Cooking turkey with all the trimmings seems an integral part of the British Christmas these days. Whilst cooking turkey for the main part of our Christmas meal is a relatively new phenomenon, cooking turkey at some point in the Christmas period has been commonplace for centuries for some sections of society. A turkey’s natural life cycle means it reaches full maturity in the winter, so cooking turkey then makes sense.
A brief history of cooking turkey
Cooking turkey for Christmas first started to happen almost as soon as they were imported in the 1500s. For 400 years cooking turkey in the form of a whole bird was out of reach for most people simply because of the price. It was hard to justify cooking turkey when chicken, goose or beef was so much cheaper. However, cooking turkey at large banquets for the upper classes soon became more fashionable than swans and other big birds.
Cooking turkey for Christmas has historically been seen by most as a luxury and by the mid 1800s it was well documented that the cost of cooking turkey would be higher around Christmas.
From the 1950s there was a shift to cooking turkey, especially a whole bird, for Christmas lunch. This can be attributed in part to a better understanding of successful farming and breeding of turkeys. What also plays a part in cooking turkey for Christmas lunch is the lack of many significant ‘feast days’. Christmas is seen as a celebration, something out of the ordinary and so cooking turkey is a way to make that meal stand out from the others.
Tips for cooking turkey
These days cooking turkey for your Christmas lunch isn’t seen as being so special. If you are going to be cooking turkey this year make sure you;
- Buy free range - cooking turkey which has been intensively farmed, cooped up and over-fed is never going to taste as good as a free range bird. When you buy free range you’ll re-discover the luxurious taste our ancestors experienced from cooking turkey.
- Consider joints – if the idea of getting a whole bird in the oven is putting you off cooking turkey you can always buy a turkey crown or even just the breast meat.
- Not just roasts – There are so many turkey recipes in different and exciting ways that, even if you don’t want to do a full roast, you don’t have to miss out on cooking turkey this year.