I wrote this two years ago as the realisation of a real modern recession began to set in. It is a measure of something that little has changed.
The Posh, well reared birds still seem to selling, so not too much has changed there, but the economy seems to be as uncertain as ever.
The official mad time of year is now here and in the press, food writers, cooks, chefs and critics are fighting amongst each other to gain the greatest prominence. Wherever you look you will see reports analysing the best birds, cakes, tracklements (accompaniments to food), not to mention little black dresses, handbags, knickers and bangles.
One eye-catching headline last Saturday in the Times Weekend supplement shouted the question: “Are Posh Birds Worth It?” Having once been married to one and knowing quite a few others, my first thought was “yes, they probably are”.
Then I realised the question was being asked about Free Range Turkeys!
Within its pages, I found two references. The first from Tom Parker Bowles, who should know better, wrote, “So this year, stuff the turkey and celebrate Christmas with a proper British Feast. One of the birds he was recommending to replace it was a pheasant. Mercifully he did also recommend a really good Chicken, Pork belly or a rib of beef.
I am sorry Tom, great supporter of Northfield and others like us though you have been, a pheasant is not a replacement for a turkey. Besides, cooking a pheasant remains far more demanding than cooking a turkey.
My concern though, is what if a seriously large number of folks were to take him seriously and boycott proper British Reared Free Range Turkeys? The effect on those specialising in these birds could be far more catastrophic that the threat a couple of years ago of Bird Flu. Like everything we do, from scrapping cars to building houses, we have to consider the ripple effect of our actions.
Tom PB is absolutely right in saying that there are many great alternatives to a turkey, just don’t damn the wonderful British Farmers who are the masters at producing these birds.
Northfield Farm’s Free Range Turkeys and Geese are produced by local specialists, who do only that: produce great ‘Posh’ birds. By all means ditch the imported or intensively reared birds of all kinds that are available in the supermarkets. Follow the rule of least remove and buy your bird or other meat from someone you know. If you don’t know that someone well, get to know us at Northfield Farm.
Further on in the section Tom Norrington-Davies (this year it seems ‘Posh’ Birds, need posh-sounding critics to write about them) answers the original question with a resounding ‘yes’
“First off, the bad news: anyone hoping to pass off a mass-produced bird as a superior hand-reared one will be disappointed. We tasted the supermarket turkeys against a benchmark of three birds from specialist producers and price would always out.”
Sadly he did not taste a Northfield Farm bird, but the principle holds good. The bird he referred to closest to ours in quality and provenance cost more than £4-00 per kilo than an equivalent Northfield Farm bird.
In some 12 years of feeding our customers at Christmas, the only complaint about turkeys I can remember was one who phoned up on Christmas Day as he was carving his bird. A good friend as well as a long time faithful customer, he was spitting with rage, complaining at how bony the Northfield Farm turkey was. A few moments later his wife called to apologise, and explain that she had decided to cook the bird up side down that year, and her husband, taking the bird from the oven to the carving board had failed to notice and was therefore trying to carve the bird bottom up, so to speak.
Cooking your turkey upside down can help keep it moist, just don’t forget to turn it back over for carving.