A wild turkey twist on a Thanksgiving tradition
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. This recipe for cooking a wild turkey with citrus brine is made available from the chefs at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in partnership with the wild turkey experts at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
Turkey with Florida Citrus Brine Recipe
- 1 turkey
- 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
- Butchers twine
- Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
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.
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-1 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.
Wild turkey is a versatile protein so in addition to the main course, Fresh from Florida chefs adapted several popular recipes using leftover wild turkey and other Fresh from Florida products. Serve post-holiday meals that are tasty and healthy with recipes such as wild turkey quesadillas and wild turkey cottage pie. See other Fresh from Florida wild turkey recipes.
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 United States.
“Turkey hunting in Florida is a chance to experience the outdoors in a really special way,” said Buddy Welch, wild turkey program coordinator for the FWC. “However, wild turkeys are extremely wary and possess sharp eyesight and excellent hearing so hunting them is a challenge.”
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.