Turkey Time Part 2: Buying the Turkey

posted by Dave Arnold

Last Saturday I made my pilgrimage to Manhattan Live Poultry to get this year’s turkey.  I was extremely happy with the quality of last year’s bird, and I like picking out the animal – I can be sure the bird is healthy and the slaughtering is humane.  The guys aren’t rough with the birds.  Other than the smell, visiting is a pleasant experience.  Unfortunately, it is becoming more and more difficult to buy live poultry in New York.  Not that many years ago, live poultry places dotted  the island of Manhattan.  Now there are only two, and both of them are way uptown. Sad.

One of the last live poultry joints on the island of Manhattan. What's the world coming to?

Upon entering MLP I expected to see what I saw last year–standard-breed turkeys and the giant black “wild style” turkeys running around together.  To my horror they only had the standard breed this year. It was too late to make other arrangements. You should wait two days to cook the bird after it is killed to make sure it goes through rigor mortis — I needed to cook the bird Monday or Tuesday, so it was now or never.

Only standard-breed turkeys this year.

I am a bit of a knot connoisseur.  This year I noted that the live poultry folks use their own special knot when they weigh live birds.  The knot has to go on fast, come off fast, and leave the bird unharmed.  The worker holds the birds by the legs, puts the rope between the legs, quickly wraps the rope around the legs two times, and then passes the rope under and between the legs.  The weight of the bird keeps the knot tight.  The birds remain calm, though they tend to spread out their wings.

How to weigh live poultry. They use a special knot that goes on instantly, comes of instantly, and doesn't hurt the bird. It takes advantage of the structure of bird legs. Twice around the legs, then through and up.

I picked out the biggest turkey they  had.  A mere 25 pounds.  Ridiculously small compared to last year, but a fine bird nonetheless.

My turkey. Only 25 pounds.

They killed it, bled it, scalded it, and plucked it for me in 7 minutes flat.

I rushed the bird back to the FCI and threw it in the blast chiller to cool it down.

My turkey back at the FCI. I also bought 2 pigeons.

Next: the cooking.

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