Processing our homegrown turkeys

This weekend we processed the rest of our turkeys. We had some wonderful friends offer to come help! I’m so grateful! With 6 of us working, the job was done in no time.

We used a galvanized garbage can as the dunk tank. I heated several large pots of water on top of my stove and when they were just about boiling and we were ready to start, we brought them out and dumped the water in the garbage can. I tied a candy thermometer to a string and tied the string to the handle of the garbage can so I could check the temperature of the water. This worked very well for us. We had to add a couple more pots of boiling water near the end but otherwise it seemed to stay hot enough.

We didn’t use the plucker for the turkeys like we did for the chickens because they were too big. When we put the turkey on the plucker, which took 2 people to do anyway, it would stop turning because it was too heavy! We found them just as easy to pluck by hand, much easier than chickens. Once we were done plucking and eviscerating (I’d like to report that I have learned to clean a gizzard!), we put the turkeys in large plastic garbage cans filled with cold water. I left them there for several hours to make sure they were chilled to the core. Then we bagged the giblets and put them inside the turkeys and bagged the turkeys. We left them inside the garage for the night to chill. The temperature was just above freezing so it was as cold as a refrigerator.

Today I shuffled things around in my deep freezer and was able to fit 5 of them in. One, I decided to keep in the fridge and cook this week. How often do we get fresh turkey? We aren’t sick of turkey from Thanksgiving yet. I have so much planned for this one bird, it will feed us for several meals. They all dressed out around 24 lbs!

If you’ve been keeping track, you will know that I started with 10 turkey poults in the spring.  I lost one early on.  We had one for Thanksgiving, one I sold to my neighbour and one we gave to the friends that helped us butcher.  Our friends didn’t want to accept but hubby and I were so grateful, we could not take ‘no’ for an answer. 😉

I really enjoyed raising the turkeys, they are interesting birds. I don’t think we’ll have a problem eating this much meat, though I think I’ll butcher a little sooner next time so they aren’t all quite so big!  I’d like to do it again next year.


9 responses

  1. I’m glad you showed this. We might be helping a friend ‘do’ a turkey in the next few weeks (along with 7-12 chickens and a couple of ducks) and I was getting hung up on what to dunk them in.

    • The book says to cool the birds in ice water for 5-10 hours – to get that internal temperature down to 36-40 degrees. Cool and age the birds for 8-10 hours. I don’t know if that includes the time in the water but we didn’t include it. So the birds were in water for at least 5 hours, then drained for about 10 or 15 min. to get as much water out as possible, then I bagged them and allowed them to age overnight. I put them in the freezer the next day. Or in the case of Thanksgiving, I cooked it the next day. They turned out good for us.
      P.S. So that’s a ‘yes’. lol Process the turkey at least one day before you want to cook it. If you cook it right after processing, it will be tougher than if you allowed it to age.

  2. Your mentioning ‘the book’ reminds me that I have the Encyclopedia of Country Living. I bet she has info in there and I can stop bothering you 🙂
    We are getting a live bird for our Thanksgiving. I’m thinking we’ll process it on Wednesday to eat on Thursday.
    Marg, thanks for all of your help!

    • You’re welcome and no bother. 🙂 The book I have is “Raising your own turkeys”. If you’re really busy on Wednesday, you could butcher on Tuesday. That wouldn’t be too early.

  3. The beauty of doing it on Wednesday is that Joe is off work that day as part of his holiday. So… most likely he’ll do the bulk of it. He’s harvested plenty of wild turkey’s but didn’t often pluck them just skinned them out. He tried to convince me that our Thanksgiving bird would be wonderful skinned but I convinced him otherwise 😉
    The turkey is arriving tomorrow (along with 2 ducks that were a bonus). We built a shelter for him yesterday, it is rather pitiful but will work for the 9 days we need it.

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