Taste of Christmas is like a festive stocking, filled to the brim with twists and variations on the standard Christmas dinner. But for some people, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a turkey. And Paul Kelly of Kelly Bronze Turkeys is one of them.
The Kelly family have been producing turkeys for over 25 years, and the birds have been voted Best Traditional Christmas Product for the eighth year running. A favourite of Jamie Oliver, the turkeys have a rich flavour and moist texture. But how do they make them so good?
«The main difference between our turkey and a standard turkey is that supermarket turkeys are on average 12 weeks of age,» says Kelly. «Ours are the traditional black feathered bronze breed and they’re six months old. It’s all about maturity.»
Unlike most turkeys, which are slaughtered, soaked in hot water and then mechanically plucked, Kelly’s turkeys are hand-plucked and hanged for three weeks. «Ours are free range and drug free. But it’s the hanging that makes the difference in flavour.»
Once you’ve got the right turkey, cooking it couldn’t be simpler. «There’s no right or wrong way of cooking a turkey», says Kelly. «But because our birds are so mature and have so much fat marbling, we recommend keeping it simple. We don’t stuff the bird, there’s no foil because it won’t dry out, you don’t need butter or bacon. It doesn’t need any help whatsoever.»
The turkey should be placed breast down in a roasting tin with the giblets and half a pint of water, then seasoned. «We put it breast down because the fat deposits are in the back. When it cooks the fat renders and runs down into the breast,» says Kelly.
After an hour of cooking at 180 degrees, the bird should be taken out of the oven and turned onto its back to brown the breast off. A big turkey will take no more than two hours. «People don’t believe our cooking times,» says Kelly. «It’s simple - fat heats up quicker than muscle tissue. It’s the maturity that makes the difference - the older the bird, the better the flavour.»