Introducing Countryside Field Guide: Thanksgiving


As an organization whose mission is to connect people, food, and land, we are thrilled to share with you a publication to help you make your Thanksgiving as local as you desire.  Inside you will find information on ingredients commonly available from local farmers during the run up to Thanksgiving, including turkey breeds, potato varieties, and more - with recipes to provide inspiration for your holiday feast.  

Below is a brief teaser for what you will find in the full guide, and at the bottom of the page we've included a link to the online guide.  Physical copies will be available at our indoor farmers' markets at Old Trail School beginning on November 12 from 9-12.

A special thanks to Goatfeathers Point Farm for allowing their amazing turkeys to be photographed for the guide, and to all the farmers whose gorgeous produce is featured inside. Learn more here.

Turkey: Finding Your Centerpiece

Brunty Farms offers pasture raised Broad Breasted White turkeys. Brunty Farms is a Countryside Initiative Farm.

Martha's Farm offers pasture raised Broad Breasted White turkeys on pasture.

Trapp Family Farm is offering pasture based turkeys for order.  Trapp Family Farm is a Countryside Initiative Farm.

Goatfeathers Point Farm is raising Broad Breasted Bronze, Blue Slate, and Bourbon Red on pasture.  Goatfeathers Point Farm is a Countryside Initiative Farm.

Tea Hills Farm offers pasture based Broad Breasted White, Broad Breasted Bronze, Slate and Bourbon Red turkeys.


General Tips and a Recipe

Heritage turkeys typically have smaller breasts and larger thighs/legs than the traditional Broad Breasted Whites we’re used to cooking. They also have a layer of fat under the skin that helps keep the meat moist as it cooks, but because the thighs need to come to 165 degrees, many recipes call for buttering the breast meat under the skin to help keep it from drying out. The flavor of heritage breeds is much stronger than the typical turkey, and can stand up to a robust gravy.

  • Heritage breed turkeys are smaller than the common Broad Breasted White turkey we grew up with, and their breasts are also smaller. Faster cooking at higher heat keeps the flesh from drying out on these birds, opposed to the low and slow method used for traditional turkeys.
  • Brining is not necessary for heritage birds, and can prevent the full flavor of the turkey from shining through.
  • Some chefs suggest methods for keeping the breast moist such as rubbing butter under the skin, covering with butter coated wax paper or cheesecloth, covering with bacon or pancetta. 
  • If you like to cook your stuffing in the bird, cook it partially outside of the bird before stuffing it, since the quick cooking time of the heritage breeds won't give the stuffing sufficient time to come to temperature.
  • Feeling adventurous?  Try braising the turkey instead of roasting. Or, look into preparation methods for pheasant or other game birds whose meat is similarly lean.

Heritage Breed Roast Turkey, adapted from Martha Stewart

1 18 lb Heritage breed turkey, neck and giblets removed to make turkey stock

4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened

Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper

12-15 thyme sprigs

6-8 sage sprigs

3-4 rosemary sprigs

3 dried bay leaves

2 tart apples, sliced ½ inch thick, cores reserved

1 onion, quartered and peeled

2 celery stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 cups water, plus more if needed (note- consider using white wine, poultry or vegetable stock, or cider for a richer base for gravy.)


Rinse turkey inside and out and pat dry with paper towels. Transfer to a large roasting pan with a roasting rack breast side up. Bring to room temperature 1-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 475 or 500 degrees with rack in lowest position. Tuck wings under the turkey. Gently separate skin from breast and rub butter on the breast meat on each side. Season outside of turkey generously with salt and pepper. Place herbs, apple cores, and onions inside turkey and tie legs together with kitchen twine. Place apple slices and celery around rack. Add liquid of choice to pan.

Roast the turkey for 20 minutes then reduce temperature to 400 degrees. Baste with pan juices and tent with foil, or with oil or butter-rubbed parchment. Roast, rotating pan and adding more liquid if pan is dry. Baste halfway through. Continue roasting until thermometer inserted in thickest part of the thigh registers 160 degrees (it will continue to rise as you let the turkey rest). Remove from oven and allow turkey to rest for 30 minutes before carving. Reserve pan contents for gravy if making.

The Full Guide

We hope you find Countryside Field Guide: Thanksgiving a useful way to help you make the most of what's available locally for your holiday table.