Recently I got to thinking about the kind of odd notion of a mail-order turkey and decided to walk myself through the process from beginning to end.
I chose a new offering of young turkeys — yes, it feels a bit like sending away for a mail order bride — from Martha Stewart, who sources them from a farm in Pennsylvania known for their "humanely raised" birds.
First off, I should explain that the reason I say it is a odd idea, this ordering a turkey through the mail, is because I live in an area where there are lots of options for ordering a high-quality, organic, free-range bird without the costs associated with sending it in a giant box of ice. So for those of you with access to buying direct from farmers — for example, DiPaola Turkeys turkey from Mercer County, New Jersey, who sell their products at New York's Greenmarkets — don't let me stop you. But for those of you who want a reliable mail-order source for your holiday birds, read on for my review of Martha's, plus a listing of other online sources.
Aside from the Styrofoam casing and blocks of gel ice, the bird from from Martha Stewart (who gets it from Plainville Farms in southern Pennsylvania) comes just as you would expect any supermarket turkey to come: wrapped tightly in a plastic coat and plastic netting. Sure, it's a lot of packaging for a turkey, but it comes cold beyond a doubt, and I didn't have to stand in line or carry it home.
I got started around noon last Saturday, following the instructions in the included Turkey 101 pamphlet to a tee. I washed the bird inside and out, made Martha's stuffing, wrapped the bird in a butter and wine dipped sheet of cheesecloth, then roasted it for hours. This buttery wet blanket is a great way to keep the turkey moist and the skin from burning. It only comes off in the final hour or so of roasting.
The results were good, not spectacular, but completely satisfying, especially with a big splash of gravy. I did have to keep a close eye on the internal temperature of the bird, because it turned out to be done at least an hour before the instructions indicated. The flavor was mild, perhaps too mild. I might have appreciated some suggestions in the instructions for giving the meat a little more flavor: herbs slipped beneath the skin, a spice rub, etc. The bird made a beautiful presentation and the instructions were easy to follow.
The young turkey is "humanely raised, and vegetarian fed" and is free of antibiotics and growth hormones (which is actually mandated by law, so no big kudos to Martha for that). I trust that she is sourcing a quality product, and that's one reason to go this route over the larger factory farmed turkeys you might find at the supermarket. The price is not low, but remember that you are paying not only for the quality of the bird, but for the convenience of a turkey delivered to your door.
• Buy It: Martha Stewart Young Turkey (12 lbs $69.99, 18lbs $89.99) Must order by midnight EST,
November 18 November 20, 2009 to ensure delivery for Thanksgiving. It is also available at retailers like Heinens Fine Foods, Kings Super Markets, McCaffrey's, Harris Teeter, and Gristedes.
Other Mail Order Turkey Sources:
(Images: Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan)