Christmas Guides

Traditions of Turkeys

Guest Writer: Holly McLaren, Morton’s Traditional Taste

There are some things in life that just scream Christmas; from snowy weather and mistletoe to roasting fires and that guy from Slade.

But one thing that is unrivalled when it comes to Christmas cuisine is the humble Christmas turkey. Here at Morton’s Traditional Taste, we’ve really taken the time to understand why turkey’s are so important to our customers. They have become the heart of Christmas dinners, and with a Morton’s turkey, you can guarantee a feast to remember!

What you may not realise is that turkeys are actually native to central America and weren’t bought to the U.K. until the sixteenth century! So how did they become the meat of choice for our very British Christmas dinners?

It took a long time for the Christmas dinner as we know it to evolve. During medieval times, boars were typically served as the centrepiece. This changed throughout the 16th and 17th century, when goose and capons were the go-to Christmas meat. However, for the rich and powerful, peacocks and swans were the bird of choice.

Despite this, the 17th century was the era turkeys really became popular. They were still reserved for wealthier families due to the exotic origins, but the working class were also able to feat on them by utilising ‘clubs’. These clubs were arrangements which allowed them to save up during the year to be able to afford a big bird on Christmas Day.

During the 1700’s, having established Norfolk Black breed, our farmers would walk turkeys all the way from Norfolk to London. It is believed that they transported over 250,000 turkeys in this way every year! Despite taking months to do, the turkeys had plenty to feed on along they way, which meant they we’re perfect for the dinner table by the time they arrived.

The Royal Family chose not to explicitly indulge in turkeys until the Queens grandfather,  Edward VII, was in power. Up until then, they had preferred peacock for their festive meal. It took a full weeks wage to be able to afford a turkey for Christmas in the 1930’s and remained a luxury right up until the 1950’s.

Very little has changed since. Cranberry sauce has been introduced and nut-roasts are increasingly more common, but the fundamentals of British Christmas dinners remain.

Is turkey at the forefront of your Christmas day feast? Why do you prefer it to other meats? Let us know in the comments section!

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