It’s time to talk shopping turkeys — don’t miss the window on getting the best bird for your Thanksgiving feast. Whether you’re looking for a mammoth beast or a smaller turkey to feed about four (with plenty of leftovers), you’ll want to place a pre-order with a trusted butcher or farmer right about now for a pre-Thanksgiving pick-up. Granted, most large grocery stores in the city will carry some kind of turkey in stock, but do you really want to be scraping from the bottom of the barrel after it’s been picked through shortly before Thanksgiving day? In order to have a truly flavorful holiday centerpiece without the hassle of performing the latest tricks for making turkey meat taste good, look a bird that was fed a natural, healthy diet and was raised on pasture, preferably locally for the freshest possible product. There are different types of turkey breeds to choose from nowadays too, such as heritage breeds with darker, more unctuous meat. And every farm has a slightly different terroir and raising techniques that come out in the taste. As farmer Mike Betit of Tamarack Hollow Farm in Vermont once advised me, “Breed is about 25% of meat’s flavor, the bulk of it comes from how the animal lived.”
Here are some of our recommended Brooklyn butcher shops and farms at the Greenmarket offering solid choices for whole turkeys this year.
Where: Grand Army Plaza, McCarren Park, Fort Greene Park, and Cadman Plaza Greenmarket Saturdays; Carroll Gardens Greenmarket Sundays; Union Square Greenmarket Wednesdays
What: This family-operated turkey farm in New Jersey does one thing: turkey. And they grow them the only way they see right — on pasture, with no antibiotics, and certified organic feed. At their Greenmarket stand, you can find all sorts of turkey products and different cuts to help make your gravy, stuffing or sides, and you’ll probably get to sample the sausage while you’re there.
Where: Union Square Greenmarket Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays
What: This certified organic farm prides itself on its pasture-raised turkeys each year. Based in Norwich, NY, the farm raises a full variety of organic produce and meats for its CSA and Greenmarket customer base. Score your bird by filling out a reservation form at the farm’s website, or visiting their stand at the Union Square market to chat up the farmers while at it.
Where: Union Square Greenmarket Saturdays
What: A farm well-known for providing humanely raised meats of many types to restaurants and customers in NYC, Violet Hill is offering its turkeys for a Greenmarket pick-up once again this year. These flavorful turkeys are broad-breasted whites raised on the farm’s Upstate New York pasture. Secure yours by visiting Violet Hill’s website and placing a deposit, as turkeys are limited.
Where: Union Square Greenmarket Wednesdays
What: This small farm in Vermont makes some of the best ham and bacon in town, but their whole turkeys are a limited seasonal offering not to be missed. This year, Tamarack Hollow has been pasture-raising three types of turkeys: the heritage breeds Narragansett, an endangered breed that’s smaller and very flavorful, and Midget White, the breed that was eventually bred to become the Butterball-standard Broad-Breasted White turkey, but now is considered small by comparison (and listed as critically rare by the American Livestock Breed Association). The farm’s standard turkey this year is the Broad-Breasted Bronze, a unique breed with striking plumage that had been the favored bird of farmers in the early 1900′s.
Price: $5/lb for standard breed, $10/lb for heritage breeds
Where: 192 5th Ave., Park Slope
What: The friendly butcher shop is pulling out the stops this year to make your Thanksgiving turkey-shopping a breeze. The shop has secured several types of pasture-raised turkeys, including heritage breeds and standard broad-breasted whites, available for pre-order now until supplies run out. Co-owner Jessica Applestone warns that the heritage ones will be generally smaller, without the broad, full shape that one is accustomed to seeing in turkeys: “But they’re more flavorful, and that’s why we do it.” Unsure which to get? You can call up the shop’s turkey hotline, where you’ll be greeted with the in-house turkey expert, Mona.
Where: 100 Frost St., Williamsburg
What: This year’s turkeys at the trusted neighborhood butcher (and adjoined kitchen supplies store The Brooklyn Kitchen) are pasture-raised Broad-Breasted Whites from a farm in the Finger Lakes. Co-owner Tom Mylan fully endorses the common breed when raised properly: “Because of strong legs and a health natural appetite for forage they produce a tender and juicy bird that is actually flavorful in a way that rivals Heritage breeds without all the downsides,” he explained. Find out for yourself by ordering one through the Meat Hook’s website to pick up at the shop.
Where: Heritage Meat Shop at 120 Essex St., Manhattan, or online at heritagefoodsusa.com
What: Providing humanely raised heritage turkeys from the Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch in Kansas has been an annual tradition for Heritage Foods USA. As a leader in supporting heritage livestock breeds for everyday consumption, the online distributor and recently opened butcher shop at Essex Market will be able to offer background, tips and advice on cooking the unique birds. Supplies are limited for both pick-up at the shop and home delivery through online, so place an order for yours soon.
Price: $75/8-10 lb birds (other sizes sold out)