There’s something about getting Halloween out of the way that has us all thinking about Christmas. Alongside the general panic of what presents to buy for whom, the foodies among us start to think about that all important Christmas Day feast. Now this part of the proceedings might panic some, but for those of us who love to cook, this is one of the best bits about Christmas, we get to plan, experiment and mix old traditions with new!
Of course the focus for many is what roast to put on the table and to that end a few weeks ago we met up with Craig Michie of Barra Bronzes at his family farm at Lochend of Barra, on the B9170 between Oldmeldrum and Inverurie in Aberdeenshire. The day we visited Craig had a feed mixer on the farm, a huge piece of machinery that he hires in when he needs to make up a mix of turkey feed (containing barley, oats, wheat, soy, minerals and rape seed oil). The oats in the mix are specially grown for the turkeys. Now these are no average free range turkeys, premium supermarkets would grow their turkeys for 10-12 weeks and use male birds as they are faster growing. At Barra Bronzes they use predominantly female birds and they are grown for 27 weeks, slower grown for better flavour and hand plucked and finished by hand.
Turkeys are a lean meat, but if cooked properly there is no need to brine as there is enough inner muscle fat in a slow grown bird that it bastes itself. Craig recommends cooking the turkey breast side down allowing the fat to permeate the whole bird, only turning breast side up for the last half hour to brown the skin. I recall seeing this done before and it makes sense to me, so with that recommendation that’s how I’m going to be cooking it this year!
The day we visited the farm, Christmas could not have been further from either of our minds as we were basking in glorious late autumn sunshine. We were shown the huge open sided poly tunnel which houses the turkeys, open sided to allow airflow and with roof vents to ensure circulation of air at all times to avoid any lung problems in the birds. Turkeys are not keen too much sunshine they prefer the shade so to that end Craig grows sunflowers which provide outdoor shade for the birds. The turkeys have a large field to peck about in, the welfare of his turkeys is clearly important, with plenty for the birds to pick away at; brassicas and apples, amongst other things; the turkeys don’t fight and pick about at each other. The family purchased two alpacas back in 2015, they live alongside their feathered friends, protecting them from foxes, badgers and other unwanted visitors. Protect they do as they were clearly suspicious when we arrived and never took their eyes off us!
What impressed us most was Craig’s clear passion for producing a good quality turkey. These birds were well looked after, the whole process is well thought our and Craig enthusiasm With 1,200 turkeys ready for order now direct from the website, it’s time to get your order in, my own order was placed today.
Buy local and support your local producers.1