Early settlers and pilgrims actively pursued wild turkey for special events like Thanksgiving. The birds were considered a special treat, and nothing was wasted on a coveted turkey. Early settlers were limited in cooking options compared to today but still managed to make a meal that was memorable and delicious.
Modern hunters have endless options and conveniences for cooking a turkey. With fall turkey seasons in many states, a wild bird to grace the Thanksgiving table is traditional and a lot easier than what our ancestors experienced.
Wild turkey tends to dry out fast when cooked, so there are a few tricks to keep the bird moist and succulent. Make sure to pluck and draw the bird, leaving the skin and fat in place to help boost flavor and keep in the natural juices. Cook the bird breast-side-down in foil, which pools the butter, and renders fat for the dry, white meat to cook in and help make it tender. It’s almost like braising the bird in its own fat. Make sure moisture doesn’t escape from the foil and wrap multiple times if required.
Low, slow heat is the next step, along with a cranberry, orange and apple stuffing. The fruity mixture is full of moisture, and as it cooks, it will steam the meat with wonderful hints of Thanksgiving. A fall hen turkey is easier to cook than an old gobbler, but both can be done successfully to keep guests asking for more. An old, mature bird will need more time in the roast pan to cook long enough for the muscle fibers to relax.
Ingredients • 1 whole wild turkey, skin on • 1 large orange • 1 large apple • 2 cups fresh cranberries • ¼ cup butter • 1 tablespoon sage • 1 teaspoon black pepper • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
Directions 1. Rinse turkey in cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. 2. Peel orange and cut into ½-inch pieces. Core and cut apple into ½-inch pieces. Combine orange, apple and cranberries, and stuff into the cavity of the turkey. 3. Melt the butter and add sage, pepper and garlic salt. Baste the turkey with the seasoned butter, making sure to cover all the skin. 4. Wrap the turkey in foil, breast side down. Add a second layer of foil to ensure the turkey will not lose any moisture through escaping steam. 5. Place foil-wrapped turkey in a roasting pan and place in a preheated oven to 300°F. Roast for a ½ hour plus 20 minutes per pound of turkey. A young hen weighing 7 pounds would roast for 170 minutes or just under three hours. 6. To finish the turkey, open the foil, turn the bird breast side up and broil for 10 minutes or until skin is golden brown. 7. Rest the turkey for 10 minutes before carving and serve with the cranberry-citrus stuffing.