Let’s talk turkey!

By Lori Shiver

When asked to write this piece for Rifle & Rod, I asked myself, “what do I really know about turkey, besides talking it?” Of course, I have never been afraid to tackle a new recipe but something about preparing wild turkey had me gobbling up everything I could fine in print on how to prepare this celebrated bird.

I was pretty amazed by what I read. Did you know that the wild turkey was nearly extinct in the 1930s, because of overhunting? Today, there are more than 7 million wild turkeys. An adult wild turkey has more than 5,500 feathers, very powerful legs and can run up to 25 mph. The wild turkey was Benjamin Franklin’s choice for our national bird and its gobble can be heard a mile away.

The wild turkey’s bald head can change color in seconds with emotion or excitement. The bird’s head can turn white, pink, blue or red, and you can’t blame them for being a little emotional when you discover that Americans consume up to 18 pounds of turkey a year. That being said, here’s a great recipe for wild turkey breast that even the most inexperienced cook can enjoy; it’s easy and delicious!

Wild turkey breast

You will need about 10 3-ounce portions of a wild turkey breast. (from the breast cut pieces to about the size of a half piece of loaf bread). I like to use a mallet and beat each piece to tenderize as well as to let the flavors of your ingredients absorb through the flesh of the bird. Keep in mind, this is a tough bird so tenderizing is key for success! Also, this process can help remove the wild taste.

1 tablespoon of kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon of pepper

4 cloves of garlic, crushed and peeled (fresh works best)

1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil

Place above ingredients in a plastic storage bag, then add your wild turkey pieces and shake so that all ingredients cover the bird. Place the bag of wild turkey in refrigerator for no less than 2 hours.

Cooking: Preheat grill to medium high. Remove turkey from fridge and let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. Remove turkey from marinade and grill for three to four minutes on each side, or until cooked through.

If you are feeding a larger crowd, consider roasting a wild turkey. While there are many ways to prepare and season a wild turkey for roasting, here is a great recipe you should try. Once it’s stuffed with apples and topped with a unique combination of sauces, this wild bird requires no basting and cooks up nice and moist.

Wild turkey (10 to 15 pounds)

2 large apples, quartered

6 to 8 medium red potatoes, quartered

2 pound baby carrots

2 medium onions, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces

2 cups of water

1 1/2 teaspoons of salt

1 teaspoon of pepper

1/2 cup of maple syrup

1/4 cup of French salad dressing

1/4 cup of barbecue sauce

2 tablespoons of ketchup

2 tablespoons of A1 steak sauce

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

Cooking: Place the wild turkey on a rack in a roasting pan. Place quartered apples in cavity. Place potatoes, carrots and onions around the wild turkey and pour water over the vegetables. Combine your seasoned salt, salt and pepper and rub over the turkey.

Add the remaining ingredients and spoon over the wild turkey. Cover with foil and bake at 325 degrees for 3-1/2 hours, or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees. (I like to spray the underside of the aluminum foil so the tender skin of the bird won’t come off when the foil is removed) The turkey should be uncovered for the last 30 minutes of cooking for browning and crisping. Let the bird rest approximately 30 minutes before slicing, if your diners can wait!

Note: The Food and Drug Administration now suggests a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees, as measured by a food thermometer in the thickest part of the turkey breast.

Living in south Georgia, we are blessed to be able to enjoy the fruits of the forests and the waterways. Hunting and fishing provides a great deal of enjoyment and fellowship and brings folks together around the table for great meals — all compliments of Mother Nature!

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