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Let your turkey rest
Mission Christmas Dinner: the meat
Steph Barnard is on a mission to find a complete Christmas dinner - but it all has to be locally-produced. Find out how she gets on with sourcing local meat.
The meat - Hazlehead Hall Farm Shop, Millhouse Green
Steph's next stop is Hazlehead Hall Farm Shop at Millhouse Green in Sheffield, where she meets Sarah Booth.
"We produce all of our own beef, lamb and rare-breed pork", says Sarah. "It's mainly English breeds because we're producing meat for its flavour rather than for how it looks, and its shape.
"We have Lincolns, Herefords, Suffolk cattle amongst our bulls. We're known as a 'suckler herd' which means the cows on the farm give birth to their calves, look after them themselves, and feed them with their own milk until they're weaned at about six to eight months. That helps with the flavour of the meat and it's the most natural way to be fed."
:: The difference between supermarket and locally-produced meat?
"You know where your meat is coming from - it doesn't have to come a long way. Anything we don't produce on the Hazlehead Farm, we buy in from very locally and of course we produce as much on the farm as we can. People can see the animals they'll be eating, and they can ask us how they've been fed and so on.
"We're also lucky in that we have a local slaughterhouse so our animals only have to travel for 10 minutes so they're not getting stressed or disturbed. The carcasses come back to us and we hang them in our traditional chillers where they mature and become tender."
:: Big sellers
"Christmas is our biggest time of year and we sell a huge range of all meats. We rear our own free-range Norfolk Black turkeys, white geese and ducks. A free-range bird takes longer to grow - it's an older bird so it matures more slowly and naturally. They're outside pecking around and being fed grain.
"We dry-pluck all of our birds by hand; turkey is a game bird so you need to hang it like you do with meat. That adds flavour and tenderness."
:: Turkey-cooking tips
"A couple of hours before you cook your turkey, bring it out of the fridge so it returns to room temperature. If you're defrosting, do so well in advance. Wipe out the turkey and put it into a decent sized roasting tray.
"Put butter, salt, pepper and a couple of rashers of bacon over the turkey's skin and stuff it. You should weigh the bird after you've done all this, not before. Then calculate the cooking time."
Chickens puzzle over the Christmas hat
:: Timings - and rest!
"You should bring all meats to room temperature before cooking. Don't overcook your bird - the turkey should be moist. And allow at least half an hour to rest. The worst thing you can do is panic! A couple of days before Christmas when you have some time, work out what time you want your Christmas dinner and then work out the timings for cooking your bird and vegetables based on this. Most recipe books have information on cooking times for different sizes."
"Once it's done, you should let your turkey rest for at least half an hour. If you cover it with foil and maybe a towel, and pop it in a warm place, then it'll stay nice and warm for at least an hour. Then you don't have to panic - you can turn up your oven and happily cook the rest of your meal.
:: Storing your meat
"If you're eating red meats (beef, pork and lamb) over the Christmas period, take the meat out of the plastic bag and place in a plastic container, loosely covered, right at the bottom of the fridge.
"When you think your turkey is cooked, prick it with a skewer in a couple of places through the thickest parts of the bird. If the juices run clear, it's done. You do want juices but they have to be clear."
:: Boxing Day
I love Boxing Day - having my turkey sandwich and bread sauce is the best bit! Once Christmas dinner is over, cover the bird in clingfilm or foil and it won't dry out at all."
:: Click on the 'Cold Turkey' link on the right of the page for more post-Christmas turkey suggestions.
last updated: 21/12/2007 at 13:26