As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, everyone is starting to think about turkeys. Those hosting friends and family for the holiday feast are exploring ways to prepare the main course. An interesting option is to go organic by serving wild turkey for Thanksgiving.
Wild turkey populations are abundant and provide sustainable hunting opportunities throughout the state. When knowledge, skill and good fortune result in a successful hunt, it provides an opportunity to impress dinner guests with the delicious flavor of wild turkey. See recipe for cooking a wild turkey with citrus brine from the chefs at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) in partnership with the wild turkey experts at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at followfreshfromflorida.com.
Wild turkey is a versatile protein. So, in addition to the main course, you can have fun with some creative post-holiday meals that are tasty and healthy, too, as wild turkey quesadillas and wild turkey cottage pie. Just search wild turkey recipes on the website.
There are two wild turkey subspecies that occur in this state: the eastern and the Osceola wild turkey. Florida is unique because the Osceola subspecies lives nowhere else in the world but on the state’s peninsula. Osceolas are similar to the eastern wild turkey subspecies, which is found in north Florida and throughout the eastern U.S.
Because most wild turkey hunting in Florida occurs in the spring, FDACS chefs discuss how to preserve a harvested wild turkey so it can be enjoyed at Thanksgiving. The FWC uses scientifically-proven wildlife management strategies and professional expertise to meet conservation objectives and provide sustainable wild turkey hunting opportunities. Learn more about wild turkeys, including their behavior, habitat needs and where they live in Florida at MyFWC.com/Turkey.
Turkey with Florida Citrus Brine Recipe
3 Florida oranges, halved
1 cup Florida honey
1 cup Florida orange juice
2 lemons, halved
2 limes, halved
1-2 gallons warm water
4 cups ice
1 cup sea salt
Fresh herbs (such as sage, rosemary, and thyme)
2 dried bay leaves
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Brine: In a large container or cooler, prepare brine by combining warm water, orange juice, 1 cup sea salt, honey, bay leaves and fresh citrus. Whisk until the honey and salt are dissolved and add ice to cool the mixture. Place the turkey in the brine for 12-24 hours. Keep cool by storing in the refrigerator, or if using a cooler continually add ice to keep cold. To cook, remove the turkey and dry the skin thoroughly. Discard brine.
Turkey: Preheat oven to 325 degrees (or follow package instructions). Using your (clean) hands or a barbeque brush, cover turkey with softened butter. Generously season the outside and inside of the bird with salt and pepper. Place fresh herbs inside turkey and tie legs together with butcher’s twine (this will ensure turkey cooks even). Roast according to package instructions, basting every 30 minutes-one hour, or until a digital food thermometer reads 165 degrees. Remove from oven and allow to rest for at least 20-30 minutes before carving.
Fresh Tip: Brines are versatile! Experiment by using different combinations of herbs and spices. Brines can be used with poultry and pork products to enhance flavor.