Tag Archives: Ridley Bronze turkey

NABLOPOMO – In Praise of Heritage Birds

Ridley Bonze turkeys - just like the old-fashioned turkeys your grandmother used to cook

Ridley Bonze turkeys – just like the old-fashioned turkeys your grandmother used to cook

Every day another order or two or three comes in for one of our Ridley Bronze turkeys. As we get closer to Christmas, the frequency goes up – which is lovely. [Thank you, if you are one of those people now on the list to receive a heritage bird in a couple of weeks.] Quite often people aren’t too familiar with the heritage birds, what makes them special, or quite what to expect. So here’s a quick tutorial…

We raise Ridley Bronze turkeys, a Canadian variety of bronze turkey that very nearly disappeared altogether a few years ago. Thanks to the efforts of a handful of breeders (Margaret Thomson of Windrush Farm on Saltspring Island being one of the most active), the number of breeding hens has crept back from the brink (at one point it was estimated that fewer than a hundred breeding hens were left!), though the breed is still considered to be under threat.

Unlike the broad breasted turkeys (both bronze and white varieties), the Ridley Bronze birds are able to mate naturally. In our flock, we are selecting for good mothering ability and hardiness as well as great taste. These birds are personable, intelligent, and gentle and seem to do well foraging for food in addition to the basic diet of organic feed, hay, softened alfalfa cubes, and a mix of fruits and vegetables, as available.

They do grow more slowly than their commercially bred cousins – it can take 30-40 weeks to get the birds to a decent size, which is why we do not produce many Thanksgiving birds. Those we do have available at that time of year are the late hatch birds from the previous year. These are grown out and then processed late the following spring or early the next summer after they have had a chance to lay some eggs and raise a clutch of poults. These birds are then processed and frozen and are made available for Thanksgiving. Even with the extra growing time, the largest of my birds don’t come close to the size reached by commercial broad-breasted whites. Christmas birds are hatched and raised in the same year and as long as we can get an appropriate processing date,we are able to provide fresh birds (not frozen) to local customers.

Young turkeys on the move...

Young turkeys on the move…

The distribution of dark meat is more even and there is less breast meat, proportionally, than in the broad-breasted birds. The Ridley Bronze turkeys have longer, leaner legs (they do a lot of running around during the time they spend here on the farm) and they are quite delicious.

Preparing them is a bit different – they cook quite evenly because of the way the meat is distributed. If you are looking for recipes, you’ll have the best luck using old cookbooks or recipes your grandmother used.

If you are curious about methods of cooking, here are a couple of links to recipes that feature heritage birds.

Bucks County Courier Times

Prairie Heritage Farm

It’s not too late to place your order for one of our heritage turkeys. Just click on the For Sale tab and follow the link to our nifty online order form. I’m afraid we can’t ship birds, so we can only help you out if you live on southern Vancouver Island (or if you are prepared to travel to our place to pick up your bird…)

Day 22 – Let’s Talk Turkey

They can run, but they can't hide...

They can run, but they can’t hide…

This year has been a bit of a challenge in terms of timing for processing our Christmas turkeys. Until very recently, the closest place to have the birds processed was up in Cowichan Bay an hour or so north of here – a journey that requires a VERY early start to get the birds there on time and then a return trip the following day to pick them up again (the processed birds can’t be transported until they have been sufficiently chilled). As you can imagine, the demand for slots is huge right before the two major turkey feasting holidays, so it is not easy at all to book a date that is close enough to Christmas to be able to offer customers fresh birds.

Add to this the fact our Ridley Bronze turkeys take their own sweet time growing to a decent size so an early date and frozen birds is not a great solution for us, never mind the fact our customers overwhelmingly prefer fresh birds to frozen (though, I have to say that having tasted both, there isn’t a noticeable difference in flavour). Anyway, the closest date we originally were able to get to Christmas was December 13, which meant very stale ‘fresh’ birds (too stale, really – though there is no definitive number of days a fresh bird can sit properly refrigerated, we were uncomfortable selling birds that would be 10-12 days before preparation). So, we were resigned to selling them frozen.

Invite a Ridley Bronze to your holiday dinner...

Invite a Ridley Bronze to your holiday dinner…

Then, we heard through the farmer grapevine that a new processor had been approved here on the Saanich Peninsula and, when I got in touch, I was delighted to hear he had space for our birds on December 21 (ready for us to pick up and get them to our customers December 22). Not only can we provide fresh birds, they benefit from an extra week or so of growing.

Now that we have the processing date finalized, I can post the link to our fancy schmantzy online order form.

Please note, we do not produce a huge number of birds and they grow to the sizes they want to grow. To avoid disappointment, please, please order sooner than later so you have the best chance of getting a bird close to the size you are hoping for. We do our best to match you up with a good dining partner, but it’s not like we are running a factory farm here with thousands of birds to pick from. We always sell out, so if you are interested in a fresh, local, delicious heritage turkey, click on that there link and let us know!

We are now able to take VISA and Mastercard – details for payment options are on the form. Over the next little while we’ll post some favourite recipes and cooking tips – these birds are not quite like the broad-breasted whites you’ll find in the supermarket. More on that, too, in future posts – for now, just wanted to give you the heads up on our late-breaking turkey news!