In the Summer, I got to visit a turkey farm in Lymm, Cheshire. You can read about it here.
The lovely Paul from Crouchley Hall Farm, invited me back this week to see how the birds were getting on.
This is how they looked in July.
This is them now.
My how they’ve grown.
Since I last visited, Paul and his family have been lovingly rearing the Kelly Bronze turkeys ready for the main event in December.
Paul had been at a farmer’s market in Knutsford the day before my visit and he had some turkey for me to try.
Do you associate turkey with the dry, tasteless meat often produced by commercial birds? Well, Paul’s turkey is far from dry or tasteless. It was absolutely delicious.
The only way I can describe it is that it tasted how turkey is supposed to taste.
Paul doesn’t do the despatching of the turkeys himself. They are sent away and dry plucked, then hung for two weeks before being sent back to Paul for him to sell at his farm gate.
Kelly Bronze turkeys are bred, raised and killed the old fashioned way-how they should be and how it would have been done in Victorian times when it first became fashionable to eat turkey at Christmas.
Like many aspects of farming though, turkey production has become large-scale. Mainly due to demand but also due to cost-it is much cheaper to rear a quick-growing bird as they won’t eat as much feed as breeds like the Kelly Bronze but as with many aspects of commercial farming, sometimes the quality can be lost.
Many families continue buying the dull turkeys because of tradition. They don’t even enjoy eating it.
You don’t get that with Kelly Bronze. Every mouthful is a delight and, as I sat in Paul’s kitchen, he showed me a pot of stock he was making from the carcass. Nothing gets wasted.
After feeling right at home with Paul and his wife (I am actually in love with their two black labs), we made our way to the field and, while I had expected them to have grown, I wasn’t prepared for the sight which met me.
We went into the enclosure with these highly inquisitive birds and they all came to see the visitor (me). I was wearing wellies with chickens on them-I am not sure if they were offended but I didn’t get pecked so I am counting that as a success.
Seriously though, I imagined turkeys to be ugly creatures but this breed is really quite beautiful. They are called Kelly ‘Bronze’ after the colour of their feathers and, despite it being a dull, foggy day, when the light caught the feathers, it was as if they shone.
Even the males with their bright snoods were beautiful and they have the ability to change the colour of their heads and snoods-ranging from bright red, through to deep pink, to pale pink and a lovely pale blue colour.
As with many people in farming, Paul started rearing turkey because he was fed up of the tasteless bird and knew he could do better himself.
He tried various breeds until coming upon the Kelly Bronze (named after the Kelly family who saved the breed from extinction in the 1980s by buying the last 200 or so birds left in Britain).
Paul actually told me that if he didn’t farm this breed, he would still want it for his family on Christmas Day and that is good enough for me.
I have loved visiting Paul and his home and actually feel a bit sad that our turkey journey has come to an end.
I therefore went home and ordered one of his turkeys for our Christmas dinner so I will be back at Christmas to pick our bird up.
It is people like Paul who produce on a small scale which makes British farming so unique. I urge everybody to support people like Paul who operate in your own communities in order to ensure old fashioned, specialist types of food will be around for generations to come. When you compare the price per kilogram, it isn’t that much different and if you get to enjoy the whole bird for weeks, does it matter? I see Christmas as a treat and that is exactly what a Kelly Bronze turkey is. A wonderful treat.
To order a turkey from Paul, you can visit his website www.crouchleyhallfarm.co.uk and leave a deposit. Be quick though, they are selling out fast. You do have to relatively local though to be able to collect on December 23rd or 24th.
If you are not local but would still like to experience the Kelly Bronze way, then visit http://www.kellyturkeys.co.uk/ to find your nearest farm.