November isn't here yet, but that doesn't mean you can't start preparing for the country's most fabulous annual feast a little early.
Each Thanksgiving, the routine goes something like this: a few days before the big day you head to the nearest grocery store to stock up on things like stuffing, cranberry sauce, potatoes, and pumpkin pie. If you planned ahead, maybe you already ordered the turkey. If you're feeling fancy, you might have even sprung for a free-range, organic bird.
But if a frozen bird is all that's on the menu, think again. Rather than subject your family to yet another dry and tasteless turkey, try cooking a pasture-raised heritage bird, instead.
The Heritage Hen Farm in Boynton Beach is working with Crazy Hart Ranch to deliver pasture-raised heritage turkeys to South Florida.
Crazy Hart Ranch owner Linda Hart has been raising Narragansett turkeys since 2007, when she became the first farm in the state to licensed to raise and sell pastured poultry. Hart started with just 50 birds on a 5-acre farm in Fellsmere, Florida. Today, she has more than 250 birds, a rare breed that stands as one of the oldest registered birds in the country.
According to Hart, heritage toms and hens -- with their black, gray, tan, and white plumage -- have a distinct flavor and texture when compared to commercial, domestic turkeys.
"These birds have a different taste and texture," said Hart. "It's not gamey, just lots of turkey flavor. And the breast meat has a finer grain. It's not mealy or grainy."
The dark meat is also very dark, Hart adds, because her birds are pasture raised in native grasses, meaning they are able to run and fly.
Hart does not use organic feed, and instead chooses to raise her turkeys on a conventional feed that is custom blended to provide maximum nutrition. She orders it fresh each month, and combines it with an organic mineral pack fortified with calcium and sea kelp.
"I prefer to blend my own conventional feed over using organic, because I can control what goes in it," said Hart. "It has some corn and soy, but also a lot of alfalfa and oats."
Hart's birds are also antibiotic-free and hand-processed, which means the meat is considered more sanitary than commercial turkeys. Because the cleaning is done by people -- not machines -- there is no contamination from the organs or intestines, says Hart.
To order a Crazy Hart Ranch turkey for Thanksgiving, visit the Heritage Hen Farm in Boynton Beach on Saturday, October 25, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Hart will be at the farm to take orders and answer questions. A $40 deposit is required to place an order. Each bird sells for $10 per pound. Hens range anywhere from 7-10 pounds each; toms are 13 to 16 pounds each. All orders will be delivered to the farm on Tuesday, November 25, and pick-up is between 3 and 5 p.m.
Can't make it to the farm this weekend? You can also place an order online by visiting the Crazy Hart Ranch website at crazyhartranch.com, or calling Hart at 772-913-0036. The same pick-up dates and times apply to all orders placed online or over the phone.
Nicole Danna is a food blogger covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.
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