Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Pickleberry Turkey Neck Recipe

So every year the on May Day we Pickleberrys have had a long standing tradition of cleaning out the cave and enjoying a family celebratory Turkey neck feed. The cold cave was a deep damp hole dug just off of the house that we used to store all of our canned and pickled goods throughout the year. It was 12 foot deep with a step ladder system and made of rock walls lined with wooden shelves. It was alway wet, smelled of musty moldy earthworms and housed some of the largest spiders seen on earth.

About May first all of the Momma Pickleberrys would clean out all of the stuff we didn't get ate up throughout the winters. These were some of the best days of eatin that we would have all year! For almost 2 weeks every day was a culinary feast of the senses unlike any we would experience during the long winters.

All of the Pickleberry kin and cousins would gorge on pickled hog tongues that must have been missed at Easter. We would stuff ourselves with candied goat tail that had spent a year lazily soaking up the brine of red onions. Momma Pickleberry would warn her brood about the impending stomach pains of consuming more than 2 or 3 vinegar soaked goose eggs at one sitting but we couldn't help ourselves. We would each grab one of those huge glass jars and always slide our hands to the bottom first and pull up the biggest slimiest gray egg that had been laying at the bottom of the jar for over a year! Our arms would be soaked with greasy slimy vinegar brine and our shirts would stay smelling like that for day but it was nothing for us to finish off 15 to 18 eggs at a sitting and still have room for a pound of extremely pungent but nicely aged horse milk cheese.

To say that we Pickleberrys left no part of the animal go to waste is an extreme understatement. If it was on our farm we ate it. We still joke that Wallace Pickleberry (who got into a little trouble and had to be put into the federal witness protection program after a little run in with John Dillinger one evening in Chicago) was actually probably not living a life in Arizona but may simply have been caught up in the Pickleberry spring feeding frenzy. Poppa Pickleberry still claims he remembers eating what he was told was roasted leg of wild boar when he coughed up what he said was two links of a watch band?

Well after two weeks of eating everything from broiled turtle livers to seared goat nuts we Pickleberrys were ready to have a party and start the process of loading up the cave again! That meant Turkey Neck Feed! Turkey necks are usually discarded in the butchering process but in the Pickleberry tradition those are just about the best eating that you can run past your palate. The Pickleberry Turkey Neck feed requires a bit of preparation on the part of the host. Let me forwarn you that not only is the preparation an ode to food, it will become a spiritual journey along the way. You will find yourself tested in ways that you never imagined. You will laugh, you will cry. You will most likely become one with the turkey neck as in almost 90 years of the Turkey Neck feed I've yet to see the preparer come away without bleeding profusely at some point. Don't worry, let it go, nothing heals a wound faster than seeing a large gathering of people consuming with glee the necks of turkeys which you have blood, sweated teared and labored over intensively.

Now, take a deep breath, steady yourself and begin the process. For a celebration of twenty you will need 100 pounds of Turkey necks. You can adjust your recipe accordingly but ONLY use multiples of 5 with the recipe reconstruction or you will experience disasterous results.

Dig a hole in your yard 6 feet deep, 6 feet wide and 12 feet long. The exact depth, width and length are critical in the cyclation of air required during the roasting process. Construct a brick and metal rod labryinth which you must only weld with acetlyne torch and acid free flux. Anything else will taint the meat to a point virtually rendering it inedible except to the elderly. After the brick and metal rod labryinth construction you will line the sides of the hold with birch branches that you cut, at a minimum, 3 years prior and aged in an open air atrium. You of course know that you must have brushed these birch branches daily with a mixture of olive oil and rosemary allowing the branches to be infiltrated by the solution. For the roasting chamber you will need at least 200 pounds of these specially prepared branches so proper pre-planning is essential.

After the 2 hour process of building the cooking pit is completed it is time to begin the neck preparation. You will need 20 large copper kettles. Each guest will require their own kettle. again, remember the multiple of 5 rule. (Adjust your cooking pit in multiples of 5 as well) Caveat: Only adjust up NEVER attempt to make the recipe smaller. The numbers DO NOT work for smaller units. If you do not have family or friends of at least 20 with whom to enjoy the turkey neck feed perhaps I would encourage you to try something that is more fitting of your sad social situation namely ordering a pizza from Pizza Hut.

I think that a well rounded turkey neck preparer and your particular social situation actually go hand in hand . Your status in your city will continue to grow as your own Turkey Neck Feed becomes more of an annual tradition until it eventually becomes placed on the social registries of the white gloved crowd.

Place the 100 pounds of turkey necks onto the hood of your 1976 Buick electra. It is the only car built that is capable of holding the necks in a proper position along with the weight that will be layered upon it. Since it is critical that all 100 pounds of turkey neck are allowed to comingle in order to share the now starting to ooze juices, you will be required to use the 1976 Buick Electra. If you happen to own a farm that contains a corn bin whose metal was manufactured in Evanston Illinois during the late 40s you can use a large portion of that metal for your base as well. (a lower placed panel is recommended but not required) Of course we modern era Pickleberries are mostly resigned to assemble the neck feast on metal. Our forebearing Pickleberries constructed large preparation tables consisting of one piece slabs of highly polished sandstone and mined in Pennsylvania and slowly transported here by prairie wagon over a period of 3 summers time.

Line the necks throat to gut end forming a large circle and expanding out. By the completion you should have a 6 foot circle of turkey neck. DO NOT cover the necks with any gauze or tarp even if tempted. This seemingly fetid circle of poultry will now start to attract every kind of fly, bug, bee, dog, cat and winged critter you can imagine. Each of these creatures of God will be bringing with it (and hopefully depositing) parts of mother nature from all over your county.

This is the taste of your county. This is the only portion that if followed correctly will give your turkey neck a distinct flavor over that prepared in a neigboring state. Even the most un-trained palate will be able to discern the difference your county's critters can leave when compared to those in a different state! Let them pee, poop, spit, buzz, deposit, take. This is mother nature nurturing and a part of the spiritual process that I made mention too earlier in the recipe.

Over the next 14 hours you will let these necks be cradled in the arms of mother nature. You should have begun the hood layering process at 3:30 a.m. as it is critical to have at least 12 hours of 67 degree temperature. (you can go up to 70 degrees but if it is any warmer, toss the entire hood of necks away and order a pizza) If you cannot better estimate when spring arrives in your particular region of the country, again, you may be better off eating pizza. The turkey neck feed is limited to those who treat food preparation as an art form, a way of life, an existence. Any less than that and I will advise you to go ahead, say "extra pepperoni"

In a large 17 gallon stone crock you will now prepare the marinade glaze. Pour in 7 gallons of the darkest wheat beer that you have on your shelves. Use only the beer that you have brewed in your brewhouse which has fermented at least 1 year. Oh sure, others have attempted to use their fresher brew but the results will be much less than satisfactory. Ladle the beer into the crocks a tablespoon at at time. Pouring the beer and splashing will create too much oxygen that will angrily mix with the other ingredients causing a transfer of gasses and leaving you greatly despleasured. Ladeling carefully, while a bit time consuming, allows the beer to rest nicely. Imagine if you have been resting peacefully for over a year only to have some dimwit wake you up brutally and splash you onto a cold stone.

When the beer has been sitting for 3 hours taking in fresh oxygen you begin to add the other ingredients. You will need 11 quarts of honey that you created only from the same bees that have been polinating the clovers in the field where the Buick has been resting. The mixture of metal and clover will create a base that will have your mouth watering the moment the honey mixes with the beer. IF you come from a family that has the bee allergies thus not having access to a working colony such as the Smoots that lived a few miles over, you can substitute local honey for the honey created in the Fiji islands. Only the Fijians are fortunate enough to have access to land that spawns clover in mineral fields with the exact same metal makeup as that found in the 1976 Buick.

You must now boil the beer and honey mix for 6 minutes at 450 degrees. At this time you will be adding 22 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped, 11 pounds of onions thickly sliced, 200 leeks - white and tender green only halved lengthwise and cleaned, 11 head of garlic halved horizontally, 51 lemon washed and quartered, 2 pounds blanched almonds, 450 tablespoons of chopped flat-leaf parsley (the parsley must be table spooned to avoid bruising) 1 loaf of stale country white bread which you baked 4 days ago, 1 inch thick with crusts trimmed. 1 Bay leaf.

You now begin a 6 hour cycle of boil, cool, boil, cool. It is critical that you bring to a ravaging angry boil that is utterly consuming the added ingredients. When it reaches that point you should do everything in your power to cool it as quickly as possible. Thanks to modern technology you can purchase a frozen nitrogen tank and spray it on the stone crock. As soon as it hits room temperature, fire up the heat hard and bring that SOB to a screaming boil. You want the broth marinade to be so mad that it wants to hurt itself. It is your job however to see that it doesn't.

One missed boil, cool cycle and you might as well chuck it all and drive yourself to a McDonalds. Oh, don't order a burger!!! Apply for a job because if you can't handle a 6 hour boil, cool cycle effectively you might as well join the 16 year olds as a fry chucker. One side note, DO NOT be tempted to assign this monitoring of boil, cool, boil to anyone. It is critical that you, as the feed preparer, personally handle this portion. The broth knows, just keep telling yourself, "the broth knows, the broth knows".

As we are now almost 6 hours into the preparation you should be hearing the sounds of a semi-tractor trailer approaching. This will be the load of hickory shavings that you ordered almost 2 months ago and imported from the hickory forests of Montana. Don't try to sell yourself short with the Idaho Hickory. Yes it is much less expensive but so is a Big Mac. Have some pride if not your own at least for your guests. Also, DO NOT be tempted to have the semi back up the fire pit and simply drop the load in. Much as the broth knows, the hickory must be placed by hand. You will need to place a shovel full, then stamp any air out, place a shovelful and stamp the air out. The hickory must be as tightly packed as possible. Completely fill the entire pit level with the top edge. The pit should be as solid as walking on a slab of granite rock. Once it is packed. light on fire. Toss a match and let it burn. (Do not expect any special burn instructions for crying out loud, we Pickleberrys didn't invent fire. Fire is Fire).

You can assign fire pit monitoring to any of your early arrivals. From your first turkey neck feed forward you will see a pilgrimage of family and friends that often can begin up to 3 weeks prior to the feed. It has not been unheard of for Pickleberry kin to arrive from various parts of the country only to be greeted (and surprised) by a late late winter snowstorm. (Be sure the Hickory Truck delivery person Does Not try to invite himself to the feed, you simply will not have the proper metric to calibrate 1 more)

After several hours the pit will have burned to embers and the brick metal rod altar is ready to accept your offerings. While the embers were burning you have wrapped each turkey neck in semi-moistened freshly picked green tea leaves. You will have tied each individual turkey neck with a fresh egg noodle which you made earlier in the day and left to slowly dry over the clothesline. The egg noodles will slowly burn creating a very tidy nest in which the neck will enjoy being enveloped.

From here the recipe and prepartion task does become a bit more difficult. You should feel free to take a quick break and a breather. You may wish to use this time to pursue a relaxing moment perhaps creating a couple of dozen quick apple pies. (You can multiply all ingredients by whatever number you choose). 9 inch double crust pie 1/2 cup unsalted butter 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1/4 cup water 1/2 cup white sugar 1/2 cup packed brown sugar 8 Granny Smith apples - peeled, cored and sliced Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour to form a paste. Add water, white sugar and brown sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature and let simmer. Place the bottom crust in your pan. Fill with apples, mounded slightly. Cover with a lattice work of crust. Gently pour the sugar and butter liquid over the crust. Pour slowly so that it does not run off. Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes, until apples are soft.

Your boil cool cycle will now be nearing its 6 hour completion and you will have exactly 4 quarts of liquid after the process. You will carefully but with exacting motion grab a tea-leaf wrapped, noodle-tied turkey neck, un-tie and ladle in 2 tablespoons of our marinade. Shake rather vigorously coating the entire turkey neck and the inside of the tea leaf. Wrap the tea leaf tight again around the turkey neck and tie with a NEW noodle. Place carefully onto the metal grate. Repeat with each individual neck until all 100 pounds have been individually marinated. It is demanded that you work quickly and this marinating process should not last more than 4 hours. Be sure to rotate your grill often as it is critical that you maintain a proper and even cooking temperature. After the last turkey neck has been marinated and re-placed into the fire pit you can finally kick back and relax IF you only want to serve turkey necks to your guests.

I can't get into the proper side dishes that would accompany a turkey neck feed. You will need to do your own research based upon your areas climate and regional seasonal fare. Being from the midwest I've often prepared a very lovely and light Supu to enjoy as an appetizer to whet the appetite. A Supu is a soup made with goat lungs, heart and liver, as well as cow stomach, intestines and tongue. It also contains goat heads, cow hooves and cow tail. Again, these are all readily available here in the midwest. You will have to prepare local appetizers based on regional favorites.

For tonight my friends, let those turkey necks slowly roast. Be sure to turn them every 8 minutes. We want the meats to soak up that marinade and marry itself to the flavors of the tea leaves and hickory. Overnight you will prepare the individual copper pots for each guests. You will need 3 pounds of pork shoulder lard for each pot. 1 pound of sea salt and 3 pounds of pepper will also needed to be added to each vessel. Build 20 fires in the 20 individual fire pits you dug earlier in the day while you were doing the boil, cool cycle. Each pit will contain the fast burning pine chips and a metal grate to hold the copper pots. Place each pot on each fire and allow the pork shoulder lard to slowly liquidize. Stir often with a hickory branch.

Now you can start to see the symmetry of what we are doing here. The essence of the pork, the continuation of the use of the hickory in all phases, the coppers created in the Salt Lake Valley copper mines, the 1976 buick metal hood created from the ores of pennsylvania. The honey from your own clover fields. My friends you are not just cooking up a feed you are creating an experience that will yield you a lifetime of friends.

Rest easily my friends. Let yourself relish the 8 minute cat naps you'll enjoy overnight. Let nature, food, metal, air, and the ghosts of generations of Pickleberrys visit you tonight. Combined these elements will be creating a delicousness usually only reserved for the most discriminating of Pickleberry palates. I know that I won't be around forever and with only Wendell and Dan for "Kin" now is the time to open this secret recipe up to the masses. Enjoy. I'll provide some final preparation tips and serving tips with my next post. Buford.

1 comment:

  1. Buford, my momma always told us to toss those turkey necks to the dang wild cats that creep round the house at night. I've never understood why she wanted to feed them critters...I thought their work was to catch the mice that made their way into the kitchen larder at night... but I never disobey Momma.

    I could hardly contain my mouth juices...reading that part about the hog tongues...haven't had a meal like that since I left the farm 40 years ago...

    The rest of the recipe...Buford...is just so dang labor intensive. I don't have anyone around my house who will do that kind of work for the amount of meat they get off a dang turkey neck! Where did you find a gal who would do all that work for a turkey neck, sweetie? They all died out mostly...less you head for the mountains...oh... I see...you get yourself a child bride from KY.?

    Buford, I have a good idea, how bout you, me and Wendel pull up some chairs, lift up this jug of Dew and pass it around as them necks are cookin? You let that young bride of yours take care of the necks...she's too young to drink legal anyways...my buddy Sully, cooked up a batch of Lightin' that will go down so smooth...and kick your heels up so fast...it's almost 200 proof...oh, and you can take that bottle of Viagra and hide it till the jug is gone...it will make ya kick up a lot more than your heels...tell that gal of yours to hide the sheep if she wants any fun...
    Your too much fun to drink with Buford...I'm looking forward to a really good week!