Jo didn’t believe me when I told her I could make a turkey out of an apple, but she was pleasantly surprised with the results. With a little bit of clever and simple fruit carving, you can, too! The art of fruit carving is centuries old, and there are tons of books and tools out there that can help you learn how to do it. I’m sure you’ll agree that the really extravagant examples of fruit carving can be as intimidating as they are gorgeous, but some simple techniques can lead to amazing results if you just give it a try. This turkey is a great example of that.
I usually make one of these for every plate at the “kiddie table” on Thanksgiving. The kids always love sitting down to find their own personal bird waiting for them. The only supplies you’ll need to make one of these turkey is a big red apple, a paring knife, two whole cloves, and a toothpick.
Start by slicing about a half-inch thick slice off one side of the apple. This will give your turkey a nice steady base to stand on. Don’t throw away (or eat) that slice, though. We’re going to need it in a minute.
Then take your paring knife, tilt it at an angle, and cut a slash in the top of the apple that’s about an inch and a half long and a quarter of an inch deep. Turn your knife to the opposite angle, and make a matching slash on the left, meeting the top and bottom of the first slash.
You should have a tiny little point of apple that can be removed. Resist any temptations you might have to toss this piece into your mouth. We’re going to use all these bits, so keep them!
If you’ve made it this far, you already have the skills you need to finish this project, believe it or not. We just need to make more cuts like that first one!
Angle the knife on the right, about a quarter inch away from the first cut, and again slice down into the apple. Don’t go too far — just go until the top and bottom of the knife line up with the top and bottom points of your first cut. Once you’ve made the cut on the right, switch to the left and make a matching cut.
Now pop the loose piece out. Look at that, you made a pretty little feather! (I don’t have to tell you again not to eat it, right?)
Repeat the same process and make a third feather, which will be slightly larger than the last one was.
Then, depending on how big your apple is, use the same technique to make a fourth and optionally a fifth feather. Basically you can keep going until you get tired or hit the center of the apple. Here’s what I ended up with after cutting five feathers.
Now we get to have some fun. Take the largest feather you made and put it back on the apple, but scoot it back a bit so that some of the white of the apple below is showing. Then place the next largest feather on top, a little further back.
Put the rest of the slices in place, down to the tiniest point. You’ll notice that the moisture in the apple provides enough friction that the slices stay put with nothing added to hold them. They just stick! And look how pretty it is. Neat, huh?
Now take the entire “wing” piece off the body and set it aside so that you don’t damage it while you make more cuts. It’ll just sit there, stuck together, until you’re ready for it. Then turn your apple to the side and repeat all the steps above on the right side, and make another complete wing.
Do it again on the other side of the apple body, making three wings total. I love it!
All that’s left now is the head. Go find that slice of apple from the first step. Lay it flat on the table and cut a strip out of the middle that’s about a half inch wide. Cut the points off of each end of that strip so that it’s squared off. (By the way, you are allowed to eat those two tiny pieces and the rest of the big slice now. Finally!)
Now flip the head/neck piece so that it’s skin side up. Take your knife and cut one end to a bit of a point, so that it more resembles a beak. Then stick a whole clove in each side of the head, to serve as eyes.
Stick a toothpick halfway into the other end of the neck, and then stick the whole thing on the turkey, right in the stem area.
Ta-da! Your apple turkey is ready to decorate your table. If you need to make these far ahead of time and want to keep the apple looking fresh, you might want to spritz them with some lemon juice.