Thanksgiving is one of Keith Tianen’s favorite holidays, but not always because of the glistening turkey roasting in the oven. He enjoys experimenting with many different foods and cooking styles during the holidays.
One time friends and family were served a Thanksgiving meal that included authentic Cuban dishes. Other times fish and pork have been the main entrees. This Christmas, Tianen plans to make free range pork and duck the star of the holiday meal.
“We like to do different things and have fun,” he said.
This Thanksgiving, however, Tianen and his guests enjoyed a fresh turkey that was brined and roasted in the oven. He was one of many people picking up a fresh, free range turkey at Turk Farms in Fenton a few days before Thanksgiving. This was the first year the farm offered the fresh turkeys, said Owner Dave Turk.
Along with their turkey, some customers also browsed the refrigerated cases for eggs and fresh butter as well as the freezers for rabbit, duck, goat and lamb.
For some families, serving an entrée other than turkey and ham is about sharing their culture, said Turk. Lamb, for example, is part of many traditional Greek meals.
“Some folks want to try something different,” said Turk.
Rose Township resident Becky Longberry picked up her turkey along with some packages of ground lamb. She said she likes to substitute ground lamb for ground hamburger in meatloaf, meatballs and chili.
In December, though, she and her family will sit down to a traditional holiday meal. At Thanksgiving, they enjoyed the free-range turkey, which Longberry said she was thrilled to purchase. During the fall when she visited Turk Farms, she would see the turkeys roaming around the fields happily pecking at their food.
Since this was the first year Turk Farms offered the fresh turkeys, Turk said he raised the small flock of 44 turkeys so he could find the learning curve and get a feel for how they would impact his business. All turkeys were spoken for with pre-orders within a few days. They were prepared for customers right before Thanksgiving along with some lamb and goats.
“I’ve never been disappointed with anything here,” said customer Michelle Engelhart, who was picking up her turkey along with a selection of other items.
While Thanksgiving for her family was all about the turkey, at Christmas they will likely sit down to a meal of duck.
While it’s a bonus to be able to purchase locally, she encourages people to be open to exploring other options. For example, when visiting up north, she tried rabbit and liked the flavor so much that she is planning to locate some recipes and experiment with the meat herself.
While some people enjoy replacing the turkey and ham with other offerings, Sara Dee of Howell enjoys experimenting with various side dishes. She follows the Paleo regimen, a lifestyle that encourages people to eat like their ancestors did with meat, fruits and vegetables the essential components of their diet. She likes knowing how Turk raises his own turkeys, so she ordered one for Thanksgiving.
Along with the fresh turkey, Dee also planned on serving sweet potato stuffing and cauliflower “mashed potatoes,” which is simply cauliflower cooked and mashed. It resembles the appearance and texture of traditional mashed potatoes.
“It tastes amazing,” said Dee.