Last Thanksgiving season California Political Review gave readers our first inside scoop on the best turkeys in the state. This year, we are not talking about the new Democrat super-majorities in both Houses of our state legislature, though they are all surely
turkeys! We are instead talking about the very best Thanksgiving turkeys, grown right here in sunny California! According to the California Poultry Federation, over 15 million turkeys are grown annually in California. California is in the top 6 states for turkey production, with almost $200 million a year in total business.
One of the very best fresh turkeys available is through Gelson’s Markets in southern California, branded as Shelton’s and from Pomona Valley since 1924. Shelton’s produces great regular and organic chickens on a regular basis for Gelson’s and their turkeys are just as good. Shelton’s turkeys include USDA guaranteed free range and non-antibiotic birds that are both fresh and frozen and outside of southern California can be found at select natural food stores and finer markets. Shelton’s birds are better because they are raised in open pens for up to a 1/2 year and are never feed artificial growth stimulants at any time.
Foster Farms, based in Livingston, is a major California-based producer of turkeys through its large processing plant in Fresno. A huge producer of chickens as well, Foster Farms received an award from the state in 2005 for environmental leadership. Foster Farms raises good birds that are distributed at major super-markets throughout California
While Foster is one of the biggest quality producers in the country, California is also home to a number of smaller producers that focus on various aspects of providing the public a great turkey. Branigan’s Turkey Farm was established in rural Woodland in 1942 and raises about 20,000 turkeys a year. Its’ birds are all natural, no hormones or antibiotics, are free range, and are raised a little longer than some other brands. Branigan’s turkeys are available through their plant year round (530-662-4205) or through grocery stores with specialty meat departments, mostly in northern California.
Diestel Turkey Ranch is based in beautiful Sonora in the Sierra Nevada foothills, have been in business since 1949, and I can say I have enjoyed their turkeys for years. The emphasis here is on sustainable farming, natural quality and good taste. They allow the public to actually visit their ranch. Their number is 888-4-GOBBLE.
Another good turkey comes from California’s Central Valley, Mary’s Free Range, Organic, and Heritage Turkeys. Mary’s has been in business since 1954. Mary’s turkeys roam a farm four times the size of the average commercial turkey ranch, and their organic turkeys are raised on feeds that do not contain any animal by-products, GMOs, antibiotics, pesticides, or other chemicals. www.marysturkeys.com.
We like to slow roast our own turkey overnight on a very low setting, and bast the bird frequently to be sure it is nice and moist. We usually don’t do much by way of seasoning so we can enjoy the taste of the turkey itself. But we’ve tried a few other recipes and one similarly simple slow roast recipe we like is from Wolfgang Puck and is available at the Food Network website here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/wolfgang-puck/whole-roasted-turkey-recipe/index.html.
And what is the appropriate wine to pair with a turkey? We think a California Pinot Noir is nice, or a great Santa Barbara Syrah like 2010 Melville “Verna’s Estate’s”, currently $19.99 a bottle at www.klwines.com.