Man Skills 101
by Jason Ross
Actually killing a wild turkey requires way more skill than I can download to you in an article. Wild turkeys are wily bastards and they see EVERYTHING. They’re like paranoid Santa Claus.
Killing a farm-raised turkey won’t present the same challenge. To start, Lop off their heads with a long machete. I like to kill them before they know what hit them. Another good alternative is to grab them by the neck and whip their body in a vertical circle until their neck breaks. That’s easier with a chicken than a turkey, though. A turkey’s like swinging a sack of bricks. The important part is to try to kill the bird swiftly, so it doesn’t die with a bunch of freaky adrenaline in its system.
Once the turkey is dead, drain the blood right away — which will happen automatically if you lopped off the head with your samurai sword. Let the bird cool as much as possible, as quickly as possible.
Take a cleaver or your machete and chop off the wings further down past the joint, and do the same for the feet, leaving the drumsticks. Try to take them off below the joint. Cut off the head if you haven’t already.
Boil a giant pot of water. Dip the bird completely for 90 seconds to cause the feathers to release. This par-boils the outer flesh a bit and that causes the feathers to come out easily.
Pluck the feathers, including the tiny ones. Try not to tear the skin at any point in this process. Torn skin will shrink and peel back as you bake the bird, causing the flesh to dry out.
Now, cut a “V” shaped opening with the butt-hole being the point of the “V.” You’ll see the natural lines of the “V” running below the lower breast of the turkey. Be very careful not to cut into the guts, releasing shit onto your meat. Even if it takes a couple of scores to work your way through the tissue, that’ll be OK so long as you don’t puncture a gut. If you do puncture a gut and release poop into the body cavity, just get it done, then wash the body cavity out thoroughly.
With the “V” cut and guts starting to poke out, reach up into the cavity with your hand and pull out all the guts, heart, lungs, etc.. Try to leave any fat in-place. I generally use a rubber glove just because nothing smells quite so bad as the inside of a bird. I hate having my hands smell like bird shit for 24 hours.
Rinse out the bird, and it’s ready for the oven or the freezer.
If it’s a wild bird, or even a fresh farm bird, I prefer to brine it for a day. The brine is simply a saltwater solution that replaces all the bodily fluids. The brine helps to preserve the bird, but it also gets rid of any “gamey” flavor.
To brine the bird, put a cup and a half of salt, or rock salt, into a 5 gallon bucket of water. Add the bird, then add water to fill. I usually start adding flavoring in the brine, my favorite being white wine (about one bottle will do.) You can add herbs, garlic, beer or anything else you’d like to try. Store the brine in a refrigerator or outside if it’s cold enough.
After a day in the brine, drain the bird well. Then you can wrap it in Saran Wrap and freezer paper and freeze it, if you need to.
A wild bird will not taste like a store-bought bird. The wild bird works for a living, so it’ll be much more lean. My family vastly prefers the flavor of a wild bird. It’s leaner and tougher, but tastes much more honest. It’s the ultimate organic food.
A farm-raised bird isn’t far behind if you raised it yourself. Still with nominal fat, the farm-raised bird will be much more lean and a little tougher. There’s nothing “butter-ball” about a farm-raised turkey or wild turkey. The flavor of wild bird is darker and, some would say, far more delicious.
There’s nothing quite like eating a turkey that you either killed in the wild or raised yourself. It adds something special to the holidays.