Wait! Stop! Don’t throw away that turkey carcass! You might have had gobs and gobbles of turkey already, but if you haven’t thrown away the bones you can make a delicious stock.
The flavor of turkey soup brings to mind autumn, chilly weather, and the holidays. That’s probably because we don’t eat very much turkey throughout the year, so when we have turkey soup, it’s right after Thanksgiving. It’s also an incredible way to utilize the whole turkey, and continue giving thanks for everything that we’ve been given.
That’s something the pilgrims and the Wampanoag surely did after that first Thanksgiving. Even though turkey probably wasn’t on the menu, they did eat waterfowl and deer, and they wouldn’t have wasted any part of those meats. Neither the Native Americans nor the colonists would have thrown away anything that could be used to make food.
I know, some of you are saying, "I don't need to boil the bones, I can run to the store and buy a can of whatever soup I want." That's true, but it won't be soup made from your Thanksgiving turkey. There's a certain sense of accomplishment you get from utilizing the entire bird, and not letting anything go to waste. That might only be me, but I encourage you to give it a try. Besides, there's so much more nutrition to be had from cooking soup from scratch, using ingredients that you've sliced with your own hands, and vegetables you've chosen yourself. That can of soup might give you only three little soggy pieces of carrots, and a whopping 1600 milligrams of sodium.
I’ve made many turkey soups over the years, but I must admit that the first several were lackluster. One problem was that there wasn’t much meat left by the time I made the soup. We ended up having a thin, not very hearty soup. You can avoid that by reserving turkey meat to put in the soup. Another problem was that I didn’t let the stock simmer long enough.
Turkey has a unique flavor—our palates are used to eating chicken and chicken soup, and then we taste turkey soup and, guess what? It doesn’t taste like chicken soup. It tastes different. If you use plenty of aromatics in your stock, and load your soup full of great vegetables, then it will be fantastic. One great ingredient that adds a lot to turkey soup is wild rice—it complements the wilder flavor of the turkey.
Nowadays there are lots of people going crazy over bone broth. Well, you’ve got lots of bones after Thanksgiving. It’s how people have been making soup and broth since soup and broth have been around. I’ve read various instructions on the proper way to make it, from boiling the broth for five hours, all the way up to 24. Basically, the longer you let the stock cook, the richer it will be, and the more nutritional value it will have. When you’re done, you should end up with a gelatinous stock, which will make a delicious turkey soup!
If you’ve never made homemade turkey stock, don’t be intimidated—it’s easy to do. Start by taking the carcass of the turkey, and the pan drippings and any leftover roasted vegetables from the roasting pan, and putting them in a large stockpot. If your pot isn’t big enough, no problem—cut the carcass apart so it fits. Fill the pot with water so it covers the bones by an inch or two. Then add some aromatics (onion, maybe garlic and shallots), vegetables (carrot and celery), peppercorns, salt and a bay leaf, and let it simmer for hours. And hours. Skim the foam that rises to the top.
I actually boiled my stock this time for way longer than I had planned—and it ended up tasting fantastic. If you have the time, I would highly recommend just letting the broth simmer away (mine cooked for six hours).
When it’s done, carefully strain it through a mesh sieve and into another pot. If you don’t have a sieve, you can use a colander lined with cheesecloth. That’s it—your stock is done. At this point you can let it cool, then measure it into containers and freeze it for future use, or you can turn around and make turkey soup. Just sauté lots of chopped vegetables (carrots, celery, parsnips, potato, a turnip if you like), with some aromatics (onion, garlic, and shallots), in a little olive oil. Add to broth. Taste the broth before adding the spices (sage, salt, pepper, bay leaf)—since you added the pan drippings, and the carcass was salted, you might not need much salt, or any. Let it cook for an hour, or until the vegetables are cooked. If you have a particularly watery broth, you can add wild rice 40 minutes before you plan to eat—it will absorb some of the liquid, though, so keep that in mind. Then serve it with some leftover Thanksgiving rolls, if you have them, or a loaf of crusty French bread.
Thanksgiving is over, but you can still make some delicious turkey soup. It’s another thing to be thankful for.
1 Turkey carcass and pan drippings (and roasted vegetables)
2 Carrots, peeled
2 Celery Ribs
1 Medium onion
1 Bay leaf
2 tsp. salt
½ tsp. peppercorns
Water to cover
Put turkey all ingredients into large stockpot, breaking up carcass if necessary. Add enough water to cover by one to two inches. Heat to boiling, skimming the foam off occasionally. Cook several hours (at least three).
Pour liquid through a fine mesh sieve (or a cheesecloth-lined colander) into another pot. Remove turkey from bones, and discard the rest of the sieve contents. Reserve turkey to add to soup.
2 Tbsp. oil
4 Carrots, peeled and sliced (or more)
3 Celery ribs, sliced (or more)
2 Parsnips, sliced (or more)
1 Onion, chopped
1 Clove garlic, minced
1 Bay leaf
1 Potato, chopped
1 tsp. salt (if necessary—taste the broth before adding)
¼ tsp. thyme
¼ tsp. sage
2 Cups leftover turkey
Any Turkey removed from carcass
8 Cups turkey stock (recipe above)
Heat oil in stockpot. Cook all ingredients but turkey and stock for 10 minutes. Add turkey and stock to pot, heat to boiling. Reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes to one hour. Meanwhile, cook wild rice.
1 Cup wild rice
4 Cups water
Bring water to a boil. Add rice and cook for 45 minutes.
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