Talking turkey

This article was originally published in November 2012

Thanksgiving is traditionally a time to express gratitude, and knowing our food comes from a safe, reliable source is truly a reason to give thanks. The Diestel family, who raise healthy, flavorful turkeys, gives us yet one more cause for celebration.

The Diestel Family Turkey Ranch has been raising turkeys in the picturesque Sierra Foothills for four generations. Now run by Tim and Joan Diestel, the farm is one of the few family-owned operations in the U.S. that still oversees all aspects of bringing turkeys from farm to market. A cornerstone of the family tradition is to concentrate on the health of the birds by giving them freedom to roam, a wholesome vegetarian diet and a clean environment. By composting to reduce green-house gases and filtering their wastewater before returning it to the land, the Diestel family also upholds its commitment to sustainability.

PCC offers three types of turkey, all from Diestel. Each is range-grown, raised for six months (longer than most commercial turkeys), and free of preservatives.

Diestel (free-range): These birds, dubbed “the originals,” are broad-breasted, with heaps of white meat and excellent flavor. They’re fed a low-fat vegetarian diet of grains and soybeans that is milled on the ranch and contains no growth stimulants or hormones.

Heidi’s Hens (certified organic and free-range): Heidi’s Hens are sustainably raised and fed a diet of organic corn and soybeans that produces juicy and delicious meat. The birds have less fat, less water and more meat than typical commercial turkeys.

American Heirloom (certified organic and free-range): A traditional variety, these heirlooms are raised sustainably in their native habitat and fed an organic diet, producing a succulent turkey with a rich-tasting flavor. These birds are the closest to what the Pilgrims would have eaten. Limited supply.


Fresh vs. frozen

According to the USDA, “fresh” turkeys are deep-chilled to no lower than 26° F in order to preserve flavor and quality during transport, eliminating the need for additives or preservatives. A turkey labeled “fresh” will still feel pliable to the touch. Store fresh turkeys in a pan in the refrigerator to catch drippings and cook within one to two days of purchase, or freeze.

A turkey labeled “frozen” means that it has been flash-frozen and held at 0° F or below. Frozen turkey can keep a year or more, but for best flavor, purchase no more than a couple months prior to cooking. Frozen turkeys typically take 3 to 4 days to defrost in the refrigerator (allow one day for every 4 to 5 pounds). A thawed turkey can be held in the refrigerator for an additional day or two.

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