Bird’s the word this (and every) holiday season. If you’re looking for the best place to source your Thanksgiving turkey, the East End is home to a wealth of incredible poultry farms.
But. First things first. Do you know how to make the best bird in the land? Start with a fresh—never frozen—turkey. I suggest using a brine for 24 hours in order to help preserve the moisture of the bird. Combine one cup each sugar and salt with 2 gallons of cold water, along with your choice of aromatics (onion, fresh rosemary, and allspice berries are all good choices) and heat until dissolved. Allow the mixture to cool. Submerge the turkey in the brine, turning every few hours (a trash bag inside of a large cooler is handy, and a heavy plate will keep the bird from floating to the top). At the end of 24 hours, remove the bird from the brine, dry thoroughly with towels, and leave uncovered, breast side up, in the refrigerator over night.
When you’re cooking the bird, begin at a higher temperature—450 works—breast side down for about an hour. Flip the bird, literally, and lower the temp to 350. Remove when the bird has reached 165 degrees when tested at the thickest point of the thigh.
Read on for where to score the finest East End turkey this year.
This Riverhead-based organic farm run by Eve and Chris Kaplan-Walbrecht raises a small number of heritage birds every year for your Thanksgiving enjoyment. This year’s bounty will include 75 birds, available for preorder on the farm’s website. Bourbon red and blue slate turkeys are raised on organic feed and are free-range and pastured, so you can feel good about the life they led. Order early, as turkeys are limited.
Garden of Eve Farm, 4558 Sound Avenue, Riverhead, (631) 722-8777, open daily 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
This small farm has been raising poultry and growing fruits and vegetables since 1945. In addition to their own wares (chickens, eggs, and in-season produce), they also carry an array of local products, like pies from Southampton’s Tate’s Bakeshop. Come November, locals line up for their pre-ordered turkeys, which are available in several sizes—the smallest are around 12 pounds. Turkey ordering begins on the first of November. The farm accepts both in-person and phone orders. These free-range birds are some of the best on the Island.
North Sea Farms, 1060 Noyac Road, Southampton, (631) 283-0735, open daily 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Holly and Chris Browder bring passion and expertise to their Mattituck bird farm, where they raise various types of chickens and Thanksgiving turkeys. Their birds and eggs are available at the Southampton, Westhampton, and East Hampton farmer’s markets, but Thanksgiving birds are a special order item, available for preorder on the website with a $50 deposit. Turkeys are broad breasted bronzes that are free-range, certified organic, pastured birds. Birds ordered online can be picked up the week of Thanksgiving for all your holiday needs.
Browders Birds, 4050 Soundview Avenue, Mattituck, (631) 477-6523, open Monday and Friday 3 to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 12 to 5 p.m.
The Ludlow family is really expert at everything autumn, and their tasty turkeys are no exception. They raise approximately 250 turkeys per year, all of which are sold out by the holiday—so be sure to order yours in advance. Turkeys are generally sold out a few weeks before the holiday, so be sure to preorder yours.
Mecox Bay Dairy, 855 Mecox Road, Bridgehampton, (631) 537-0335, open Thursday through Monday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
No conversation about turkey would be complete without mention of Miloski’s, the North Fork institution that has been serving up respectable birds since 1946. This 30-acre farm is also home to chickens and ducks, but it’s the turkey that keeps people coming back again and again. Turkeys are all natural and are never treated with steroids or antibiotics. They’re $4.95 a pound and you should order yours early in November, because these birds are some of the most sought after on Long Island.
Miloski’s Poultry Farm, 4418 Middle Country Road, Calverton, (631) 727-0239, open Wednesday through Monday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.