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Call Now For A Tasty Bird This Christmas

As Christmas day fast approaches and our thoughts turn to preparing the most important meal of the year, no festive plan would be complete without the centrepiece of the British culinary year, the turkey.

Though British households will consume ten million turkeys this Christmas, it may come as a surprise that the popular bird, uniquely associated with British festive celebrations, originates from America.

Several stories claim to explain exactly how Britons began their relationship with the characterful animal, but we do know for certain that it first arrived in the 16th Century. The turkey achieved a position of favour (and flavour!) with loving support from Royalty such as George II, who kept a flock at Richmond Park.

Luckily, local farmers all over Britain produce quality farm fresh turkey so there is no need to go to such lengths for a succulent festive meal.

This year, the National Farmers' Union is again running its successful "Turkey hotline". A fresh, locally-reared turkey direct from the farm is now only a telephone call away, supporting local producers, high standards of animal welfare and bringing great taste to the Christmas menu.

2003 is the perfect year to buy a farm fresh turkey as they are guaranteed to come with a feeling for funk and more groove than your granny! Because a happy turkey is a tasty turkey, all the farmers taking part in the NFU Turkey Hotline have been playing a "chill-out" Christmas CD to their flocks. The CD, produced by the NFU, contains a range of tracks aimed at having a positive calming influence on the birds, including wind chimes, the sounds of the forest and Gregorian chanting.

Several varieties of turkey are available from the Turkey Hotline including the traditional bronze and specialities such as the Kelly Bronze and Wirral White including organic and free-range birds. The Turkey Hotline is open from 8am to 6pm, from Monday to Friday during the Christmas season, call 0870 060 3436.

Other favourites such as duck, pork and beef are also available from local farms.

How to prepare the perfect Christmas turkey
The day before, remove giblets and make stock with them. Stuff the neck with chestnut or sausage stuffing. Add weight of stuffing to weight of turkey to calculate cooking time. Spread softened butter on the bird. The breast can be covered with strips of streaky bacon. Stand in a large roasting tin on a wire shelf, if possible.

For the slow method, preheat the oven to Gas mark 3, 160*C, 325*F.
For the quick method, preheat the oven to Gas mark 8, 230*C, 450*F.
Use the chart below to calculate the time*
3.5 - 4.5kg (8 - 10lb) 3.5 - 3.75 hours 2.25 - 2.5 hours
4.5 - 5.5kg (10 - 12lb) 3.75 - 4 hours 2.75 hours
5.5 - 6.5kg (12-15lb) 4 - 4.25 hours 3 hours
7.5kg (16lb) 4.5 hours 3.25 hours
9kg (20lb) 4.75 hours 3.5 hours

* These two cooking methods have been tested but good results depend on the accuracy of the oven thermometer. Use an oven thermometer if in doubt.



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