As Thanksgiving approaches, cooks, chefs, grillers and smokers turn their attention to turkeys, the all-American fowl.
A native of the Western Hemisphere that earned its name for its route of transport to Europe, the turkey is the worthy centerpiece of this country’s fall harvest celebration. Turkeys were introduced to Wyoming in 1935 in a trade for sage grouse with New Mexico. Wild male turkeys strut during a spring courting, just like their diminutive sage-land cousins.
They are hunted in Wyoming, and the fall season extends in some areas to the end of the year. They can grow to 25 pounds, making cooking a challenge.
“Indeed, these birds are worth bothering with only if they are less than a year old,” proclaim Irma Rombauer and daughter Marion Rombauer Becker in “The Joy of Cooking.” Contemporary culinarians also warn about the wary short-distance flyer.
“[H]e will be leaner and tougher than any domestic counterpart,” warns Wade Truong on the MeatEater website. “An overcooked butterball is pretty bad, but an overcooked wild bird is almost impossible to choke down.”
Warnings aside, aficionados say methods abound to tenderize and cook a wild turkey — and that a well-prepared one is among the best game meals.