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« Urbanna Oyster Festival | Main | A Little About CSAs »

Mon, Nov 17 2008 at 09:37 AM

Turkey Time: With All These Options Why Buy Frozen?

Posted by Mike Bober, Nov 17, 2008

Thanks_goodeatsroastturkey_lg With Thanksgiving less than two weeks away, some of you have probably already selected the bird for your holiday feast.  Who am I kidding?  Some of you more dedicated foodies probably picked your bird soon after it was hatched and tracked its growth all season long!

For those of you who are still searching for that ideal turkey, however, we're happy to provide you with a pretty extensive list of options.  Last year, Ramona walked you through the essentials of selecting a bird for your Thanksgiving feast.  If you didn't read it then, take a few minutes and check it out.  Once you've got a better handle on what you're looking for, check out the list below to find the purveyor that works best for you.

We found that prices can actually vary significantly from farm to farm and even between the farm and retailers for the same turkeys, so you may want to take convenience into consideration as you make your choice.  Is it Img_1095 worth a twenty-minute (or more) trip to save a dollar or two per pound?

Once you've made up your mind, do yourself a favor and call to confirm the details - you may even be able to place your order over the phone right then and there.  That way, you'll maximize your chances to get a turkey that is roughly the size you want.

If you've got any questions about what we've found, feel free to leave a comment and we'll do our best to resolve them for you.

Enjoy...and save a drumstick for us!

Washington-Area Sources for Fresh Thanksgiving Turkeys:

Local Retailers:

Capitol Hill Poultry
Eastern Market's new East Hall
7th Street between Pennsylvania and North Carolina Avenues, SE
Washington, DC  20003
(202) 544-4435
Cost: $2.79 per pound with a $10 or $20 deposit

One of the two poultry vendors at Eastern Market, Capitol Hill Poultry can be found at the far end of the temporary East Hall.  They'll be bringing in fresh Maple Lawn turkeys in sizes from 10 to 30 pounds for pickup on the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  They require a deposit or $10 or $20 depending on the size of the turkey you order, and your best bet is to stop in to fill out the request form in person.  Alternatively, you can call in your order at the number listed above.  At roughly a dollar more per pound than Maple Lawn is charging for on-site pickup, this is a pretty minimal markup to get your bird right on Capitol Hill.

Let's Meat on the Avenue
2403 Mt Vernon Ave
Alexandria, VA 22336
(703) 836-6328
Cost: Local = $3.25 per pound; Eberly organic turkeys = $5.45 per pound

Boutique butcher Stephen Gatward's Del Ray shop will be selling both local and organic turkeys and will be taking orders until Thursday.  He expects most of the birds he brings in will be between 10 and 14 pounds, but the earlier you order the better your chances of getting the size you desire.  His local turkeys are free-range, raised without steroids and hormones.  The Eberly birds come from Pennsylvania, and they are the same organic turkeys that Balducci's is selling.

Market Poultry
Eastern Market's new East Hall
7th Street between Pennsylvania and North Carolina Avenues, SE
Washington, DC  20003
(202) 543-7470
Cost: $1.99 per pound

The second vendor at Eastern Market, Mel Inman and son are selling local turkeys from Hillside Farm and Eastern Shore for $1.99 per pound in weights ranging from 8 to 28 pounds.  They'll be taking orders through next Sunday.  If you've always wanted a fried turkey but worry about your fire insurance, they will also be selling fried turkeys up to 14 pounds for $1.99 per pound plus a $30 frying charge.  To order a fried turkey, stop in and pay the $30 as a deposit and place your order before next Saturday.

Organic Butcher of McLean
6712 Old Dominion Drive
McLean, VA  22101
(703) 790-8300
Cost: Natural = $3.49 per pound; Organic = $4.49 per pound; Local = $6.99 per pound

Offering two size ranges (8-13 pounds and 13-18 pounds), the Organic Butcher of McLean will be bringing in three different types of turkeys for every taste.  If you want a local turkey, you'll need to get your order in by the 24th.  For an organic bird, you should be able to walk in purchase one right up to Wednesday, the 26th.  Very convenient for anyone whose Thanksgiving plans end up coming together at the very last minute!

National Retailers:

Balducci's will be offering all-natural turkeys from New York's Plainville Farms for $2.59 per pound and organic turkeys from Pennsylvania's Eberly Farms for $3.99 per pound.  They also have several oven-ready and pre-cooked options available.

Marvelous Market has one option for your holiday turkey: a maple-thyme roasted turkey breast for $69.99.

Trader Joe's will be offering brined all-natural turkeys for $1.79 per pound and Glatt kosher all-natural turkeys for $2.29 per pound.  Both will be delivered fresh (not frozen) to their stores, who are keeping sign-up sheets.  Stop in to pre-order.

Whole Foods has natural free-range turkeys for $2.49 per pound and organic turkeys for $3.49 per pound.  Check out their "Holiday Table" section for a wide range of oven-ready options and ask in your local store if you want to know the provenance of their turkeys.

Local Farms:

Ayrshire Farm
c/o The Home Farm Store
1 East Washington Street
Middleburg, VA
(540) 687-8882
Cost: 10-12 pounds = $135; 14-16 pounds = $165; 18-20 pounds = $180

By far the most expensive option out there, Ayrshire Farm's turkeys are "Free-Range, Certified Organic and Certified Humanely-Raised and Handled Heritage Breed."  They are "produced without hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, insecticides, herbicides or artificial fertilizers.  Our birds are free-ranging with full access to the outdoors and are fed 100% certified organic feeds without animal by-products."  If you live in Hunt Country and Middleburg isn't too far a drive for you, this is certainly a top-quality option.  You can order by phone or online (email orders@homefarmstore.com) and pick up in store from 10 AM to 5 PM Monday through Wednesday the week of Thanksgiving.  They require a non-refundable $50 deposit to hold your turkey.

Eco-Friendly Foods
3397 Stony Fork Road
Moneta, VA  24121
(540) 297-9582
Cost: $3.85 per pound<

Eco-Friendly will be bringing their locally and humanely-raised turkeys to the Courthouse and Dupont Circle farmers' markets next Saturday and Sunday, respectively, but you need to pre-order to pick one up.  You can pre-order online by emailing letsmeat@ecofriendly.com with your name, phone number, email address and the approximate weight range you'd like.  You'll also need to pre-pay a $40 deposit, payable via Paypal.

Fields of Athenry
38082 Snickersville Turnpike
Purcellville, VA  20132
(540) 687-3936
Cost: $7.25 per pound

"Truly all-natural, free range, broad-breasted birds" are offered by Fields of Athenry, in weights from 15 to 35 pounds.  You can order via email by filling out this form and sending it to MElaineBoland@aol.com.  Be sure to include a credit card number for the $40 deposit.  You can pick up your bird onsite on Monday 4-7 PM, Tuesday or Wednesday from 9 AM to 7 PM.  A word to the wise - the Organic Butcher of McLean has indicated that some of their local turkeys, which will be selling for $6.99 per pound, may be coming from here.

Jehovah-Jireh Farms
7033 Ed Sears Road
Dickerson, MD  20842
(301) 874-6181
Cost: $3.79 per pound

Jehovah-Jireh will be offering pastured turkeys in weights ranging from 10 to 18 pounds for pickup onsite the week of Thanksgiving.  You can arrange to pick up your bird on Monday or Tuesday from 1 to 7 PM or Wednesday from 9 to 5 PM.  They can't guarantee a specific sized turkey, so you may want to show up as early as possible to improve the odds of getting just what you want.

Maple Lawn Farm
11788 Scaggsville Road (Route 216)
Fulton, MD  20759
(301) 725-2074
Cost: Hens (smaller) = $1.95 per pound; Toms (larger) = $1.75 per pound; Smoked = $4.50 per pound

Maple Lawn Farm provides free-range turkeys to a number of local retailers, but you can't beat the price if you're willing to pick them up on site.  Even with the $3 per bird 'drawing charge' - the charge to clean and prepare your bird for cooking - you're still saving a dollar or more per pound relative to what you'll pay if you buy from a retailer in Washington.  Pickup is available Monday through Wednesday from 7 AM to 5 PM, and you can email your request to maplelawnturkeys@comcast.net.  Check out their site for ordering information.

Springfield Farm
16701 Yeoho Road
Sparks, MD  21152
(410) 472-0738
Cost: Natural broad-breasted white = $2.75 per pound; Pastured broad-breasted white = $4.00 per pound; Pastured heritage or broad-breasted bronze = $5.75 per pound

Springfield Farm raises several breeds of turkeys, including a few of the more prized heritage breeds.  If you're looking to try a taste of classic Americana, these turkeys promise deeper, richer flavors than your average roaster.  To order in advance, you can call or email - just be ready to drive north of Baltimore to pick up your turkey next Saturday and Sunday.  Added bonus: the world headquarters of spice giant McCormick is located in Sparks!  No word on whether they offer tours or free samples, but it's something else to do while you're up there.

Want to see if there are other sellers that might be more convenient to you?  The Maryland Department of Agriculture offers a more comprehensive list of Maryland farms selling turkeys directly to consumers at http://www.mda.state.md.us/md_products/md_turkey_farms.php.

Categories: Alexandria, Capitol Hill, Farmers Markets, Local Food, Regional Food, Thanksgiving
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Kate

Just a note about TJ's: I called yesterday to ask about pre-ordering, and I was told they are not doing it. That was the TJ's in Alexandria.

Mike Bober

Thanks for the heads up, Kate. I'm headed to the one in Foggy Bottom shortly, so I'll check and see what their procedure is. Sounds like it's worth checking ahead of time with your local store to see what their procedure is going to be.

Todd

For what it's worth: America's Test Kitchen taste tests consistently recommend buying FROZEN kosher birds and NOT fresh birds. See ATK's explanation below on buying frozen birds over fresh birds. Also, the brining process in kosher birds improves the taste AND texture. Aaron's Best Frozen Turkey won this year's taste test of frozen and fresh birds.

Fresh or Frozen?

"When organizing our tasting, we decided to buy fresh turkeys wherever possible, assuming they would be better. But as we tallied the results of the tasting, we learned that most of our higher-ranked birds were, in fact, frozen. Our tasters consistently found the frozen birds to be moister than the fresh, in fact a "fresh" bird can actually be tougher and drier than a frozen one.

Why? Turkeys may be labeled as "fresh" if they have been chilled to as low as 26 degrees. But at this temperature, tiny ice crystals can form in the meat. If the temperature fluctuates (during storage or transport, at the supermarket, or on the way to your home), these crystals can melt, combine with neighboring crystals, and then refreeze. These irregularly shaped ice crystals will start to poke the cell membranes in the meat, make holes and the cell tissues in the muscles will start to lose their internal contents. Then when they are cooked, those birds will be dry."

Mike Bober

Far be it from me to argue with the folks at Cook's Illustrated, Todd. Generally speaking, I have yet to find fault with any of their recipes or their tips.

That being said, I think you can avoid the ice crystal situation that causes the issue ATK is referencing if you get your bird fresh from one of the farms listed above. If you want to make doubly sure, ask when you call to reserve one...chances are they'll give you a straight answer one way or the other.

As for brining - I highly recommend it, whether you buy a pre-brined kosher turkey or a fresh turkey and then brine it yourself. Either way, the process does wonders for locking in moisture, and there are quite a few recipes out there that don't result in an overly salty turkey (I had great results using Alice Waters' widely available Chez Panisse recipe).

Colleen/FoodieTots

This is quite the list! To add to it, in Alexandria, MOM's is taking orders for local/organic birds (I assume their other locations are too), and we always enjoy Smith Meadows' free range birds, which we pick up at the Del Ray Farmers market. (Though I think it's probably past their deadline to order.) South Mountain Creamery offers turkeys to their delivery customers, we love their dark ground turkey meat.

Paul

Hi. Just to clarify, EcoFriendly Foods has some fantastic turkeys available but we're not delivering them fresh. They were harvested about two weeks ago and have been vacuum packed and put in the chill. I cooked one this past Sunday using Mark Bittman's braising technique that he pointed out in last week's New York Times. It was superb.

You only have until noon on November 19 to place your order if you would like an EcoFriendly turkey. They'll be available for you to pickup at the Arlington Courthouse or Dupont Circle farmers markets this coming weekend. (Find all the details on our website at www.ecofriendly.com). Cheers, Paul from EcoFriendly Foods

dean

Maple Lawn used to supply whole foods in years past but WF grew to large for them to supply. These are very good birds. I walked their processing plant and they are good producers all around.

Jason

I second the Maple Lawn turkeys. Excellent all around - juicy and great flavor.

Paul

Ok, clarifying my clarification just above. EcoFriendly DOES have some fresh turkeys available for walkup purchase. We had some this morning at the Arlington Courthouse market and we'll have them again tomorrow morning at Dupont Circle. They're all in the 18-21 pound range. Cheers!

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