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Wild game birds have more to offer than just the breast.
The iconic gobbles echoing through the woods is a is an unofficial sign of spring and typically one of the first hunts of the year. Whether you are hunting local or attempting a grand slam we can all agree that wild turkey offer a bountiful of great tasting, lean protein. However, too often only the select cuts, aka the breast meat, is used and the rest is discarded or fed to the dog. With a little time and dedication, you can create great meals and bone broth, utilizing the entire bird.
Let’s start off with breaking down the bird into four parts: breast, legs and thighs, wings and the carcass and bones. I am not going to touch on the breast since that is the most common cut and there are endless uses from grinding into burger, chunking and dredging them in breading and frying to slow cooking and shredding.
Thighs and legs need the most attention to break down the heavy connective tissue. You can simply toss these into a slow cooker and after a while add some BBQ sauce for a simple and easy “pulled turkey” or test your culinary skills with browning and braising all day in a Dutch oven. Either way slow and low is the key!
Wild turkey wings are meaty little morsels and can be served much like any other BBQ or smoked wing. However, since they are not as tender as domestic wings, they need a little extra attention to make them tender. An easy method is to simmer them on a pot with some water for 1 ½ to 3 hours depending on the age of the bird. You can even add some herbs and vegetables to give them a little extra flavor. When the meat is not quite falling off the bone remove them and coat in your favorite sauce or seasoning and smoke at 200-degree F for 1 ½- 2 hours.
The carcass is hands down one of the most overlooked parts of any game bird. However, this is packed with rich nutrients that can be transferred into great tasting bone broth. Much like the Thanksgiving leftover that gets tossed into a stock both and simmered overnight, the turkey you just harvested offer the same opportunity. A simple method is to roast the carcass with some onions and carrots until it gets a nice golden crisp. Once you have achieved that place it all into a large stock pot and cover with cold water. Here you can add celery, a dozen whole pepper corns and a bay leaf or two and bring to the lightest simmer for 12-24 hours. Once done you should end up with a nice clear bone broth that is a great base to any soup or drank by itself.
Hopefully, the next bird you get you take the time to explore these techniques and enjoy more of the bounty of they hunt.