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Holiday Preparation: Lebanon Family Continues Thanksgiving Tradition

  • Andy Palazzo pulls a turkey from a pot of boiling water  used to loosen the feathers for plucking during the Palazzo family's annual turkey slaughter in Lebanon Sunday, November 24, 2013. The family gathers with friends including Micky Grant, left, of Lebanon, to prepare for the holiday. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Andy Palazzo pulls a turkey from a pot of boiling water used to loosen the feathers for plucking during the Palazzo family's annual turkey slaughter in Lebanon Sunday, November 24, 2013. The family gathers with friends including Micky Grant, left, of Lebanon, to prepare for the holiday.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • One of the final two of 11 turkeys stands in the barn window on the day of the annual Palazzo family turkey slaughter November 24, 2013.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    One of the final two of 11 turkeys stands in the barn window on the day of the annual Palazzo family turkey slaughter November 24, 2013.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Andy Palazzo pulls a turkey from a pot of boiling water  used to loosen the feathers for plucking during the Palazzo family's annual turkey slaughter in Lebanon Sunday, November 24, 2013. The family gathers with friends including Micky Grant, left, of Lebanon, to prepare for the holiday. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • One of the final two of 11 turkeys stands in the barn window on the day of the annual Palazzo family turkey slaughter November 24, 2013.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Lebanon — For the first time in nearly 20 years, the innards had frozen to the patio table. They had been left idle for just a few minutes as several men worked to clean out 11 slaughtered turkeys. They had to be scraped off with a knife.

“This is the coldest we’ve ever...,” Tony Palazzo had said just a few minutes before, trailing off as he tried to get a frozen hose to spout water.

Gusts of wind kicked up sheets of fresh snow on Sunday morning, stinging the faces of the seven people volunteering at Palazzo’s house and barn. But the work went on, even as temperatures neared the wrong side of 10 degrees.

It was the Sunday before Thanksgiving, which, like every year since 1995, meant it was time to visit Palazzo’s turkeys. This year there were 11 that he purchased during the summer, all waiting in a pen. After the turkeys are killed and cleaned, Palazzo sells them to friends and family.

Dan Palazzo, Tony’s son, and Mickey Grant, a friend of the family, went to fetch the first bird shortly after 9 a.m. on Sunday. They’d bring it over to a funnel for slaughter — or, as Tony’s wife, Gay Palazzo, called it, “processing” — and afterward to a garbage can and a bucket both filled with hot water.

Tony Palazzo, along with two others, waited inside a nearby wooden barn, built in the late 1700s and now used primarily for storage. The three of them would pluck the feathers.

The Palazzos’ turkey day is an event that Peter Mason has attended for years, each time leaving with a big bird to feed as many as 30 Thanksgiving guests, but it was Ken Warren’s first time contributing to what’s become a family tradition. Tony Palazzo said the changing cast of helpers keeps it fresh.

“If it wasn’t for Peter and other people I wouldn’t do it anymore,” he said.

The three of them stood at the ready in the barn, atop old wooden planks and near a post where the turkeys would hang.

“Here comes one,” said Warren, who lives up the street, as the first one was carried through the open door.

The bird had just gone through the funnel-and-boiling gauntlet, the latter part of which was run by Andy Palazzo, another of Tony’s sons, of Reading, Vt. The idea to raise and slaughter turkeys on a small, family scale was originally his idea. In 1995, he was on break from college and immersing himself in outdoor pursuits such as, at one point, building a cabin. He came up with the turkey idea around then.

At the time, it was “just for something to do,” he said.

“Something different,” added Dan Palazzo, who now lives in Weathersfield.

The first year didn’t go smoothly. They bought turkeys but didn’t stop feeding them as their time approached, and the birds ended up about 50 pounds. The cleaning took place in the Palazzos’ old kitchen on Poverty Road. They eventually got the hang of how to raise and slaughter the turkeys, but not without the occasional misstep. Once, Dan Palazzo said, they accidentally stained a deck red.

But on Sunday, nearly two decades removed from the trial-and-error period, the morning’s events went efficiently, a product of a tradition ingrained in a family culture.

“It’s fun,” Andy Palazzo said. “You see everybody. You see people you don’t normally see.”

After the 11 turkeys had been de-feathered, the group moved away from the barn and behind the house, which overlooks a large, empty field. A patio table was moved onto the yard, and the turkeys were brought there for cleaning. A case full of knives sat on the patio. A garbage can stood next to the table, ready to accept discarded insides.

The men took knives, plastic bags or the newly defrosted hose nozzle and went back to work.

Jon Wolper can be reached at jwolper@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.