String roasting is an ancient method of roasting meats on the
hearth. The only country I am aware of where string roasting is still common is in France where leg of lamb roasted from a string, gigot a la ficelle, is a Provencal specialty. I include several string roasting recipes in The Magic of Fire including this string roasted turkey. You may download a PDF of the string roasting instructions from the Magic of Fire.
These are photographs of a turkey prepared by Liza Grissino and her husband Alan based on my string roasting recipe. They bravely undertook this recipe for their 2001 Thanksgiving dinner without having previously experimented with string roasting. The Grissino’s complete hearth- and oven-roasted meal was as follows:
“We used the turkey on a string method using the skewers that we purchased from Sturbridge Village*. In addition to the turkey I cooked mashed potatoes and parsnips, candied sweet potatoes, acorn squash, and I also prepared the stuffing and gravy on the fire. I used my beehive oven as well. My squash pie came out really nicely.”
In this image you see the turkey hanging from a loop of string that is attached to a ceiling hook. Notice that the turkey is well trussed. If you look carefully you can see that the turkey appears a little cinched toward its middle, as if looped by a tight belt. This is very important. The more compact the shape, the more the trussed turkey resembles the shape of an egg, the more evenly it will roast. Notice also the hot fire. Lisa baked the pie in the oven located in the fireplace wall in the upper right. A pie can also be baked in a Dutch oven over embers. When baking a pie in a Dutch oven, put down a layer of ash approximately 1/2 inch (1 cm) across the floor of the oven to slightly insulate the pie from the side of the metal. Bake with embers both underneath the pie and on its lid.
It took the Grissino’s 3 hours to roast this turkey 11.5 pound (5.2 kg) fully stuffed turkey. The turkey can be roasted fast but 3 hours is a reasonable time period. You can speed up the fire by adding kindling. If you are using the thinnest string that will hold the weight (see the PDF instructions, above) then a 5 foot (1.5 meter) string turns for approximately 10 minutes without attention. Often the only touching required to keep the turkey moving is one given when basting. Notice the frying pan on the embers to the right of the turkey. in which the Grissino’s are cooking something else.
A perfect roast! A deep, rich color. You can see by the way the legs opened up that the turkey is well done. Notice the marks in the breast from the trussing.
*Sturbridge no longer sells these kits. Oct. 2011