Supposedly, wild turkeys were discovered by the people of Mexico, and they were first brought to Europe by Christopher Columbus at the beginning of the 16th century. Columbus thought that turkeys belonged to the family of peacocks and called them “tuka”, which means a “peacock” in Indian. Other sources claim that the name of the turkey was devised by the Americans, who called the birds “firkee”, which is similar to “turkey”. There are also assumptions that the name could have originated from the sound made by turkeys.
In Europe, roasted turkey came to be used not as a daily dish, but as a festive one. At the beginning of the 20th century it managed to replace the goose on the Christmas table even in conservative England. Since then, English chefs have created many recipes for roasting a turkey, especially for Christmas: some stuff the turkey with chestnuts and ham, some with rice and tomatoes, and others – with bread and ham or oatmeal with sausage, etc.
At least 45 million turkeys are eaten each Thanksgiving, 22 million are consumed on Christmas and 19 million turkeys on Easter. Turkey is especially popular in Israel where it is consumed more than any other type of meat– a person typically eats around 14 kg per year. In Lithuania, 40 % of residents eat turkey at least once per month. Since 2004, Arvi Kalakutai has manufactured products from over 3 million turkeys.
Turkeys began to be raised in Lithuania in the middle of the 18th c. in Count Tiškevičius and other manors. During the interwar period, they were already seen in many farms. Before Christmas, the markets of larger towns offered a wide choice of turkey; turkey dishes were made by priests’ housekeepers, monks, merchants and other rich people. During the Soviet period, after the hard-working farmers were deported to Siberia, the kolkhozes could no longer grow these picky, sensitive birds that require a lot of care. Turkeys are very picky: they do not eat spoilt or unknown food, do not drink dirty water, and hate noise. Therefore, for nearly 50 years turkey was almost absent from Lithuanian kitchen. A whole generation only knew about the taste of turkey from books and tales that all Americans roast turkey for the Thanksgiving Day. However, today, turkey which used to be a luxury item people only knew about theoretically is becoming more popular.
The taste of turkey meat largely depends on what they feed on. The story is that the turkeys of Tiškevičius Kretinga Manor were fed nuts and red wine before slaughter so as to acquire gourmet taste. The birds grown in the farm of the farmer Irmantas Grigas are fed by special balanced food produced in “Marijampolės pašarai”.
Roasted turkey may be the most impressive piece of a festive table. One third of all turkeys consumed around the world are eaten during holidays.
When choosing a turkey, it is useful to know that the meat of female birds and small (Christmas) turkeys is softer than that of the males. You may choose fresh or frozen turkey, but frozen turkey should be bought a few days earlier, because it may take a couple of days to thaw.
The best way to thaw a turkey is to keep it in the refrigerator. Taking into account the weight of the turkey, this may take up to two days. A faster way is to submerge the unpacked turkey in water and replace the water often. A small frozen turkey will defrost in 12-24 hours and a 9 kg turkey will take two days. After defrosting, one must check whether there are any ice crystals left inside. If there are none, the packaging may be removed and the bird may be placed in the refrigerator.
It is recommended to choose the size of a turkey according to the number of people eating it. 400 g of meat should be calculated per person. Seems too much? The leftovers of roasted turkey may be used for sandwiches, salads, soup – roasted turkey may be kept in a refrigerator up to 4 days.
…That the turkey and the bald eagle were each considered as the national symbol of America. Benjamin Franklin supported the opinion of those, who wanted to see a turkey as a symbol of America. He said he believed that although a turkey seems stupid and self-satisfied, it is way better than a frightful eagle.
…On Thanksgiving Day, the residents of US eat 45 million turkeys – this amounts to one sixth of all turkeys consumed per year. …The taste of turkey mostly depends on the age of the bird. The meat of an old male turkey is more valuable than that of a fledgling, because the meat of the latter is harder and has more tendons. However, with female birds it is vice versa – the meat of young birds is more tender and juicier in comparison to the meat of an old bird.
…Turkeys have good hearing, though their ears are hidden. They also have good sight and a wide field of vision (around 270 degrees), which makes it impossible to sneak upon them.
…Unlike their domestic counterparts, wild turkeys can fly at the speed of up to of 90 km/h. They are also fast runners and can run as fast as 40 km/h.