The wild turkey is one of America’s most iconic birds, and the main ingredient in many iconic meals, like Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. I was fortunate enough to bag a wild turkey this fall and I used it to make a version of my favorite holiday meal that I’m sure you’ll enjoy this season. For the best results, after you harvest a turkey, break the bird down into usable portions. Trying to cook a whole wild turkey is difficult because different portions of the bird don’t cook the same. The legs and thighs take a lot longer to cook than the breast portion, and trying to get it all to work at the same time is a hassle.
1 gallon of water
½ cup salt
½ cup maple sugar
1 tablespoon of black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
One head of garlic
A few sprigs of thyme
Combine the ingredients for the brine in a large stockpot and bring the water to a boil.
As soon as it begins boiling, remove the stockpot from the heat and let the brine cool to room temperature before adding the breasts.
Soak the breasts for 8 to 12 hours in a refrigerator.
When you’re ready to cook, remove the breasts from the brine and pat dry with a paper towel.
Place the breasts in a smoker at 275 degrees until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 160 degrees (approximately 1 1/2 hours).
Wild Rice, Cornbread, and Duck Sausage Dressing
1 pound of garlic, sage, and duck sausage, or you favorite country style or breakfast sausage
2 1/2 cups of cooked soup rice
1 medium onion
2 stalks of celery
2 cups of dried cornbread crumbles
2 tablespoons of butter
1 cup dried cranberries
2 cups wild turkey stock (or store bought stock)
Salt and pepper to taste
Brown the sausage in a large pan. After the sausage is cooked, remove it from the pan and set it aside on a plate or in a bowl.
Add butter to whatever drippings are in the pan over medium/high heat.
Next add the onions and the celery and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
Stir in the cooked soup rice, add the sausage back into the mix, and stir to blend it all together.
Pour in cornbread crumbles, cranberries, and wild turkey stock and stir until the other ingredients absorb all the stock.
Pour it all into a baking dish and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees before serving.
Highbush Cranberry Gravy
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups wild turkey stock
3 tablespoons highbush cranberry jelly
Salt and pepper
Melt butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.
Once it’s melted, mix in flour to create a basic roux.
Stir the roux for about five minutes until it starts to smell “nutty.”
Add the stock and continue stirring until the gravy thickens.
Then stir in jelly and season with salt and pepper to taste.