TURKEY SLAUGHTERING & CLEANING 101

 

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.untitled-1-copy 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. 2copy 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! 3copy 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.4copy 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.

Sandie

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About Sandie

Since I was a small child I have loved early fireplaces and the smell of smoke in an old house. However it was not until about Fifteen years ago that my journey into hearth cooking began. It all started at the Hurd House Museum in Woodbury Ct. I was the director of the Junior Docent program and among the programs each week we cooked. At about the same time a group of us started the Culinary Historians of Connecticut meeting once a month to discuss equipment used, receipt (18th century term for recipe), and anything between the late 1600 to late 1700 that had to do with hearth cooking. We were fortunate to try our hand at cooking at several Museums throughout Ct and many more private homes. We made cheese; we held a late 1600 dinner and shared our knowledge with others. Our group designrd our own tours such as the Kitchens of Old Wethersfield. In 2000 we were delighted to host the Historic Foodways group of ALFAM at the Hurd House during their conference at Mystic Seaport. We put together a great workshop of Puddings, Sausages, Brown Bread, Beverages you name it we offered it. I am now a member of the ALFAM foodways group. Then it was off to Colonial Williamsburg for the seminar The Art of 18th-Century Cooking: Farm to Hearth to Table. During the years I joined many workshops in Sturbridge Village plus their Dinner in a Country Village and breakfast at the Freeman Farm. So I was pretty much hooked on heart cooking and the 18th century way of life. I joined a wonderful group of ladies and we started the “Hive” a place to improve and grow your 18th century impression and offer research about material culture in 17070’s New England. We also travel with friends and have displays of clothing and teas at Museums in Massachusetts. Many events are held at the Hartwell Tavern at Minute Man National Park. They have been gracious enough to let us play there and entertain and share our knowledge with their visitors. Please visit our “Hive” site if the 1700 interest you. Then the move to New Hampshire and a job at Strawberry Banke in Portsmouth as the co-coordinator of the Junior Role Playing workshop and eventually cooking in front of the hearth at the Wheelwright house. Not only did I enjoy making my evening meals at the hearth to take home but also talking with the visitors. I am an entertainer after all, check out my program page. Most recently I am working at the Museum of Old York in Maine as an educator, hearth cook and organizer of the Junior Docent cooking program in the summer. See some photos in the archive file Because I do make food with the docents and serve food to the public at our Tavern Dinners I took the National Restaurant Association tests called ServSafe and now have my Certification as a Restaurant Manager. I look forward to the Museum of Old York opening again this March 2012 and getting back to the hearth and teaching, however for now I’m cooking at home and enjoying doing so.

3 thoughts on “TURKEY SLAUGHTERING & CLEANING 101

  1. Very educational. This is not something that most modern folks get to see, much less get to do themselves. I’ll share with other interpreters.

  2. Reminds me of when I was younger and we recieved a load of chickens to do the same prochedure. But we had them to eat down the road.

  3. I am so glad to know you enjoyed the session and it was a pleasure to have you there to take it with us! Thanks for posting the photos as well.