West Essex’s best butchers for your Christmas turkey
- Credit: Archant
Shop local and enjoy a tip top turkey this Christmas with a trip to one of West Essex’s best butchers
The range of turkeys on offer at this key time of year is enormous, from whole frozen ones to chilled dry aged crowns plus free range and organic bronze-feather birds bred locally. For the best quality, and to support local businesses, shop with an independent butcher who can advise you on sizes, weights, breeds and cooking times. Plus, you can pre-order all your festive meat in one stress-free shop.
An organic turkey from a local supplier will give you superb quality meat, but they are the most expensive option. Free range is slightly cheaper but still with excellent flavour. At the very least the bird should be labelled UK bred and from a producer with high welfare standards.
As for what size you should choose, think about how many adults and children you want to serve hot on Christmas Day, plus whether everyone would prefer mainly white meat, or a mixture of both brown and white. Do you want any left over for sandwiches or Boxing Day lunch? This will help you decide whether a crown will do for a small, white-meat eating gathering, a medium-sized whole bird to please all comers with enough left over for sandwiches.
Not a fan of turkey? Don’t want to be cooking for hours for just a few people? There are plenty of alternatives which are just as tasty but considerably less hassle. Your butcher should have plenty of different options for you to choose from. Again, like turkey, consider whether you want cold meat left over when calculating sizes. Popular alternatives include a glazed gammon joint (fabulous for cold ham afterwards), succulent duck with crispy skin, tender, tasty goose (with all the delicious fat that comes out of it), a classic rib of beef or a lean loin of venison.
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As many home cooks know, it’s often the additions to the turkey that make a Christmas dinner really memorable. A fragrant sage stuffing, pigs in blankets, crispy roast potatoes, succulent vegetables, clove-scented bread sauce, sweet cranberries and, of course, silky smooth gravy! Your butcher can help with sausagemeat for a homemade stuffing. Likewise with chipolatas (you’ll probably need more than you think!). Lots of your prep can be done a day or two ahead to save you time on the big day. Remember to delegate, but also accept offers of help and let guests bring something to contribute.
How to cook your turkey
If you have a medium or large turkey to cook then it makes life easier if you cook the stuffing separately, to save on oven time. You could also get your butcher to take the legs off the turkey for you, to make carving easier and cooking time shorter. Calculate cooking times for your particular size of turkey and then add on 40 minutes resting time at the end. Once your turkey comes out cover it with a double layer of foil and a heavy towel - you can replace it in the oven with the roast potatoes, stuffing, chipolatas and any vegetable dishes.
No respectable turkey lunch would be complete without a sensational gravy to pour over. This luscious liquid will add extra flavour as well as helping keep everything hot. May we point you in the direction of our favourite Essex chef, Jamie Oliver who has a brilliant make-ahead recipe for Christmas Dinner gravy on YouTube? Just remember to ask for some turkey giblets from your butcher!
The best butchers in West Essex
Old Street Butchers, 9 Queen’s Road, Buckhurst Hill IG9 5BZ; 020 8502 9130; oldstreetbutchers.com
Shaws Quality Butchers, 29 Station Road, Chingford E4 7BJ; 020 8529 3174; shawsqualitybutchers.co.uk
Church’s Butchers, 224 High Street, Epping CM16 4AQ; 01992 573231; churchsbutchers.co.uk
Ashlyns Farm Shop, Epping Road, Epping CM16 6RZ; 01992 525146; ashlynsfarmshop.co.uk
The Ginger Pig, 165a High Road, Loughton; 020 3869 7890; thegingerpig.co.uk