Over the years, my collection of turkey recipes has grown considerably, but I have to admit, it doesn’t hold a candle to WILD ABOUT TURKEY, a lovely spiral bound cookbook published by the National Wild Turkey Federation.
OK, Ok. I have to admit – until I laid my hands on WILD ABOUT TURKEY, I had no idea there was such a thing that the National Wild Turkey Federation, nor was I aware that the National wild Turkey Federation is the fastest growing and one of the most successful conservation organizations in the nation.
Hmm, I see some of you out there shaking your head – is it because you don’t believe that the National Wild Turkey Federation is the fastest growing or perhaps that they are one of the most successful conservation organizations in the nation?
The NWTF is a ‘people organization” explains Rob Keck, in the preface to their cookbook, and he explains that member and chapter contributions, fund raising events, Special projects and the contributions of NWTF’s corporate partners produce millions of do9llars for conservation.
Says Mr. Keck, “thanks largely to dedicated professional state wildlife researchers and managers, the wild turkey is now the most widely distributed game bird in north America”.
The NWTF which has over 120,000 members now in their 38th year, compiled this cookbook which includes membership information and a history of the National Wild Turkey Federation.
In the cookbooks introduction, Gene Smith (no relation) explains that there was a time and not so very long ago, when there would have been no need for a wild turkey cookbook. In1945, he says, the wild turkey was barely hanging on to its existence in remote tracts.
“It’s a familiar story to most NWTF members,” says Mr. Smith, “when Europeans arrived, wild turkeys were present in abundance and we know they ranged in areas that now touch at least 39 states and a small piece of southern Ontario, Canada. Thanks to the visionaries who finally started protecting remnant flocks and to those who later figured out how to live-trap and move birds, we have wild turkeys and turkey hunting season in 49 of the 50 states. Only Alaska has no wild turkeys….”
(reminds me how bison were almost erased from the face of the earth!)
Along with capturing wild turkeys (trap and transfer) which began in 1950; in the 1960s tiny radio transmitters were attached to wild turkeys to monitor their whereabouts, enabling wildlife scientists to locate the study this species in all seasons, which allowed the scientists to document the bird’s complete life history and apply that knowledge to its management.
“Today,” writes Mr. Smith “resident wild turkeys occupy more square miles of habitat than any other resident game bird species in America.
Along with recipes—lots of recipes, not just recipes for turkey but a lot of great go-withs – salads, vegetables, desserts, – WILD ABOUT TURKEY provides capsule glimpses into the history of the wild turkey and observations made by various NWTF members. Also included along with membership information you will find plenty of useful information on cleaning, thawing, roasting and carving your turkey. There are also photographs and descriptions of the five subspecies of wild turkeys in the United States.
I was especially inspired by an entire chapter devoted to roasting, frying, smoking and grilling whole turkeys but you will also find great assortment of recipes using turkey parts – breast, legs, wings, – with recipes ranging from dilled barbecued turkey breast to garlic-rosemary turkey stir fry. You will find recipes for grilling turkey legs and even some recipes for making turkey chili.
Among my favorite recipes in WILD ABOUT TURKEY are the smoked turkey recipes. Bob & I bought a Brinkmann Smoker one year – probably after I reviewed this cookbook – and found ourselves oohing and ahhhing over Smoked Rosemary Brandy Turkey, and Smoked Drambuie Turkey, a wonderful marinade for wild turkey as well as some lovely recipes for Lemon Barbecue Sauce and a Hawaiian marinade. There are many other recipes as well, but these were some we found outstanding.
I will tell you a little secret of mine about turkey. When Jim (Smith) and I were first married, I went whole-hog-or-nothing-at-all doing Thanksgiving dinner, after we moved to California. As long as we STAYED in Ohio we could just alternate the dinners with my family and his family. One of the first big thanksgiving turkey dinners I cooked was a roasted turkey with dressing and giblet gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, biscuits made from scratch and some kind of green vegetable—probably peas because I love them so much. and a fruit pie, because he didn’t eat any other kind. It took 9 hours to prepare this meal. When I had it on the table, Jim said “the potatoes need more salt”. I didn’t do a Thanksgiving dinner again—for years we went to my friend Neva’s. Many years later when the mashed potato issue came up in counseling (before we ended up getting a divorce) the counselor said to him “But couldn’t you just add more salt to your potatoes?” to which he replied “but that would be letting her think something was good when it wasn’t”. Consequently, Thanksgiving was never my favorite holiday – but after Bob entered my life, we cooked a turkey many times, especially with that smoker. Just not on Thanksgiving. But when we are GOING to a dinner, I don’t mind volunteering to make a vat of turkey gravy. The recipe makes a vast amount of gravy and is made with turkey wings and thighs. I’ll share the recipe when I do a review on some domestic turkey cookbooks!
You can find WILD ABOUT TURKEY on Amazon.com; new copies are available from Amazon for 17.96, and new from private vendors starting at $2.95 – and pre-owned starting at one cent (I have bought many cookbooks on the one cent deals. Even with $3.99 added for shipping, you still get a great book for $4.00. Someone heard I was writing about wild turkeys and grumbled that domestic turkeys weren’t getting a fair shake- so I looked through my collection of cookbooks on chicken or turkey and found two to share with you. Will try to get them done soon!
–review by Sandra Lee Smith