Talkin’ Turkey

November 2019 View more

By Shonda Talerico Dudlicek

Holiday advice from an Illinois family that has been in the business for over eight decades

After 86 years of raising, dressing, and selling birds, the owners of Ho-Ka Turkey Farms in Waterman have some, um, sage advice on prepping and cooking the Thanksgiving feast.

Most important: Always use a meat thermometer, says Robert Kauffman, owner and son of founder Howard Kauffman, after whom the farm is named.

“Fresh will sometimes cook a little faster than thawed from frozen,” he says. “Fresh is easier to work with, but they both taste the same.”

Kauffman is the household cook, which dates back to being the youngest and spending a lot of time in the kitchen with his mother, Lois. 

He simply roasts the turkey using the open pan method and prefers an 18-pound turkey for the table. “Eighteen pounds is just a nice size; it fits nicely in the roaster and feeds everyone,” he says. 

Turkeys sold for Thanksgiving are usually 18 weeks old. “Hens will have more meat on them up to the mid-20-pound range,” Robert says. “If you want a 30-plus pound turkey, it will have to be a tom,” he says, referring to a male bird.  

Roast a fresh turkey at 325 degrees until thigh temperature is 180 degrees and the breast/stuffing is 165 degrees. Stuffing can add anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes to the total cooking time.

Wife Susan Kauffman says Ho-Ka’s 60,000 turkeys receive consistent TLC with the same people caring for them from “day one to end day. They’re not stressed at all, not being moved or shuttled back and forth.”  

Ho-Ka sells frozen turkeys all year, but offers fresh turkeys only in November. If using a fresh turkey, it’s best to let it sit for a couple of days to age, Susan advises. 

Ho-Ka turkeys are priced at $1.99 per pound for frozen, and $2.99 for fresh. But prices may increase due to recent feed shortages, which affects pricing. 

Gobbler Grocers

Fresh Ho-Ka turkeys are sold at the company store in Waterman (just west of Sugar Grove, Big Rock, and Hinckley) in November, as well as the 18 suburban locations below. 

“Our turkeys have a richer flavor and denser texture due to the ration of the feed, the personal handling of the birds and the care we give them,” says owner Robert Kauffman. “They are locally grown and processed. We take care of everything ourselves.”  


Prisco’s Family Market

Berkeley Finer Foods

Josef’s Elegante
Meats & Deli

Kramer Foods

Casey’s Foods
Garden Fresh Market
Kreger’s Central Foods

Oakbrook Terrace
Pete’s Fresh Market

Tischler’s Market
Tony’s Fresh Market

St. Charles
Blue Goose

Family Foods

Nature’s Best Market 
Standard Market

Wheaton Meat Co.