Turkey is the most popular choice for Christmas Dinner in Irish households. It wasn’t always this way. Turkey has usurped goose, once the traditional bird of choice, in Ireland at Christmas. This is probably because, in rural areas, every farm would have reared a goose for Christmas. On Christmas Day, the goose would be stuffed with potato stuffing and roasted crisp – a recipe still enjoyed in some households to this day.
Turkey only really came onto the scene during the 16th Century in the UK, and in the 17th Century in Ireland. At first only enjoyed by wealthy families, since it was considered somewhat of a special treat that graced the festive table with majesty. As availability increased, turkey was soon being eaten in less well off households too. The appeal of this large bird grew from its capacity to yield lots of meat to feed a crowd. It rapidly overtook the humble farmyard goose as the main meat of Christmas Dinner.
These days, most people think Christmas isn’t Christmas without the turkey. Which bird will you choose this year?
BRONZE FEATHERED FREE-RANGE AND/OR ORGANIC FRESH TURKEYS
Considered the crème de la crème of turkeys – relatives of the original wild turkeys of North America. These turkeys have gleaming bronze feathers, hence the name. American Indians hunted them for food, and for their lavish feathers, which were used in Indian headdresses for the Chiefs of the reservation.
Bronze turkeys are available to order in good butchers. Not the cheap choice, but praised for their rich and slightly gamey flavour and delicious succulence. Bronze turkeys are usually reared outdoors and sometimes organically. A free-range organic Bronze turkey will command a high price and must be ordered well in advance if you want one.
BLACK FEATHERED/NORFOLK BLACK FRESH TURKEY
Black Feathered Turkey, originally from Norfolk in the UK, and often known as the Norfolk Black Turkey, is available in limited numbers from specialist butchers and suppliers. These too are highly prized for their flavour. By the 1700s, just before Christmas, these turkeys were walked from Norfolk to markets in London, in flocks of several hundred birds at a time. Some farmers made little shoes to protect the feet of the turkeys during the long journey. Available here in Ireland in limited supply. Again, this is not a cheap option, but certainly one full of flavour for your Christmas feast. And a talking point too!
FREE-RANGE AND/OR ORGANIC TRADITIONAL FRESH TURKEY
These are the turkeys of the old fashioned farmyard. These are white-feathered birds, which are allowed to roam free in pastures. This means they are slow growing to develop good texture and flavour. Free-range turkeys are widely available, but we recommend you order from your butcher if you want to be certain of getting an Irish turkey. Organic traditional free-range Irish turkey is also available.
FARM REARED/FARM FRESH TURKEY
These white-feathered birds are raised indoors. This is a common choice for most households at Christmas. It’s essential that you ensure your bird is actually Irish reared, as many farm-reared traditional turkeys come in from abroad to satisfy the huge demand at Christmas. Once again, we reiterate that your local butcher is invaluable in ensuring you are getting an Irish bird that has been raised according to strict quality control regulations.
Whatever your preference or budget this Christmas, make sure you check out our list of butchers to order your turkey from this year.
Written by: Good Food Ireland
What a pleasure it is to come across this traditional butcher in the heart of Lismore village, Co. Waterford.
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