 256 species are worldwide.
Turkeys, especially males, are known for their long, dark, fan-shaped tail and glossy bronze wings. The male is substantially larger than the female, and his feathers have areas of red, green, copper, bronze, and gold iridescence. Female feathers are duller overall, in shades of brown and gray. Parasites can dull coloration of both sexes; in males, coloration may serve as a signal of health. The primary wing feathers have white bars.
Males typically have a beard consisting of modified feathers that stick out from the breast. Beards average nine inches long. In some populations, 10 to 20 percent of females have a beard (you aren’t held responsible for shooting a hen in drag), and are usually shorter and thinner than the male. The average weight of the adult male is 18 pounds and the adult female is eight pounds. The record-sized adult male wild turkey is 30 pounds, whereas a big domestic turkey approaches 82 pounds.
Every hunter I’ve asked about cooking wild turkey drumsticks says they don’t because there is so little meat there; just a lot of ligaments. The breast is all that reaches their tables.
I used this recipe last Thanksgiving for a domestic bird and won praises from my wife – so she got to eat some.
Honey-Baked Wild Turkey
1 (10- to 12-pound) wild turkey
6 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
Stuffing (see below)
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 cups white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
1 stick melted butter
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
Brush turkey with warm honey and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on rack in large baking pan. Place stuffing in turkey. Mix onion, wine, broth, and parsley, and then add butter and Creole seasoning. Baste bird with mixture. Place in oven and roast at 325 degrees for 4 hours, basting occasionally with wine mixture.
Stuffing1 pound white bread cut in small pieces
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon vermouth or sherry
1 1/2 teaspoons powdered sage
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 crushed garlic cloves 3 slices bacon cut in pieces
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1/2 pound ground chuck
1/2 pound pork sausage
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
In a large bowl combine the bread crumbs and chicken stock and set aside. In a saucepan over low heat, warm the vermouth and then add the sage, rosemary, and garlic. Mix well and set aside. Fry the bacon until crisp in a skillet over medium heat and then remove it with a slotted spoon and mix it with the bread mixture. Melt butter with the bacon grease in the same skillet. Add onions, celery, and parsley. Cook over medium heat until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Then add the ground chuck and pork sausage and cook until done. Add the meat mixture to the bread mixture. Pour the reserved spice mixture over stuffing and season with salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly until well blended. Taste and correct seasoning if necessary. Makes about 10 cups for 12-pound bird.
The Romans were probably the first to experiment with the seeds of a mustard plant. They ground the seeds and mixed unfermented grape juice, known as “must” to make “burning must”, mustum ardens – hence we have “must ard”.
Try this recipe to spice up your crappie filets.
Spicy Mustard Fried Crappie
6-8 large crappie fillets
1 16-ounce carton sour cream
1 cup prepared mustard
3 cups yellow cornmeal
Salt and pepper to taste
Coat fish with sour cream and mustard and let stand for 20 minutes in refrigerator. Season cornmeal with salt and pepper before dredging the fish in the mixture. Deep fry in hot peanut oil, using either a cast iron skillet or deep fryer.