Turkey Harvest 2023
Fall is suddenly here which means for us... IT'S TURKEY TIME! Thanksgiving is just around the corner so we're preparing some yummy "Farm to Table" Thanksgiving dinners with our turkey harvesting parties. We've got three harvest dates this year... One we just had a few Saturdays ago on October 7th, and we've got the photos below to show you, along with the frozen evidence currently in our freezers :)
And our systems are simple enough that we had old friends, faithful customers, and family members show up and participate in the day-long event! The next date is today, October 21st, and the final date is Saturday November 4th. We're sharing those dates with you to give you an opportunity to come out and join us for the experience, but also so you can select the Turkey of your preferred size as they come available. Here's how the last harvest went along...
HOW WE HARVEST OUR THANKSGIVING TURKEYS
Step 1: Our day began at the crack of dawn with Stevenson and Keller herding the turkeys into the trailer for transportation to our processing center (aka the garden area). We're always looking for new ways to gather animals efficiently, so the guys created a fenced walkway to push the birds in the trailer as opposed to picking them up one by one. It worked very well for us, but maybe not so well for the turkeys :)
Step 2: We dispatch the turkeys quickly and humanely in a very safe way that even the kids can help. We're sparing you the photos of this particular station, but actually it's a very clean operation - much different than the old stereotypical ax-thing of our great-grandpas.
Step 3: Next is the scalder which helps to loosen the feathers. We basically dunk the Turkeys in very hot water (165 degrees), with a little dish soap actually. We lower and raise them in and out a few times until the feathers loosen. Then they're off to the Plucking Machine...
Step 4: This must be the most important equipment of the whole operation. We can't imagine the old days of pulling feathers one by one! We used to have a very slow machine that took a lot of time because it really didn't do a very thorough job and actually slowed down for the bigger birds. But we're so happy to have this brand new unit with a large enough motor to make the turnstile move quickly and smoothly so that plucking the whole turkey takes less than a minute.
Step 5: After the plucking machine has done its job, we get to work saving the giblets. We call this the eviscerating station where only the bravest of us jump in to keep the production line moving. That's Larry and Stevenson in the photo showing the curious how it's done. Larry is a federal trapper who loves to hunt and shows up every year to help us with the dirty work. His seven year old daughter just hunted her first wild turkey on the ranch this year. Way to go Annabelle :)
Step 6: A three hour ice bath is one of the most important steps in the process because it kills any and all bacteria from the harvesting process. It's a USDA requirement that we appreciate because it's a really good and necessary rule when most everything else from the government is, well, you know! We use these large tubs and about 800 lbs of ice for the day... I think next year we'll finally get an ice machine :)
Step 7: We package our turkeys by squeezing them into "shrink" bags that seal themselves by literally shrinking when we dunk them in large pots of hot water. We then weigh and hand-write each of the labels before they go straight into our refrigerators for a few days. After the turkeys have "wet-aged" for five days (to tenderize), we move them into our freezers to await delivery.
While the turkey harvesting was rolling along Karen and Imelda made sure there was coffee and food available for all of the hard workers! In addition, some friends slept over the night before and the night after in our guest house campers. They received the full homesteading experience, while enjoying all the events of the weekend, including feeding the animals and eating farm fresh food.
The finished product! Ready for your Thanksgiving table 😋