In preparing this post, I have gained a great appreciation for rural farm women from the 1920s. The effort required to get a turkey butchered and processed for Thanksgiving dinner is labor-intensive, not to mention the time, effort, and expense of raising the bird, to begin with. The text regarding processing turkeys comes from Ida Bailey Allen’s cookbook, Cooking, Menus, Service 1924. The fact that this detailed information was included in her cookbook tells me that it was very pertinent for its time. The photographs of the processing come from the website Ask A Prepper (HERE). They are very helpful in understanding the whole process. The most surprising fact that I learned is that every turkey has a parson’s nose (aka pope’s nose). I hope you enjoy reading this post. It has given me one more thing to be thankful for in 2021–my turkey is fully processed and waiting for me at the grocery store!
Both chicken and turkey are sold picked in city markets.
In the country, this usually is done at home and merely consists of picking the feathers from the bird. Chicken may be picked wet or dry, the dry picked being the best. Wet picking means that after killing the bird has been plunged in boiling water to loosen the feathers that they may be extracted more quickly. Wet-picked poultry does not keep as well as dry picked.
All pin feathers must be removed one at a time, either with the fingers or with a pair of nippers for the purpose.
The long hairs on poultry must be removed by singeing. This is done either by holding the bird over a flame until the hairs are singed off or by applying a light twist of paper or a lighted wax taper (candle) to the flesh until the same results are obtained.
Wash the turkey or chicken after singeing. Wipe carefully, remove the head, and if the sinews or tendons are to be removed make a lengthwise cut through the leg under what might be termed the knee joint, pick up the tendons one by one on a strong skewer and pull them from the drumstick. There are seven tendons, and if they are removed the drumstick will prove as tender as any other part of the bird. The butcher can do this readily by making the same cut, then putting the tendons over a hook, giving one twist and a pull, then they all come out together. His usual method of preparing a bird, however, is to chop off the legs at the joint, leaving the tendons in the drumstick.
Removing Crop and Giblets
Remove the crop (food bag) from the neck opening. Make a cross-cut at the vent, keeping this as small as possible, and remove the intestines, gizzard, heart, and liver, being careful not to break the gall bag which is attached to the liver; if broken, it spreads its bitter contents on every part of the bird which it touches. Pull out the windpipe after the intestines are removed, then take out the lungs, which are closely attached to the inner side of the backbone. Discard the intestines and windpipe, but keep the liver, gizzard, and heart to be cooked, minced, and added to the gravy. The inner part of the gizzard enclosed by a very tender skin must of course be removed, for this inner part is where the food is ground up and contains particles of stone and pebble.
Removing Oil Sack
Turn the bird over and cut out the oil bag which is found at the tip of the “parson’s nose” (the tail)—this is a little sack containing a thick yellow deposit strong in both odor and taste.
Wipe the inside of the bird with a damp cloth, stuff as desired, and sew or skewer up the vent before trussing.
To Skewer a Vent
Stick four or five wooden toothpicks through the skin from side to side of the vent then take a piece of white thread and fasten it cross-cross fashion, as a small boy fastens his shoelaces, tying it at the end. After the bird is cooked the toothpicks can be drawn out; the thread will come with them, and there will be no cord to entangle the knife of the carver.
To Truss a Turkey or Chicken, Duck or Goose
Trussing is a very simple process and is done to keep the bird in shape while cooking. Cut the neck as close to the body as possible (it may be added to the giblets and stewed for gravy), draw the skin of the neck over to the back, and secure with a skewer. Press the legs close to the sides of the bird, the knucklebones against the vent, tie them there and run a skewer through them, or fasten with a heavy thread carried right through the body of the bird by means of a trussing needle. Press the wings down toward the back of the bird and fasten theses also with a skewer or with the trussing needle. If any tying is done let it be under rather than over the body, as the marks of the cords will show if allowed to cross the breast.
The Roasting of Poultry
Allow twenty-five minutes to each pound. Begin the cooking in a hot oven—400-425 degrees—reduce it after the first then minutes, that the meat may cook gently.
Most people cook poultry breast uppermost; this, however, causes the juices to flow away from the breast, making it dry. The bird should be laid on its side during the early part of the cooking, then turned breast uppermost to finish.
There are roasting “saddles” on the market in which poultry can be suspended so that the breast does not have to lie in the fat in the pan. As with all meats, season when partly done, baste thoroughly and frequently to keep the flesh juicy and dredge with flour when beginning to brown to assist the browning and to give a rich thickness to the gravy.
Poultry may be stuffed if desired, both in the crop cavity and in the body, or the stuffing may be baked in a separate dish or pan and served as an accompaniment.
Roast chicken and turkey, being somewhat dry-fleshed, can be garnished with curls of bacon or with sausages cooked in the pan.
Clean a turkey according to directions given in the Roasting of Poultry, fill with potato, giblet, egg bread, chestnut, or oyster stuffing. Place on a rack in the dripping pan and cook according to general directions for roasting, allowing three hours for a turkey from eight to ten pounds.
Make plain or giblet gravy as directed, and serve the turkey with or without a garnish of sausages and cubes of cranberry jelly.