How to cook a perfect pasture-raised turkey

We are grateful for the opportunity to provide you and your loved ones with a delicious pastured turkey for this special time of the year. Cooking a whole pasture-raised bird can be intimidating, and we want you to feel well-prepared to cook our turkeys this holiday season.

Our turkeys are athletes. They spend their entire lives roaming our lush pastures, hunting, pecking, scratching, and dustbathing as nature intended. Because of their diet and exercise, our birds are lean animals. When cooking them, keep in mind they have less fat than commodity turkeys. We have found that cooking with a wet, slow heat yields a more tender turkey dish.

Check out our recipe and tips to cook the perfect pastured turkey for your holiday meal, as well as our five-part video tutorial where Chef Reid walks you through the process step-by-step.

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Ingredients

White Oak Pastures pastured turkey
White Oak Pastures pastured poultry bone broth or water
Olive oil
1 large onion
1 carrot
4 stalks celery
1 bay leaf

Butter Mixture Ingredients
10 oz butter (about 2.5 sticks) at room temp
4 tsp fresh rosemary
4 tsp fresh sage
1 tbsp fresh oregano
4 lemons (2 for juicing and zesting and 2 whole lemons)
3 fresh garlic cloves
¼ tsp allspice
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste

Preparation

Receiving and Defrosting
Your turkey will arrive frozen or very cold to the touch. Allow 3-4 days to thaw your turkey slowly in the refrigerator. After the turkey thaws, remove the bag of giblets from the body cavity and set them aside. These are great for making gravy. There may be paper between the turkey breasts to soak up any juice; remove this, too.

Herb Butter Marinade
Combine butter mixture ingredients in a mixing bowl. Loosen the turkey’s skin with your hands, and rub the butter mixture over the whole turkey, under and over the skin. Tip: Use a piping bag to get the mixture under the skin more easily. If you have time, cover and refrigerate the bird overnight to allow the flavors time to penetrate the meat. We’ve found you don’t need to brine pastured birds because they hold moisture and flavor better than conventional birds.

Making Mirepox
Roughly chop celery, carrot, and onion and place them in the bottom of a roasting pan along with bone broth or water and a bay leaf. Use just enough liquid to cover the vegetables. This mixture will add flavor to the bird and keep it moist. Set aside a few pieces of onion for roasting inside the cavity of the turkey.

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Ready to cook
Remove turkey from refrigerator 30-60 minutes before cooking, and preheat oven to 325F. Place turkey on a roasting rack, breast up, and set in the roasting pan over the mirepox. Loosely place 2-4 lemon halves and a few pieces of onion inside the cavity. Truss the bird loosely with butcher’s twine and drizzle turkey skin with olive oil. Place the pan into the oven and cook, basting the bird with pan juices every 10-15 minutes. Remove the bird once the internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh registers 160F (approximately 8-10 minutes per pound). Please note that our pastured turkeys cook more quickly than conventional birds. Lastly, it is important to allow the turkey to rest 15-20 minutes before carving so you don’t lose all the delicious juices.

Photos by Laura Mortelliti. 

Categories: Kitchen | Tags: | Leave a comment

What’s in your Jeep, Will Harris?

We’ve all seen blogs or magazines featuring the contents of movie stars’ handbags, with sunglasses, lipsticks, and fancy electronics on display. Here at White Oak Pastures, we are similarly fascinated by what’s inside Will Harris’ Jeep. When you hop in to take a ride around the farm, you invariably have to clear away guns and knives, tools, and things Will collects from the woods in order to make room to sit down. In the spirit of a “What’s in your handbag?” article, Will was a good sport and let us go through his stuff and take photos of it to put on the internet.

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Will’s Jeep is his toolbox. He has a rope because things need tying, a chain because things need pulling, a crowbar because things need prying apart… you get the picture. The hammer is Will’s key to every door (like the John Denver song), and he has a pair of gloves because there are a few things out there that are tougher than he is.

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A golfer carries a bag full of different clubs for different shots. Will does the same with guns. He uses a shotgun to keep varmints away, and pistols to avoid arguments and end debates. Pictured is an Outback 12-gauge over and under shotgun, a Ruger 357 Magnum snake charmer, and a Ruger 357 Magnum debate winner.

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The inscribed whip was made by the father of a former employee, a real Florida cowboy. The primary functionality was never to strike the animal; the loud crack that the lash makes has the desired effect of turning animals away so that they can be herded. Notebooks are for recording field observations of the animals and the land. The old bottles were collected in the woods around the pastures. Will says that he has never taken a dose of speed, but he cannot imagine that it is a stronger stimulant than a chew of Red Man. The corkscrew and the Yeti are companion items that receive daily usage.

Items photographed by Laura Mortelliti. Photo of Will by Angie Mosier.

Categories: Staff Spotlight | 5 Comments

Ignite the Consumer Revolution for Regenerative Agriculture

As one of 17 accredited Savory Global Network Hubs around the world, our goal is to help build awareness for the importance of holistic land and animal management practices that create environmental, economic and social benefits. We are inspired by the growing movement comprised of farmers and ranchers who are regenerating their soils, watersheds, wildlife habitats and human communities by practicing Holistic Management.

However, the story doesn’t end there. Consumers need better access to products grown regeneratively. Farmers and ranchers need more opportunities to sell their products in a way that recognizes their dedication to regenerating the environments we all depend upon. And bold brands that are striving to make real change in the marketplace need access to the raw materials that will enable them to deliver environmentally beneficial products everyone can feel proud of.

We hope to help ignite a consumer revolution that demands good stewardship of our lands and proper management of livestock worldwide. Please join us for the 2017 Eat It, Wear It, Regenerate It conference taking place in late October and early November, and be part of a movement that is supporting regenerative agriculture globally. We have incredibly innovative opportunities for you engage with this Consumer Revolution. Whether you can make it to the intimate VIP event in Boulder, to your local Hub, or participate digitally, there are options for everyone to join the conversation.

For our friends here in the Southeast, we’d love for you to join us for our local Hub event in Atlanta on November 4th. Will Harris will host the Southeastern premiere of the Savory Institute’s world broadcast and has put together a team of top chefs to put the “dinner” in our dinner and a movie evening. Each chef will highlight a protein from White Oak Pastures for guests to enjoy while mingling, learning more about our farm’s regenerative farming methods, and viewing the four short films. The event takes place from 6 – 8 p.m. at The Shed at Ponce City Market. Tickets, which include food and two drinks, are $35 and may be purchased online.

Wise food choices will have a great impact in how many acres of land go from unsustainable production practices to those that are regenerative. With your insight and dialogue you can help us craft a better future for all.

Photos by Laura Mortelliti.

Categories: Regenerative Land Management | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Simply stated: Chickens aren’t vegetarian. They just ain’t.

We’re in the process of redesigning our product labels, and the first thing to go will be the “Vegetarian Fed” claim on our poultry. Vegetarian diets for chickens have been highly marketed, and successful; however, there’s nothing natural about a completely vegetarian diet for a chicken.

While our non-GMO chicken feed mixture is 100% vegetarian and contains no animal by-products as our current label indicates, we don’t want to imply that our chickens don’t have access to the kind of proteins they evolved eating, which they can hunt and forage for themselves. Our chickens live outside, completely unconfined and free to roam our pastures where they get a tremendous amount of nutrition.

We are not just talking about worms and bugs. We have seen our chickens eat frogs, mice, snakes, and any other animal protein sources that they can get their beaks into, including their own dead. It ain’t pretty, but it is nature.

We are not talking about chickens that are starved to near death, or chickens that are driven to the edge of chicken insanity by industrial confinement. We are talking about well-fed, well-adjusted chickens. They naturally love to forage for a cornucopia of food sources, which includes meat.

Look at them. Try to picture a miniature Tyrannosaurus Rex with feathers instead of scales. It looks like a chicken, doesn’t it?

Categories: Animal Welfare | Tags: | 4 Comments

Debunking the “feed the world” myth

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The topic of “feeding the world” is hotly debated.

Industrialized agriculture interests argue that factory farming is the only way to feed our growing world population. This mantra is used to justify destructive and inhumane practices that make food artificially cheap and wastefully abundant.

We believe that every country has a right to develop their own food production system. We don’t believe that we American farmers and ranchers are supposed to feed the entire world; we think we’re supposed to feed our community. That being said, we’re very happy to take this opportunity to explain our perspective on this issue.

Before having that discussion, we all need to stipulate that the earth has a limited carrying capacity, meaning there are not infinite resources available on this planet to produce food and sustain life for an unlimited population.

If the acreage that is available to farm is the only limiting factor, industrialized agriculture wins. By using artificial crutches developed by reductionist science, factory farms can produce more food per acre of land than regenerative farms can.

If petroleum is the limiting factor for feeding the world, we win, because we don’t use as much as they do. If global warming is the limiting factor, we win. We don’t produce as many greenhouse gasses as they do. If antibiotic-resistant pathogens are the limiting factor, we win. If topsoil loss, endangering wildlife species, increasing dead areas in the seas, pesticide contamination, diminished resources, water shortage and contamination, and a host of other disasters are the limiting factor, we win. These problems have only been with us since agriculture became industrialized.

Factory farming truly made food abundant and cheap. It is more efficient and productive per acre of land, if that is the only consideration. But it has horrific unintended consequences for our animals, our natural resources, and the economy of rural America.

Categories: Animal Welfare, Regenerative Land Management, Rural Community | 11 Comments

Look inside our 19th century general store

We’ve been working hard all summer to restore Bluffton, Georgia’s historic 175-year-old general store as part of our effort to breathe life into our little town. This will be the first store within the city limits in 40 years. There are only a few days left until our grand opening on October 15th, but we couldn’t wait to share our progress with you as we put on the finishing touches.

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As a tribute to its rich history, we retained as much of the original store as possible. We’ve kept the original counters, preserved the floors and other woodwork, and decorated the store with its authentic artifacts and others from around the farm. Check out our previous blog post for more on the store’s history.

We have plenty of space now, so we’re able to offer an expanded selection of White Oak Pastures products. We have all 10 species of red meat and poultry available, as well as eggs, vegetables, and artisan goods. We’ve been busy pickling and canning our organic vegetables to put on the shelves, and we’ll offer cooked sausage dogs to eat in the store from our expanded sausage line.

Check out our leather shop inside the General Store where we’re making leather goods by hand from our cattle hides. Every day we’re designing new earrings, bracelets, bags, wallets, and more. You can even dye your own bracelets, which make wonderful gifts. We’re also displaying beautiful cowhide rugs for sale that we just picked up from the tannery in Sebring, FL.

We’re showcasing plenty of other Georgia Grown products, too. The majority of the items on our shelves are produced locally, including pepper jellies and fruit preserves to pair with our meats and Sweet Grass Dairy cheeses; pancake, brownie, scone, and bread baking mixes; and oils, syrups, and sauces. We’ve also installed a brand new ice cream machine, which Will might have put in for himself, but regardless, we’d love for you to try some, too.

We hope this will be more of a community gathering place than just a general store. We have bicycles for rent to ride around Bluffton or the farm, or you can sit outside and eat a meal from our food trailer. Across the street we’re building a new hide barn, where we’ll prepare cowhides to be sent for tanning, or start the process of making rawhide pet chews. With all these activities right in downtown Bluffton, you can get the White Oak Pastures farm experience in one quick visit.

Come visit our new store at 101 Church St in Bluffton. We hope to see you on the farm soon!

Categories: Rural Community | 2 Comments

Holiday turkeys with a higher purpose

You’ve heard it before. Our turkeys freely roam our pastures completely unconfined, and are never treated with antibiotics or steroids. They are slaughtered and hand-butchered on our farm in our zero-waste, USDA-inspected processing abattoir. Our turkeys are Non-GMO Project Verified, Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane and Step 5+ in the Global Animal Partnership program.

With these attributes, our turkeys surely will make a great centerpiece for your holiday meal. But this year, our birds have a mission that’s much bigger: to heal and restore the land.

Earlier this year, we purchased 250 acres of land that had been stripped of life by decades of monocultural row crop production. By transitioning to a wide variety of diverse species of plants and animals through holistic management, we are working hard to turn this soil from a dead mineral medium to one that’s teeming with life. This Spring, we took our first step toward restoring the land by moving cattle onto it to eat hay, break up the soil with their hooves, and urinate and defecate to add nutrients to the land.

Now it’s the turkeys’ turn. Following our Serengeti Rotational Grazing Model, these birds are pecking and scratching to open up the soil and evenly spread the fertilizer left by the previous herd. They’re adding more fertility to the soil by depositing manure, removing weeds that the ruminants won’t eat, and preparing the land for the new grasses that are beginning to grow. By simply engaging in their natural behaviors, the turkeys are serving a higher purpose by turning this land into productive pasture that will benefit future generations.

This year, we are especially thankful for our turkeys’ contribution to the organism that is White Oak Pastures, and we are excited to share their goodness with you. We hope you and your family will enjoy our holiday turkeys as much as we do; visit our website to purchase yours.

Photos by Laura Mortelliti.

Categories: Animal Welfare, Regenerative Land Management | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Top 5 reasons to celebrate our 150th anniversary with us

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Join us the weekend of October 15th as we commemorate our 150th anniversary. We’ll make it a real celebration with our largest event yet. Over the years we’ve refined our traditions and skills, and like the wines Will Harris is well known to enjoy, we only get better with age. If you’re on the fence about what to do the weekend of October 15th, check out the top five reasons to spend it in Bluffton.

1. Grand re-opening of the White Oak Pastures General Store
We’re proud that now that we’ve put the artisanal labor back in agriculture, our little town can again support its own store. We’re putting the finishing touches on our restoration of Bluffton’s 175-year-old general store and we can’t wait to show it to you. Join us for a ribbon cutting ceremony and enjoy the expanded selection of products available, including ice cream.

2. Exclusive livestream of the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium
The Southern Foodways Alliance does amazing work preserving and promoting the diverse food culture of the American South. Their annual symposium is held in Oxford, Mississippi and tickets sell out quickly, but this year we are excited to be able to offer an exclusive live-stream of the event right here in Bluffton.

3. Local farm-to-table food
Lunch and supper will be available for our guests at the White Oak Pastures food truck, and you won’t want to miss Chef Reid’s surprise 150th anniversary signature burger. After a night of celebrating a century-and-a-half on our family farm, we hope you will join us for Sunday brunch in our on-farm Pavilion.

4. Music! Drinking! Dancing!
That wine we mentioned? There will be plenty of it. We’ll have a cash bar to wash down your fine meal with beer and wine, and we’ll welcome the locally famous Bo Henry Band from Albany, GA for a night of dancing in the streets of downtown Bluffton.

5. Be part of the rural revival
We’ve breathed life into our farm village that had slipped almost into oblivion. Take a ride around Bluffton by horse-drawn farm wagon or bicycle, get to know the people who produce your food, and celebrate the regenerative agriculture movement that is putting Bluffton back on the map!

Click here for full event details. We look forward to seeing you on October 15th.

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Honey as pure as the land

At White Oak Pastures, our bees have been busy this summer making a sweet, golden honey that could only come from this unique place.

Our beehives are nestled in our eight-acre garden and orchard within our 1,000 acres of Certified Organic land. Our bees roam among our blackberries, muscadines, apples, peaches, pears, and nectarines, as well as the native flowering species found in our nearby pastures.

Not only do we have managed honeybee colonies, but we also see a plethora of naturally occurring wild bee colonies throughout the farm. This speaks to the biological health of our organism, in a country where the honeybee population is rapidly dwindling elsewhere. These bees come to us, choosing our pastures over other places in the region they could call home.

What really makes our honey special is the passion and enthusiasm of Luis Tellez, who tends to our bees. Luis is a third-generation hive master from Mexico, where the ancient art of beekeeping was passed down from his grandfather. Luis joined the White Oak Pastures family almost three years ago, when we had just one managed beehive here on the farm. With his attention to detail and love for our bees, he has grown the operation to eight managed hives that produced 20 gallons of honey for our end-of-summer harvest.

Our wildflower honey is raw (unpasteurized), and contains all of the natural pollen found in our flowering plants, as well as their rich floral and fruity flavor notes. Our newest batch of hand-spun and bottled wildflower honey is now available for shipping through our online store. We hope you’ll enjoy this unique taste of the land of White Oak Pastures.

Photos by Laura Mortelliti.

Categories: Regenerative Land Management | Leave a comment

Meet Mary, Queen of Brussels (Sprouts)

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Photo by Laura Mortelliti

As we kick off the Fall season of our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, we are excited to introduce you to one of our organic garden managers, Mary Bruce! We love the way Mary involves herself in so many different functions at White Oak Pastures: she’s also a leather craftswoman, a biodiesel chemist, and she oversees our pastured rabbit and honeybee programs. She is smart, engaged, and always has great ideas for making improvements on the farm. Meet Mary, and catch up on what she’s up to this Fall!

You began your career here as an intern. What motivated you to work your way up to a manager?
When I began working here I had no idea how many moving parts were in this farm ecosystem. My internship was really dynamic, and there were opportunities at every turn. I was lucky enough to be able to work with so many diverse departments. I soon realized that managers were entrusted with Mr. Will’s blessing to go out and conquer. The ability to orchestrate new projects, implement systems, and feel proud of the work that I was doing made me want to invest in the farm.

We have 10 different species on the farm. Which is your favorite?
The guinea fowl. They are wild, uncontained and sneak into the garden all the time! Those birds are just fun to watch, they look as though they are launching an attack when they travel in herds and let out battle cries as they advance through the open pasture. I have been startled by those feisty birds more than once. In addition to their entertainment value, they are the most succulent and flavorful poultry that I have ever eaten. The complexity of their taste is unmatched in stocks, soups, sauces, grilling, and roasting. If you haven’t yet taken the leap, make sure you invite guinea to your next dinner party!

What is the most satisfying part of your job?
Being able to fully engage in a project. There are so many opportunities to team up with other departments in order to make the system more dynamic. We have been using the rabbits to “mow down” garden crops that we are finished harvesting and fertilize the land that they are grazing. We have also introduced a set of piglets to the garden that act as four legged tractors. They till, eat roots and debris, and break up the compaction. Using animals as tools for change has really altered the way I view farming.

What is your favorite meal to cook at home?
Tacos, burritos, and carnitas with marinated steak, pulled/ground pork, and even Mediterranean style tacos stuffed with our lamb. My favorite farm fresh toppings include: vinegar cabbage slaw, onions, microgreens, radishes, pickled carrots, homemade chipotle garlic aioli (from our pastured eggs). We eat like kings on the farm. We have the freshest produce, and most scrumptious proteins. You cannot go wrong when you have all of this great food at your fingertips.

What has been your proudest moment since working here?
I have been blessed to work on a lot of diverse projects during my time here and each one had its pinnacle.  Whenever something that I have directly had my hands on has been complimented or appreciated it really makes me proud of the work that I do. Two standout moments would be our first retail account for leather goods, and the first successful batch of biodiesel. Most recently, I have been delighted with the experimental hay pile garden. That patch of pasture is teeming with life above and below the surface, with so many plant species, beneficial insects, and even beautiful displays of fungal fruiting bodies. I am really proud of the habitat that is forming, and the things that it is teaching me.

What are you most looking forward to for the Fall season?
I am most looking forward to our annual CSA dinner (stay tuned for details!). This will be our third season hosting a dinner for our members. Last year was uniquely special; the full menu was crafted and prepared by the very same staff that plants, harvests and packs our CSA shares. Our members had the chance to spend time on the farm, see the full the process, and connect with their growers and farmers. This dinner gets to the heart of the CSA philosophy, connecting eaters with their farmers.

There’s still time to sign up for our Fall CSA at a prorated rate! Click here for details.

Categories: CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), Staff Spotlight | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

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