Antler and Fin Podcast: Jalapeño Wild Turkey Piccata
Turkey season has come upon us! Not many things can rival the sound of calling and hearing those big old toms gobble back at you. We had the pleasure this season of being able to hunt not far from the coast of Morrow Bay in California and were able to bag a few gobblers to bring home to the family.
This recipe is a play on a good old chicken piccata recipe that’s super quick, easy, and doesn’t disappoint. If you’ve never had piccata, you’re in for a treat because when you pour the sauce over the top everyone will think you’re a five-star chef.
I spiced this one up with some jalapeños and wild turkey bourbon but feel free to use any chili pepper or bourbon; you can also omit the peppers and just use white wine if you’d like to go the classic route. Any way you slice it, you’re bound to love this dish.
Read the written version of this recipe as prepared by Ara Zada
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About Wild Turkeys:
By the 1930’s, market hunting and habitat loss had reduced the turkey population in North America to somewhere around 30,000 birds; a pitifully small number compared to their original pre-European settlement population which is estimated to be around 10 million.
Although overhunting had a part to play in this – there was no management in those days – another factor played a huge role as well – habitat loss.
At the time, farmers were clearing huge swathes of land for agriculture, cutting down trees and burning brush. This pushed turkeys into smaller and small regions and allowed hunters to reduce their population even more rapidly. At least half of the states that called the wild turkey home had lost it altogether.
There were a few attempts to stop the decline around this time though, mostly led by eastern sporting clubs. Pressure from these clubs spurred the Virginia and Pennsylvania game commissions to attempt a breeding program where they raised wild turkey chicks on farms and then released them into the wild.
Though close to 300,000 birds were released in this manner, the survival rate was so low that the program was deemed a failure. The reason behind this was the fact that young turkeys learn how to survive in the wilderness – finding food, safe roosts, and avoiding predators – from their mothers.
Without that knowledge being passed on from mother to chick, the farm-raised turkeys fell prey to coyotes, raccoons, bobcats, snakes, owls, and other large birds of prey.
Other concerned groups and far-seeing individuals, including Theodore Roosevelt, were also setting aside habitat for animal species, including wild turkey.
As time passed, many of the farms that originally pushed the birds out of their habitat were abandoned, eventually being replaced with new forests which could act as habitat for turkey populations. This was especially true during the Great Depression, when droves of people abandoned their farms and went looking for a better life elsewhere.
Along with reemerging habitat, a new re-introduction method created by Herman Holbrook skyrocketed successful reintroduction. It involved using a net cannon to capture live turkeys in the wild and re-introduce them into their old habitats, or new ones on abandoned land.
This method of reintroduction was extremely successful and many states used it to re-establish wild turkeys into their former range.
In 1973, the non-profit National Wild Turkey Federation was started and it quickly began coordinating reintroduction efforts with states and other conservation groups. They also helped to create and conserve beneficial wild turkey habitat, which further fuelled successful wild turkey populations.
About Adam Berkelmans:
Adam Berkelmans, also known as The Intrepid Eater, is a passionate ambassador for real food and a proponent of nose-to-tail eating. He spends his time between Ottawa and a cozy lake house north of Kingston, Ontario. When not cooking, he can be found hunting, fishing, foraging, gardening, reading, traveling, and discovering new ways to find and eat food.