Give turkey the bird this Christmas

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THERE’S less than a month to go before pre-Christmas orders have to be in with supermarkets and butchers for Christmas Day.

For award-winning butcher John Saunderson on Leven Street, pictured, it’s the busiest time of year. If we think we’ve got it bad planning one family Christmas, pity John who has hundreds of families to cater for.

“Turkey is still the most popular centre piece. If people don’t like turkey, it could be the quality of bird they’re getting or even the way they are cooking it because ovens vary so much,” he said. He recommends his free range Copas turkeys, not only because of the way they are reared but because they come with a built-in pop up thermometer which tells you precisely when the bird is cooked. A 4kg bird will set you back about £60.

Beef is an alternative, and the top cut is rib of beef. The longer it’s been hung – at least three weeks – the better, but you’ll need about 500g per person and it costs around £21.20 a kilo.

Venison is becoming more popular. It’s lower in fat, still has that “luxury” reputation, and a rolled and boned haunch could take the worry out of Christmas because you can do a one pot dish with root veg. About 2.25 kilos will serve four people and you can expect to pay just under £19 a kg.

John has over 40 free-range geese coming in for the season this year from a farm in Eyemouth. Goose is traditional but there’s comparatively little meat on it so you’ll need one kilo per person – at £13.60 a kilo.

An easier option might be duck and one whole 2.3 kilo bird – £18.50 for one of John’s Gressinghams – should serve three people. They cook more quickly than a big bird which is an obvious advantage.

Pheasant is another idea, at £4.95 for one bird and £9.50 for a pair, each bird feeding two people. Or you could go for a really special free range chicken, locally-sourced from Linda Dick in Peebles at £7.60 a kilo. Three kilos will easily serve six.

If you can’t make up your mind, John suggests buying a combination of poultry and gammon so that people can choose.

He says: “I’m not criticising supermarkets but they are a different market and have to buy in huge bulk and cater for all price points. They also sell a lot of frozen birds. A quality butcher will often be more expensive but you’ll get fresh, quality meat and poultry. I know the farmers who provide my stock so I have complete traceability. It’s the most special meal of the year so it’s worth it.”

If butchers’ prices make you gasp, supermarkets will have something to fit the bill. A medium 4kg Bernard Matthews Golden Norfolk Turkey will cost you just £17. But for other birds, comparing like with like can result in little difference. A small Gressingham 1.25kg whole duck from Sainsbury’s is £7 and may just stretch to two people.