Talking Turkey At Godwick Hall Farm in Norfolk
My family and I have been rearing free-range turkeys at Godwick Hall in Norfolk for nearly 50 years.
I am also the national chairman of the TFTA (Traditional Farmfresh Turkey Association) which was founded in 1984 and has over fifty members countrywide; we produce more than 165,000 turkeys each year specifically for the Christmas market for everyone from Gordon Ramsay and the American Ambassador in London to long-established local customers whom we really value.
We are the third generation of the Garner family in this business and have been farming the land in a unique corner of Norfolk, originally an ancient village with the rather quirky name of Tittleshall-cum-Godwick, surrounded by rolling fields and beautiful grasslands, under big East Anglian skies.
All of our Christmas turkeys are traditional, slow-growing Black or Bronze breeds, genuine free-range turkeys raised in accordance with the strict rules of the Traditional Farmfresh Turkey Association. I know from years of experience that quality and flavour cannot be rushed, so we start earlier in the year to ensure that the birds have time to develop naturally to full maturity.
We treat the turkeys with the respect that all farm animals deserve: they are fed the best natural diet of fresh vegetables and home-grown cereals, free from additives and growth promoters. They roam around the large, clover-rich grass paddocks on our farm where they are reared for a full seven months, so that they feel the summer rays and warm weather, which are important for good growth and calcification. Then, in the autumn, they eat all the apples which have fallen from the trees in the orchard.
Godwick turkeys are all prepared for Christmas on the farm resulting in minimum stress to the bird, because they do not need to travel anywhere, so the meat does not produce lactic acid. They are dry-plucked by hand, which is the best way as it is cleaner and results in better looking, crisper turkeys. They are then hung for two weeks in the traditional way to guarantee a rich-tasting, succulent meat. They can only be bought direct from our farm, or from farm shops and butchers.
Being the chairman of the TFTA for the last two years has been a fascinating experience. I relinquish my title next year to John Howe, whose farm in Kent started with 25 birds and has now almost 10,000 turkeys. The Association has become recognised in the UK and European Union as a leader in the very best of traditional turkey production and welfare standards.
Significantly, the TFTA turkeys were the first turkey product to gain recognition with a designation as Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG). The system highlights regional and traditional food whose authenticity and origin can be guaranteed. It protects registered products against imitation, throughout the EU and enables them to carry an EU symbol to help consumers recognise their authentic nature.
The founders envisaged that the key role of the Association was to improve members’ marketing by encouraging like-minded producers to join together and adhere to the same strict regime in turkey rearing, in which we all take pride.
In recent years, demand has far outstripped production during December. The sales success is due, in no small part, to an innovative marketing and promotional strategy, focusing on the new Totally Traditional Turkey brand.
The run-up to Christmas may be a chaotic time for me, with all work and no sleep, especially with my extended feathered family running around the fields, but I still look forward to Christmas morning when I can put my feet up and enjoy the fruits of my labour.
I have several recipes for cooking turkey and this is one of my favourites, written by Chef Rachel Green
Roasted Turkey with Fig, Apple and Shallot Stuffing with Fresh Sage
5kg free-range Totally Traditional Turkey
4 tbsp rapeseed oil
Sea salt and black pepper
Fig, Apple and Shallot Stuffing with Fresh Sage
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
8 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
250g dried figs, chopped into small cubes
2 small eating apples
250g fresh breadcrumbs
3 tbsp fresh sage leaves, chopped
750g sausage meat
3tbsp of parsley, chopped
1 large egg beaten
Sea salt and black pepper
Preheat oven to 230°C/Gas Mark 8
Remove turkey giblets and reserve. Rinse the turkey inside and out and dry well.
Place the turkey in a large roasting pan, brush the turkey generously with rapeseed oil and season with sea salt and black pepper and cover with foil.
Place the prepared turkey in the pre-heated oven and cook at this temperature for the first 30 minutes. Then, lower the oven temperature to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 and cook for approximately 30 minutes per kilo, basting every hour.
To prepare the stuffing, heat the butter and rapeseed oil until the butter has melted. Add the shallot and fry gently until well softened but not browned. Stir in the garlic and season well with sea salt and black pepper. Remove from the heat and place in a bowl, leave to cool.
Peel the apples, cut into quarters, remove the core and cut into small cubes. Mix the figs, apples, breadcrumbs, sage, sausage meat and parsley with the shallots, season well with sea salt and black pepper using clean hands and then mix in the beaten egg. The mixture should be quite firm, with wet hands, mould the stuffing into balls the size of a golf ball.
Place on a greased baking sheet and bake in the pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. Alternatively you can use the mixture to stuff an onion, per person, and place the rest of the mixture into an ovenproof dish to cook.
Take one small onion per person and peel, leaving the top of the onion intact and the base root in place. Peel and boil, whole, in salted boiling water for 8-10 minutes, until just soft, drain and cool in cold water. Drain and cut the top off the onion, about three quarters of the way up, so as to make a lid. Using a sharp knife, hollow out the onion and stuff with the stuffing mixture, replace the lid and brush all over with rape seed oil. Bake for 30-35 minutes in the oven along side the turkey until cooked through and slightly caramelised.
When the turkey is approximately 35 minutes before the end of cooking, remove the foil, drain off any of the excess fat and cook for a further 35 minutes or until golden brown.
Transfer the turkey to a platter and cover loosely with foil and leave to rest for 20-30 minutes.
To make the turkey gravy with sherry, please see recipe below.
Serve the turkey carved with stuffing balls or stuffed onions and warm homemade turkey gravy with sherry.
Per serving (based on 20)
Homemade Turkey Gravy with Sherry
For the stock:
Giblets from a Totally Traditional Turkey
1 onion, cut into quarters
2 carrots, cut into chunks
1 stick of celery, cut into chunks
1 fresh bay leaf
3 sprigs of parsley
1 sprig of thyme
5 black peppercorns
To finish the gravy:
1 tsp redcurrant jelly
750ml of Totally Traditional Turkey giblet stock
2 tbsp of plain flour
Preheat oven to 400°F/200°C/Gas 6
Wash the giblets in cold water, place in a large pan with 1.5 litres of cold water. Bring to the boil and removed any scum of the top of the water with a slatted spoon. Then add the rest of the ingredients, cover and simmer for 40minutes.
Uncover the pan and simmer for a further 20-30 minutes or until the stock has reduced by half. Remove from the heat and strain into a bowl, leave to cool, cover and place in the fridge or use immediately.
To make the gravy, bring the stock back to the boil and remove from the heat.
When the turkey is cooked pour off the fat from the roasting juices, place the tin on the hob, whisk in the flour and place over a low heat and cook the flour mixture making sure you have scrapped up all the meaty sticky bits, on the bottom of the tin and stir constantly. After 2 minutes, remove from the heat and whisk in the turkey giblet stock and redcurrant jelly, bring slowly to the boil, stirring constantly.
Add the sherry and cook for a further 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Season to taste add a little more sherry if you want and then strain into a warm jug and serve. Any leftover turkey sherry gravy can be frozen.
The giblet stock can be made 2 days before required.
Per serving (based on 20)