Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Turkeys are large poultry birds traditionally eaten at Christmas in Britain and Australia, and Thanksgiving in the United States and Canada, though they also make up a more regular part of some diets.
Wild turkey have a very different taste from farm raised turkey. Almost all of the meat is "dark", even the breasts. The meat tastes more meaty with a more intense turkey flavor.
Prior to World War II, turkey was something of a luxury in Britain, with goose or beef a more common Christmas dinner  (In Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol Bob Cratchit had a goose before Scrooge bought him a turkey). Intensive farming of turkeys from the late 1940s, however, dramatically cut the price and it became far and away the most common Christmas dinner meat. Leftovers are generally served as cold cuts on Boxing Day.
To kill a live turkey, withhold food for a day to help ensure the digestive system is empty. Putting the turkey in a bag, with one corner cut out for the head, helps keep the turkey from thrashing and damaging itself or the people involved in preparing it. One method is to hammer two nails into a stump and bend them, then put the turkey's head on the stump and turn the nails to hold the turkey's head still, then remove the turkey's head with an axe. The turkey will thrash for a few moments. Hang it upside down to bleed for a half hour or so. Then pluck it. Smaller feathers can be pulled off in a bunch; larger feathers need to be removed one at a time so as not to tear the skin. Stubborn feathers can be pulled with pliers or a forceps. When all the feathers are removed, rinse the turkey's anus to remove any residue, then insert a sharp knife just below the hip bone, but not so deep as to puncture any of the internal organs. Cut down and around on either side of the anus, making sure it's angled up to keep any excretion off the meat. Carefully pull out and discard. Then reach inside the turkey and remove all organs, as well as large globs of fat. If desired, the heart, liver (slice away from other innards, being careful not to puncture the green gall), and gizzard can be saved for giblets. If the gizzard is saved, slice it in half until the gravel inside grates against the knife, then slice around and open up, peeling away the inner layer and discarding the contents. After all the organs have been removed, turn the turkey around and cut around the circumference of the neck and peel down, exposing the esophogus and windpipe. For each, separate them from their attachment points and pull them out, including the crop in the case of the esophogus. Rinse the turkey out with cold water and, if desired, hang and chill for a day or so before freezing.
Both fresh and frozen turkeys are used for cooking; as with most foods, fresh turkeys are generally preferred, but cost more. Around holiday seasons, high demand for fresh turkeys often makes them difficult to purchase without ordering in advance. However, the large size of the turkeys typically used for consumption makes defrosting them a major endeavor: a typically-sized turkey will take several days to properly defrost.
Turkeys are usually baked in the oven for several hours, though in some areas, particularly the American South, they may sometimes be deep-fried in hot oil (often peanut oil) for 30 to 45 minutes. Deep-frying turkey has become something of a fad, with hazardous consequences for those unprepared to safely handle the large quantities of hot oil required. 
For Christmas in Britain, turkey is traditionally served with winter vegetables including roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and parsnips. Cranberry sauce is the traditional condiment in the northern rural areas of Britain where wild cranberries grow. In the south and in urban areas, where cranberries until recently were difficult to obtain, bread sauce was used in its place, but the availability of commercial cranberry sauce has seen a rise in its popularity in these areas too. Sometimes sausagemeat, cocktail sausages or liver wrapped in bacon is also served (known as bacon rolls or "pigs in blankets").
Especially during holiday seasons, stuffing is traditionally served with turkey. There are many varieties: oatmeal, chestnut, sage and onion (flavoured bread), and sausage (possibly with mashed potato) are the most traditional. Stuffing may either be used to stuff the turkey (as the name implies), or may be cooked separately and served as a side dish.
For Thanksgiving in the United States, turkey is traditionally served with cranberry sauce and gravy. Other items vary, but common complementary dishes include mashed potatoes, dinner rolls, various vegetables such as corn, squash, sweet potatoes, and various types of pies for dessert (such as pumpkin, apple and pecan).
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