In 1609 the inhabitants of Jamestown were reduced almost to starvation but were kept alive by gifts of wild game and turkeys given to them by the indigenous Indians.  This generosity has been the basis of our Thanksgiving feasts ever since.  How we treated the Indians afterward should not be mentioned!

These large birds are native to North America and were bought back to Europe in the early fifteen hundreds via Turkish traders, hence the name we gave them.  Peacocks (from India), Guinea-fowl (from Africa) and turkeys (from North America) were all served at Royal feasts and banquets for the obvious reason that they were a rarity.  They were already domesticated in flocks and became indispensable for large gatherings and Christmas celebrations.

The problem has always been with the leftovers!  After one groaning table of feasting at Thanksgiving and a sandwich or salad of the cold meat during the week-end ballgames we are fed-up with it.  It doesn’t freeze well at all unless it is kept moist in gravy or sauces.  There are, however, those freezing soggy days of winter coming up and it is wonderful to be able to take out a tasty meal from the old Thanksgiving bird from time to time.  The thing we must do is to disguise the wonderful rich meat in coats of many colors so as not to bore anyone with repeat flavors.  Turkey meat is richer and denser than chicken meat and stands up very well to re-heating.

The first thing to do is to strip the bird of every morsel of meat including its skin and place the bones in a huge pot with a chopped onion, celery stick, parsley bunch, bay leaf and lots of black pepper but very little salt.  Cover with water and simmer covered for an hour until you have a rich brown stock.  Strain, cool and pour into bags or plastic containers for soup, stews and sauces.  Boiling a chicken later in turkey stock, for instance, gives it a huge boost of extra flavor.

Now you have a chopping board full of torn leg-meat, sad-looking dry breast meat and the odd assortment of skin and knobbles from all the nooks and crannies of the carcass.  Divide the white meat from the black meat and chop it all up in large bite-sized pieces and place in separate bowls.  Now you are ready to give it coats of many colors.

Devilled Turkey

This is a culinary term for cooking something in fiery hot spices or condiments.  The most common way is to use strong mustard.  It is a good method for using up some of the white meat.  Make a ‘roux’ by melting equal parts butter (oil, or margarine) and flour in a small casserole (do not use a non-stick pan).  When the flour froths but before it turns brown remove from the heat and whisk in milk (2 tbs butter, 2 tbs flour to 1 cup milk for a thick sauce).  Season with salt, nutmeg, black pepper, a whole clove and 1/2 a bayleaf.  Simmer for 15 mins, covered, over very low heat stirring from time to time.  Remove from heat, strain out clove and bayleaf and cool slightly.  Whisk in 4 – 6 tablespoons of really hot Dijon mustard or 2 tablespoons Coleman’s English mustard powder depending on your preference for hot or very hot spiciness.  Whisk in 2  – 3 tablespoons heavy cream to dilute the fiery mustard and pour over the white meat (or a mixture of both dark and white).  Stir well, cool and freeze in plastic container with tight lid or zip.  This is great served on white rice cooked in your turkey stock.

Chili Con Turkey with Tequila

1/2 sweet onion (or purple onion) chopped fine
1 or 2 jalapeno chilis, seeded and chopped fine
6 tbs olive oil
2 tbs chopped celantro leaves
1 bud garlic chopped very fine 1 tsp thyme leaves
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 small can of sweetcorn (or frozen, I don’t recommend fresh cobs as they are always too old and have no taste and too much starch at this time of year)
2 large 16oz cans black beans
2 – 3 tbs Tequila (optional)

Marinate chopped onion and chilis in your oil with a little salt for at least and hour.  Pour over turkey meat.  Mix together all other ingredients including beans and season with salt to taste.  Stir in turkey meat and freeze as usual.  Defrost and reheat in oven in a covered casserole or pie dish.  Serve with crisp tortillas.

Turkey Curry

4 strips thick bacon chopped into bite-sized chunks
2 tbs oil (any kind)
1 onion chopped coarsely
2 tbs flour
2 cups turkey stock or chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
2 parsnips, peeled and chopped into chunks
2- 4 tbs curry powder
1 tsp whole coriander seeds
1 tbs apricot jam
2 tbs Branston pickle or Major Grey’s chutney
1 tbs currants
1 granny smith apple
1 green bell pepper
2 tbs heavy cream or sour cream to serve


Cook bacon and onion in oil over low heat until golden brown.  Add flour and cook until frothy.  Whisk in stock and cook over medium heat until it thickens (about 5 mins).  Add all other ingredients except apple, bell pepper and cream.  Cook for 15 mins over low heat to infuse flavors.  Remove from heat and adjust seasoning.  Stir in turkey meat.  Cool completely and freeze.  To serve:  de-frost and heat over low heat or in oven 250F until warmed through. Chop green pepper in quarters and remove seeds and stem and chop into chunks.   Slice unpeeled apple into quarters and remove core and chop into small chunks.  Add both to curry and stir in cream.  Serve with rice cooked in your turkey stock or plain water and salt.