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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

Over the moon with our turkey

FESTIVE diners may be surprised to learn that when they sit down to dinner on Christmas Day they will be sharing something in common with the first man on the Moon.

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white christmas Turkeys have been popular since Tudor times

Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin tucked into turkey and all the trimmings following their historic landing on July 20, 1969. This is just one of the fascinating facts surrounding turkey – the traditional favourite for a Christmas dinner.

Today, thanks to the NFU, finding a local farmer who produces farm-fresh turkeys for your festive meal is straightforward.

Simply log on to www.nfuonline.com and follow the links to UK Turkeys with its turkey finder and postcode search facility. Producers offer a variety of turkeys, including free-range, barn-reared and organic.

Some even offer alternative birds including geese and game. Besides picking up recipes and cookery tips, you can then go on to meet the farmer behind the centrepiece of your Christmas meal.

Turkeys first arrived in this country from the New World in the 16th century. Before that, the goose, cockerel, peacock and even swans had pride of place on Christmas tables throughout England.

Their popularity with the royal household, especially Henry VIII, set the fashion for eating turkeys.

Archbishop Cranmer even tried to curb the huge appetite that developed for the flavoursome birds by seeking to limit the number of turkeys served to just one per feast.

This royal love of turkeys continued, with George II using a section of Richmond Park to rear them.

Turkeys used to be bred almost exclusively in Norfolk. Producers would set off with their flocks in October to walk the 80 miles to markets in London. The turkey’s feet would be dipped in warm tar to protect them during the trek.

Arriving several weeks before Christmas, the turkeys would then be fattened, ready for sale and the Christmas table.

Did you know?

lA male turkey is a tom and the female is a hen

lIt is only the tom that gobbles; females make a ‘clicking’ sound

lAround 10 million turkeys are expected to be eaten in this country this Christmas

lThe name ‘turkey’ is believed to have originated from the traders who sold them and who came from the Levant, which was then part of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire

How to prepare the perfect Christmas turkey.

lIf the bird is to be stuffed, then the cooking instructions must be for the total weight of the turkey and the stuffing

lWrap the buttered, seasoned turkey in a large piece of foil ensuring you leave plenty of space around the skin to prevent it from steaming

lStart cooking in a hot oven at 220C or gas mark 7

lAfter one hour, turn the oven down to 170C or gas mark 3

lRemove the foil 45 minutes before the end of cooking time to allow the skin to crisp and brown

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