- April 25, 2018
For some years now, the regulations for spring gobbler hunting in Pennsylvania have allowed a limit of two birds — with the purchase of a second spring tag, of course. Combine that with the possibility of more than one family member hunting these spring birds, and suddenly you may have more wild turkey meat than you know what to do with! Fear not, as there are many ways to enjoy this tasty selection of free-range, non-GMO, organic meat that is devoid of any government approved chemicals! Many who have tried wild turkey meat agree that it has a better flavor than pen-raised domestic turkey and has a slightly sweeter and nut-like flavor.
First, to ensure the meat is as tasty as possible, there are a few things to keep in mind right after a successful shot has been taken. If you have already decided that you are not going to have the bird mounted by a taxidermist, then you should — after properly tagging the bird, or course — remove the entrails immediately to allow the body to begin cooling as quickly as possible. On days when warmer temperatures are forecasted, carry a small soft-sided cooler with ice and place a small bag of ice inside the body cavity to aid in cooling.
The entire bird can be used quite nicely to make soups, gumbo, casseroles or to obtain meat for use in hot or cold sandwiches. Once the bird is skinned, rinsed and cleaned, place it in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a slow boil for several hours or until the meat begins to separate from the bones. The complete bird, once removed and cooled, can be picked clean of the quality meat — both breast meat and the dark meat of the legs and thighs.
To make a delicious turkey noodle soup, use the stock you created as the base. After straining out any unwanted items, you should have several quarts of stock, to which you could add one or two large cans of chicken broth, two diced large sweet onions, six to eight diced stalks of celery and then return all ingredients to a soft boil for 30 minutes. Chop some of the turkey meat and add it to the pot, along with your favorite noodles for noodle soup. Salt and pepper to taste and garnish with cilantro or parsley when serving. Follow the above steps but add barley instead of the noodles and you will have a tasty wild turkey barley soup as an alternative to the noodle soup.
Virtually any familiar chicken recipe can be enhanced by substituting some of the wild turkey meat you have picked from the carcass after cooking it in the soup pot. Gumbo, noodle casserole, and cold or hot sandwiches taste much better when using the wild turkey meat. You can make a BLT sandwich and kick it up a notch by adding a layer of the dark meat of a wild turkey — making it a BLTT (bacon, lettuce, turkey, and tomato)!
Fry’s Turkey Ranch Restaurant, north of Trout Run on Route 15, has for decades become famous for their hot turkey sandwich dinners. You can make your own by using the stock from the turkey to make the gravy, add your own wild turkey meat and put it over toast or a waffle! It really does add to the flavor knowing it is something that you brought home from a hunt and can share with the family.
Smoking various meats has become increasingly popular, and smoked wild turkey breast is a real tasty treat. But, because wild turkey meat is leaner than commercial turkey meat, it is important to brine the breast meat before smoking. Salt brine uses the power of salt and osmosis to slightly denature the proteins in the meat, swelling them with salty moisture and trapping more liquid in the meat than it would otherwise be able to hold. Add ½ cup of Kosher salt to 1 to 1 ½ gallons of water, cover the breasts with the mixture and place in a refrigerator to marinate for 24 to 48 hours. Dry the surface of the meat, and then place it on the grill of the smoker set at 200 degrees Fahrenheit and smoke for four to five hours, until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. After one hour of smoking, coat the surface with a layer of maple syrup or honey and do so each hour of cooking until the meat is done. Slice and serve warm or use for cold sandwiches.
Finally, a popular appetizer is the Wild Turkey Popper. Wrap a ½ inch by 1-inch slice of breast meat and a slice of jalapeno pepper, along with a dab of cream cheese, with a slice of bacon (of course!) and cook over a wood-fired grill until the bacon is crisp! Delicious!