his past labor day weekend we spent a day harvesting turkeys. Our friends, Gail and Robert had 13 turkeys to harvest this fall, I love the names the turkeys were given: January, February, March…you get the idea. My dear hubby suggested we help our friends out because, well, it’s fun to spend time together being productive! (And my amazing husband is a turkey butchering expert…check it out here in a post from last year.)
So, off we went with Micah to the beautiful homestead of Gail and Robert.
After harvesting 7 turkeys, we called it a day and headed back to our home with a huge Tom Turkey as a gift. The turkey was kept on ice until I had an afternoon free to finish the job, so to speak.
DISCLAIMER: One turkey was harvested for the writing of this post. He lived a good life, on a beautiful homestead, and was fed non-gmo grains. He lived in an orchard and enjoyed the company of his fellow turkeys. He was well taken care of and died both swiftly and humanely. (Growing up on a farm, where animals were killed and harvested for food, I tend not to be sensitive to this part of the process, but for those of you who are, this is my disclaimer!)”
Turkey breakfast sausage is a favorite in our home, and not only for breakfast! The sausage patties are yummy, nutritionally filling, and super easy to grab out of the freezer. They fry up quickly for a simple, yet delicious addition to our meal.
Ready to make your own turkey breakfast patties? Then go gather your supplies:
- Turkey (preferably one raised with free-range access and fed a non-GMO diet…even better if you raised and harvested it yourself!)
- Large cutting board and a very sharp knife
- Meat grinder (We have this one from Waring Pro, it’s pretty sturdy, but this KitchenAid Meat Grinder will also get the job done…it just may take a bit longer.)
* You can start with ground turkey if you’d like, just skip forward to Step 9. I also used fresh herbs for this recipe. You can use dry or fresh, whatever you have! Typically speaking, if you use fresh herbs you’ll want about 3 times as much as dry, so adjust the recipe accordingly. Last, save your old spice jars and refill them with organic herbs bought in bulk or grown and dried yourself, you’ll save lots of money by doing so!
To Make: Now that you have all your items gathered let the butchering begin!
Step 1: Place the turkey in the kitchen sink to contain it (birds this big can be hard to handle). We want to remove the meat from the bird, so start by removing the drumstick and thigh whole, leaving the skin on. My family likes to roast and eat these on their own. One drumstick/thigh makes a lovely meal for the four of us living at home, then I use the bones that are left over to make homemade bone broth.
Step 2: Wrap the legs/thighs separately and mark them with date and contents… into the freezer they go!
Step 3: Next, remove the wings, also used for bone broth at a later date. Wrap, mark and date the package and into the freezer they go.
Step 4: Remove each breast in one large piece then slice it into chunks (sized to manufacturer ’s directions) for the meat grinder. Take the skin off of the breast, skin does not grind well (yes, I have experience!).
After I remove all usable meat I will freeze the carcass to use later for bone broth. Or, if I’m able, I’ll go ahead and make bone broth right away. All of the bird is being used, not one little piece is wasted. My great-grandmother was Native American Indian, she taught me to use every part of the animal you harvest. She used to render bear fat… but that’s another story.
Gathering supplies and removing the meat takes approximately 45 minutes. Now if this is your first time, it may take you longer. I’ve done this a time or two and can get the meat off the bird fairly quickly, it will get easier the more you practice!
Step 5: Refrigerate the meat for about an hour while you measure ingredients and catch up on anything else that needs done. Today, Micah (the 6 year old) and I fed the dog and got our evening chores out of the way so I could finish the process without interruption…like that happens right?
Step 6: Set up your meat grinder, we like this small one we purchased at Costco a few years ago. It’s priced fairly and is perfect for our needs. It also has sausage making attachments that we use to make our sausage links.
The next part of the process is easier done with a partner, but Mike was gone on a 911 shift, the 16 year old was working, and the six year old doesn’t like the sound of the grinder, so I was on my own.
Step 7: Separate the meat into a couple of bowls in order to leave some in the fridge to keep it cold. Be sure to have the butter cut into cubes in order to be able to quickly grab and grind with the turkey.
I KNOW, “You say BUTTER….NO!!” Read what Kelsey has to say about butter, it might change your mind. The purpose of butter is fat content. Turkey is very lean, so you have to have fat to keep it from being too dry. You can use any type of fat, for example grass fed beef fat, pork fat, even bear fat…
Step 8: Now get to grinding! Follow the manufacturers instructions for your grinder.
For the purpose of the recipe, I ground approximately 2 pounds of meat at a time. I’m typically not an exact measuring cook. I watched my mom grab a pinch of this and dash of that, cooking by texture and smell, relying on her senses not her measuring spoons. I love that I inherited the gift of not measuring, and my Mamma also passed this gift to my 16 year old daughter Katie, who’s an avid cook and baker. But not everyone has this gift or knowledge, so I measured for you.
Step 9: You should now have two pounds of ground turkey in a bowl. Add your pre-measured spices and maple syrup, this is the secret ingredient…oh so yummy!
Step 10: Mix the spices in well and re-grind. Yep, re-grind. A good friend taught me this trick. In order to get the spices distributed evenly, the quickest and easiest way is to reprocess it through the grinder.
Step 11: To form patties I like to use a 2 tablespoon cookie dough scoop (to make sure patties are uniform). Scoop and form, scoop and form…repeat until done.
Breakfast patties should be slightly small, but you can make them as big as you want! I will warn you when paired with 2 eggs, one small patty will be enough!
Altogether, grinding and forming the patties takes about 30 minutes.
Step 12: Now you can package and freeze your turkey sausage patties. If you would like to save them for breakfast in the morning they will be okay in the fridge for about 24 hours.
I like to freeze mine, because honestly, after spending the afternoon/eve processing turkey, I have to wait a few days to eat it. I just put mine into quart size freezer bags with pieces of parchment in between. I package them in fours or fives, you can put in more or less depending on the size of your family. You can also pre-freeze the patties and then use your food saver to preserve them even longer!
Step 13: Remember to label and date! I use a sharpie, today I chose pink. The yield from two pounds of ground turkey is approximately 20 breakfast sausages.
Step 14: Repeat steps 4-13 with the rest of your breast meat. Once you’re done remember to clean up! Wash all utensils in hot soapy water, rinse well. I spray my counters with a homemade vinegar spray that disinfects and cleans.
The yield from this harvest:
- 1 turkey carcass for bone broth
- 2 wings for bone broth
- 2 drumstick/thighs for roasting (and bones for bone broth)
- 3 quart size freezer bags of plain ground turkey
- 42 turkey sausage patties
That’s a lot of meals! Not bad for an afternoon in the kitchen. I started the process at about 5:00 pm and was done cleaning up by 9:30. It helps to have lively music playing and a six year old cheering you on.
I hope you truly enjoy your time spent providing fresh, healthy meals for your family. Remember, live a full life. A life full of joy…whatever you are doing!