ALHFAM workshop presented by: Victoria Belisle, Lead Interpreter of Freeman Farmhouse and Sewing at Old Sturbridge Village This workshop provided step-by-step instructions on slaughtering and cleaning a turkey. This was a hands-on workshop. Being that it is winter, and not the time of year that you can find a heritage turkey for butchering, two white farm turkeys were used. However, the process is the same; you just have a fatter bird with two large legs and a large breast.
THIS POST IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART.
Slaughtering and cleaning a turkey is bloody work, literally.
Saturday dawned, a cold and dreary day, not just weather-wise, but also for the fate of two turkeys that were bound for the table at OSV. We were told to dress warm and in layers; I took that to heart and bundled up with as many layers as I could put on and still move. We all left the educational building and met outside where we were greeted by the turkeys and Dave. The turkeys were un-named at first but by the end of the outdoor session, the names Louis and Marie were heard.
Victoria removed a bird and Dave did the chopping, I was going to hold the second bird, however, when I saw the way they flap and the blood squirting out everywhere, I passed. I needed to stay clean for the next workshop. With both birds ready for feather removal, the water was tested to make sure it was not too hot. Don’t want to cook the meat. I picked up one turkey and dunked it in the hot water for 60 seconds to help loosen up the pores so the feathers would come out easily. 60 seconds go by and out comes the turkey, and is it heavy, sodden with all that water. Tom and I begin to plucking the feathers which remove quickly and help keep our hands warm. The down is so soft and, being wet, it sticks to your hands. At the same time, the rest of our group works on the second turkey. We found that we needed to dip the birds more than once to loosen up the large feathers. You want to be very careful not to tear the skin so the pores need to be open; that is why there is a second and third dip. With the bird de-feathered, Victoria and Tom carry them into the educational building. We compare a heritage chicken to the breast of the new-bred farm turkey. There is a big difference from one to the other. Then it’s time to learn how to take the intestines out. First, you carefully cut around the vent, (a bird’s all-purpose rear orifice) ideally without spilling any of the contents. Once there is an opening, you stick your hand inside and disconnect the membrane around the intestines. You are trying to separate the intestines from the fat and meat without puncturing anything that might contaminate the bird. Make sure you remove your rings first! After the neck end is disconnected, the guts are pulled out, this is not a good smell. Victoria shows us the eggs and other parts of the intestines. Next the legs are cut off and the bird is ready for a good wash. Then it will be butchered and cooked. At this point I needed to go off and prepare for the workshop I was giving, so I missed the second bird being done and the washing. However, I’m sure it was the same technique used. Thanks to Victoria and Dave for a great workshop.