For whatever reason, this is the only time of year when fresh turkeys are readily available and affordable in this country. I therefore urge you to pick up a bonus turkey. It can be the same as the thanksgiving bird, but doesn’t have to be. For instance, this year I splurged on a fancy D’Artagnan free range organic turkey to roast whole. But for 1/3 the price I got a natural fresh Nature’s Promise bird.
Turkey is really delicious and makes a great substitute for most pork or veal recipes. Slice the breast into cutlets and make schnitzel. Use the thighs whole in any braised recipe. Or make my turkey carnitas. Or use any of it in any chicken recipe. The wings and legs are fantastic smoked. Or the meat can be ground and used to make burgers, chili, or just about anything that needs chop meat. It really is quite versatile. And if you get it on sale, it’s only $1 or so per pound, a phenomenal bargain. It will keep for months in the freezer.
I cut it up into pieces as I prepared the main bird for brining. The wing tips, neck, giblets went into the saucepan with the ones from the feast bird. The two livers I ate as a snack (recipe to follow). The extra fat and skin is being rendered into schmaltz.
To cut the bird, use a sharp boning knife. Separate the thighs from the breast and slice through the skin. Do each side. Then flip bird to breast side down, bend in half, and use a heavy knife to cut across the backbone, severing the turkey into two halves. Set aside the darkmeat half for now. Remove the wing tips, save for soup. Carefully remove the wings by probing with the knife point and cutting through the joint.
Using the boning knife, remove the breast from the carcass, starting with backside up. Use the tip to gently release the meat from the bone as you slide along, in layers. Watch a YouTube video if you’ve never done it, it’s not as hard as it sounds. Just don’t expect it to be perfect, there may be a bit of excess meat left on the bone, or a few extra cut marks. No one will care. Work up to the top, then flip over and do the other side. Remove the carcass and set aside, then cut the two sides of the breast into separate pieces, and trim off any excess skin and fat or connective tissue.
Return to the bottom half. Cut off the two legs, again probing with the knife to find the joint. The thigh can either be deboned as with the breast, or left whole. A big heavy meat cleaver will be needed to cut into halves.
Label a few gallon size freezer bags. Don’t forget the date. I like to separate the two breasts, the wings, legs, and thighs. And the carcass/bones/scraps if not using right away. If grinding right away, measure out one pound portions and put in quart sized freezer bags. Make sure to press all the air out to make a tight seal before freezing. And blot off any excess moisture before putting in bag.