The Strip Winter 2013 : Page 10

FEA TURE Ray Turkas Jr. of Strip District Meats Discusses Holiday Favorites ing to crow about. They’re usually larger and more tender than a regular chicken but they’re more expensive because of their high attrition rate when being neutered. Of course, the other popular holiday staple is ham. Hams are labeled smoked, cooked, boneless, bone-in—what’s the dif-ference between them? First of all, a smoked ham is a cooked ham. The ham is cooking while it is being smoked. A cooked ham is exactly that, cooked but not smoked. A ham with the bone in is more flavorful than a boneless ham. A boneless ham usually has at least 10 percent water added, sometimes even more as well as binders. Boneless hams are becoming smaller and smaller because people don’t want to have ham after the holidays. They don’t want to have it for breakfast the next day or make other dishes from the ham that’s left. Of course, today’s families are also smaller and a typical-sized ham is just not feasible for them. Therefore, stores are now offering smaller boneless hams. We’ve been selling a ham that we get from Ohio for over 30 years, and it’s very popular with our customers. These days, the variety of meat prod-ucts available is so varied that whether it’s the holidays or anytime during the year, you can have virtually anything you can think of on your table, from alligator to wild boar, and we probably have it or can get it. Festive holiday turkey, ham, chicken, and more, according to Ray Turkas Jr.: The market is definitely changing from when I began working for my dad. In the past, turkey was the number-one bird at Thanksgiving and Christmas; now we sell a lot of duck, and even geese are be-coming popular. We even sell duck parts so you can buy just the legs, the breasts, or just about whatever you want. And, of course, there are different clas-sifications. For example, the government categorizes turkeys as fresh and frozen. A fresh turkey is one that has been slaugh-tered no more than 30 days before the holi-day (as long as the meat doesn’t experi-ence temperatures below 26 degrees). Now a turkey designated by the government as frozen can be processed at any time. To me, there’s really no difference. The year-round popularity of turkey means that the na-tional processors are constantly producing turkey meat. We sell an all-natural (not organic) turkey, as well as the fresh and frozen vari-eties. The fresh turkey we sell is raised nearby and processed, on average, one week before the holiday. As for the current popular designa-tions of local, free-range, natural, and ro-botic free—What is local? To me, Ohio is lo-cal. In regard to free-range, do you know that a free-ranging chicken will eat virtu-ally anything? So think about what free-range means. Customers ask if the poultry is natural and robotic free. Well, these des-ignations are now standard with the pro-ducers. We sell quail and pheasants that are raised organic and natural, and so are the geese we sell. Sometimes we’re asked for a capon chicken. A capon is a rooster that has noth-Ray Turkas Jr. and his wife Roberta are the owners of Strip District Meats at 2121 Penn Ave. (412-391-1762; www.stripdistrictmeats.com). 10 The Strip Magazine + www.thestrippgh.com

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