Empanada Boy and I spent Thanksgiving in Cannon Beach with my grandma and immediate family and his parents, sister and brother-in-law. It was just the ten of us through most of the visit, but the Thanksgiving dinner at our family beach house was attended by nearly 30 of our closest friends and family. Needless to say, one turkey would not be enough. Mango Mama made a 20-lb bird using her traditional preparation (courtesy of Martha Stewart), which involves wrapping the bird in a butter-and-white wine-soaked cheesecloth. Another friend made a slightly smaller organic bird. These would have been enough to feed us all, but Daddy Salmon provided another interesting twist this year. About a week before Thanksgiving, he took his traditional longbow hunting in Lebanon, Oregon. He came back with the first bow-caught food of his archery career: a wild turkey.
The bird looks big in the above photo, but once Daddy Salmon had plucked its feathers it shrunk down to a sinuous 10 lbs. Daddy Salmon got up early on Thanksgiving day to brine the turkey in garlic, salt and a variety of herbs. After about eight hours of brining, I pulled it out and placed it in the roasting pan. The wild turkey didn’t get nice and browned like its supermarket cousins during the 2-3/4 hours of roasting. Each time I checked in on it, I was surprised to see the taught, greyish-brownish skin looking just as alien as ever. When I finally pulled it out, I noticed a purple-colored area on the top of the breast. This likely came from the blood vessels broken by the pierce of Daddy Salmon’s arrow.
This photo of the wild turkey waiting to be carved illustrates where the arrow hit. The meat was distributed to guests separately from the farm-raised turkeys to those interested in trying their free-ranging relative. The white meat turned out to be very tender, but it was far milder than the familiar store-bought birds. Daddy Salmon found whole acorns in its gullet, so we can only assume that this is part of what gave the meat its flavor. The dark meat was tough and very muscular, more like red meat than poultry. It was also difficult to get much dark meat off the bone. Daddy Salmon reminded us that there was less meat and more muscle on the wings and the thighs because wild turkeys actually fly.
In the end, it was great to get the chance to try a turkey that was much more like one the Pilgrims might have eaten. While it might not have had the plump, richness of the turkeys weâ€™re used to, it was tasty and different. Itâ€™s not every day you get to try a food youâ€™ve never tasted before without leaving the comfort of your own home, state or country. This opportunity alone was more than enough to be thankful for.