When we made the decision a few years ago to try and raise and grow all of our own food on our precious little homestead, we never knew how much we would take pride in using every little bit of every fruit, vegetable and even animal.
If you follow us regularly, you know that this past year we raised our own turkeys. We have adopted a philosophy of raising our animals in a happy, healthy environment to assure that we have the most nutritious food possible. We realize that this lifestyle is not for everyone. In fact, even some of our own family members often tell us “I don’t know how you do it” and “I could not eat animals that I raised”. Our response is always “Do you know where your food comes from? I know where mine does.”
There is nothing more satisfying than scanning the freezer (or freezers, in our case) and planning meals for the week. So, with a winter storm on the horizon, what else would someone do, but cook a turkey? Our turkeys turned out to be about 23lbs each, so planning is key. If anyone in the house craves turkey, we need about a 3 day lead time to allow for safe defrosting. So on a chilly Thursday morning, one of our turkeys made it out of the freezer as we anxiously waited for Sunday to come.
After devouring all we could handle on day one, the real planning began. What was going to become of all this leftover turkey and its carcass? There are the usual turkey sandwiches and turkey salad.
Then there was a night of buffalo turkey lettuce wraps (yum!) and a turkey and veggie stir fry. But, I have to admit, even with all of those amazing leftovers, our favorite part is making turkey stock from the carcass. It like the “gift that keeps on giving”!
It’s really a very simple concept, the carcass goes in cold water in the biggest pot we have, (ours happens to be a 16 quart) and throw in a few other things like celery tops, an onion (no need to even peel the skin, just slice in half) a tbsp. of salt, pepper and dried parsley.
You can certainly adjust the seasonings depending on the size of your pot or even to your taste. A little rosemary and thyme would be delicious too. Turn the heat on high and bring to a boil. And, you know that smell? The one that brings back memories of Thanksgivings of the past? Yup, you know the one. It will fill your house again while your stock simmers away.
There are no real rules here, our kind of cooking. Throw in what you like, bring it all to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and let it go for at least an hour. Our preference is actually hours. The longer it simmers, the better the flavor.
Once you are satisfied with a taste and color of your stock, turn off the stove, remove the bones and allow to cool.
Once the stock has cooled enough to handle, strain through a colander to remove the larger remnants of the celery and onion and if you prefer, strain again through a fine mesh strainer. Today’s yield was a total of about 8 quarts which we freeze for later use in soups, gravy, gumbo, curry, and/or any recipe calls for a bit of stock. This stuff is liquid gold.
The carcass that we used on this particular day still had quite a bit of meat left on it, so after cooling, the meat was removed, shredded up, and became a part of a luscious creamy turkey vegetable soup. Here is the quick recipe:
1/2 brick softened cream cheese
1/2 cup shredded sharp white cheddar
1/4 cup half and half
3/4 cup of milk (or use 1 cup if you don’t have half and half, no problem!)
2 quarts turkey stock
2 cups (or so) shredded turkey
Various veggies (in this recipe, we cut up a head of fresh broccoli, a small zucchini and added a handful of chopped frozen kale. Feel free to use whatever you have on hand, or in your freezer. It’s also a great way to use up veggies that are lurking in the back of that bottom refrigerator drawer!)
Salt and pepper to taste
Throw it all in a pot and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally to incorporate all of the cheese. Once the cheese is all mixed in and the soup is piping hot, you are done! It is seriously that simple.
So the next time you roast a chicken or turkey, do not throw that carcass away! Try making your own stock. Even if you did not raise the animal yourself, there really is nothing more satisfying than making your own liquid gold. You will never go back to one of those weird packets of yellow powder or a can of nothing but salt and preservatives. Enjoy!