In the month of all things turkey, Wolff’s Apple House carries fresh farm-raised turkeys from Esbenshade Turkey Farm in Paradise, Lancaster County. The Esbenshade Family has been raising turkeys since 1858 and with that fact in mind is the oldest turkey farm in the country.
Wolff’s own chef, Chuck Smith, says he feels great knowing that the farm market sources locally-raised turkeys from a family farm in Southeastern Pennsylvania.
“Wolff’s is always looking for ways to introduce the public to superior quality produce, so it makes sense that this would carry over to their selection and sourcing of meat,” he says. “Personally, when I’m buying a bird, I’m looking for a flavorful, meaty animal. In my experience, well-raised and humanely treated birds taste better.”
Smith notes that in comparing fresh versus frozen turkeys, it’s important to realize that freezing a turkey is a form of dehydrating it, in a sense.
And besides the excruciating thaw time, there tends to be uneven cooking and dry breast meat in frozen birds,” he adds.
In terms of cooking times mingled with methods, Smith reflects that the per pound approach is a good one, but he suggests avoiding pop-up thermometers.
“Take a real meat thermometer and test the bird EVERYWHERE,” he advises, pointing out that many worry about getting sick based on a bird not being fully cooked, with good reason. “But most importantly, read the thickest spot on the breast and against the bone at the thickest point of the drumstick.”
Smith suggests flipping tradition on its lid by considering the option to not stress out severely by attempting to prepare the perfect turkey, but to instead find other ways to enjoy cooked turkey this November.
“What you can do WITH a cooked turkey is interesting. Sandwiches. Soups. Salads…even tacos,” he offers. “Try quickly pan-frying turkey meat until crispy and throwing it on a taco. Seriously.”
For those who do want to go the more ritual-ready route, or to follow tradition and then find different ways to enjoy turkey beyond just plucking from the bird, Smith recommends brining.
Brining is comparable to marinating, making the meat moister and less likely to become dry, in time.
Trussing, or tying together the parts of a turkey with string so it cooks more evenly and looks more aesthetic is another angle some peruse when preparing autumn-known poultry. Smith explains that the Internet has a lot of instructional videos for this and other cooking methods to give better visual aids in the kitchen.
Smith adds that carry-over cooking is another idea to consider. A turkey will likely continue to cook somewhat after it’s outside of the oven, given its long time in the heat and how thick the bird is. So letting the turkey rest and cool down (not trying to eat it right away—nobody wants a burned tongue, either) allows the heat to better distribute to fully cook the meat and helps flavors to flow better.
Herb pairings Smith says go well with turkey are parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
And he stresses not flavoring up the bird too much but instead joining flavors well into all else on the table.
“I think diverse flavors should be introduced in the sauces and sides that accompany the meat; sauces and sides that are on the table NEXT to the bird. Think tangy,” he says.
But some may want still want to test out flavoring more beginning with the bird.
Using apple cider instead of water in cooking a turkey is another idea to ponder. And joining a stuffing mixed with sliced apples and dried cranberries will bring a hearty autumn flavor of fruits to turkey meat.
To order your turkey from Wolff’s, visit the market, or call 610-566-1680.
And here is a Wolff Family recipe for gravy to go with your turkey this November. It makes approximately 3-and-a-half cups of palate-worthy gravy.
- ¼ cup of fat drippings from the pan
- ¼ cup flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Pan juices and chicken stock
- ½ cup chopped, cooked giblets
- ¼ cup (or more) cream
- Strain the juices from the roasted turkey pan. Separate the fat.
- Heat the fat drippings over low heat; mix in flour and salt.
- Heat and stir until bubbly.
- Slowly add pan juices and enough stock to make 2 cups, stirring constantly.
- Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for at least 5 minutes.
- Add the giblets.
- Slowly add the cream and stir constantly until heated through.
- Readjust seasoning to taste.