Turkey soup--let's begin!

November 27, 2020


Hello and happy day after Thanksgiving!  I’m happy you’re here for turkey soup 101. It takes so dang long to roast a turkey and get the whole shebang on the table, why not take a little bit more time and use every last morsel of that beautiful bird? Today we're going to make turkey stock, then we'll chill it overnight and tomorrow we'll defat it and make delicious turkey soup for dinner. It can be done in one day, but I don't like to hurry it along. If you don't have time today, the bones will last for a few days refrigerated. They can also be frozen for up to two months. I save chicken bones in the freezer and after a few months I seem to have enough bones to make stock. So every few months I make chicken stock in this same way, but will adjust the amounts of vegetables to the amount of bones I have.

I make a very traditional turkey soup with just a few ingredients. If you haven't yet done your shopping or your prep, here's what you need to do: (Adjust your list if your turkey is small.)

Shopping List:
-12 large carrots
-1 large onion
-1 large bunch celery
-4 cloves garlic
-1 bunch fresh spinach or 1 bag baby kale
-herbs; I use fresh parsley, sage, thyme and rosemary, although dry herbs are fine.
-2 C uncooked rice or 1 bag dry noodles, depending if you like turkey soup with rice or turkey soup with noodles. If you are a pasta maker or can purchase fresh noodles, your soup would be a worthy recipient.
-1 big ole' turkey carcass. If you have a smallish turkey, don't worry, even small turkeys can make soup! If you have stuffed the turkey, it's ok to leave tidbits of stuffing inside. 

This year we will had a 20 pounder even though we were only 6 people. I always make a big turkey because we love leftovers. You may or may not have leftover meat, and if not, don't worry, you still have the carcass and you can still make soup. My husband and I prepare the leftover turkey meat in this way:

-Save the nice slices for turkey sandwiches.
-Prepare homemade "TV dinners" with turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy. (I use these restaurant containers. They are reusable and my pack of 50 looks like it will last me a lifetime.) We send guests home with a few containers and the rest I put in the freezer for busy nights when I am too tired to cook. This year I was able to make 6 single serving dinners for the freezer.
-Pick every last bit of the meat off the bones and cut into small, soupspoon-sized pieces and refrigerate. We'll use them tomorrow.
-Put the carcass and any undesirable bits, such as floppy skin and fatty bits, the pope's nose and any leftover juices and drippings you did not use for the gravy, into a large stock pot. Put some water in that roasting pan and scrape away until the tiny leftover browny bits are loosened, then throw all that into the pot too. I also scrape off any gel from the cutting board and add that. It's all adding flavor. If you did not use the giblets and neck for gravy, add them to the pot too. Add water to cover and put the pot on low.

-Prepare vegetables by washing first.  

-Peel and rough chop onion.
-Smash 4 cloves garlic.
-Peel and thinly slice 6 carrots and set aside. Save the peels and rough chop the remaining 6 carrots
-Slice off 1/2" root stem of celery and discard. Thinly slice the nicer green ribs and set aside. Rough chop remaining celery, white ends, leafy tops, the center, all of it.
-Chop parsley, stems and all. Set aside a handful of the prettier parsley leaves for tomorrow. 

Cover the carrots, celery and parsley that were set aside (above in glass containers) and refrigerate for tomorrow. The spinach that was on the shopping list will also be used tomorrow. Put remaining rough chopped vegetables in the stock pot. Add water to cover if necessary. Add fresh herbs, unchopped, stem and all; I used sage, rosemary and thyme. If fresh is not available, add one teaspoon each dried herbs of your choice. The above three herbs are the most traditional for stock. Add 1 teaspoon of both salt and dried black peppercorns (or ground pepper) and a shake of dried red peppers (optional). Additionally I squeeze in the juice of one lemon, totally optional, but that is the California in me--lemon enhances everything! Adjust the fire to highest setting and bring to boil. Once boiling, lower heat to just a simmer. Now here comes the easy part: relax with your knitting and some Christmas music or decorate your tree or take a snooze, because your concoction needs to simmer for 4 hours. Check on it occasionally and give it a stir and add more water if it's getting too low, but you do want the stock to condense so adding a lot of water is not necessary. 

I have to warn you that the stock will look like a mess while it's cooking. Don't encourage your family to peek at it during this stage because they will surely turn their noses up at the sight. But don't fret, all will be well in the end, I promise. 

She may be no beauty queen right now--she has to go through a few transformations. 😋

After it has simmered for a good long time and you feel certain that the bones and veggies have given up all their goodness, it's time to strain. I like to cool it for a half hour then use a series of strainers; the first pass is through my chinois strainer although a regular colander will be fine. If you do decide to purchase a chinois strainer, make sure you get one with a stand and a wooden pestle. Mine has been in constant use for three generations and is one of the kitchen utensils I would hate to part with. I give the mass a good push to release all the juices out of the bones and vegetables. Discard bones, etc. Next pour the stock into a fine strainer a few times to remove the smaller bits. Discard those too. Your stock will look cloudy. Refrigerate overnight. When it is thoroughly cooled, the fat will be at the top. Beef fat is white and solid and chicken and turkey fat is yellow, semi-solid and even sticky. The stock underneath the fat will be wiggly and jellied. Congratulations! You've done it right! Long and slow simmering releases the minerals and collagen that were hidden away in the bones and tissue which makes the liquid gel when cooled. Remember watching old movies or reading old books when invalids were given chicken broth? Broth is easy to digest and has health benefits beyond compare, health benefits you can't get from a can or a jar, and certainly not from a bouillon cube. Now, aren't you proud of yourself? 

Keep it refrigerated overnight and we'll remove the fat and finish the soup tomorrow.

I'm going to pop in this afternoon to see if there are any questions. I'd love to know if you are making stock today, so please, please let me know. I'm feeling giddy to think we knitters may be cooking together today! If you are an anonymous commenter, I cannot reply back personally to you, so you'll have to come back here for my reply. If you are on the website, you can scroll down to the comments section, or click here.

xo Kristen

This is what my stock arsenal looks like. The stock is simmering away in my big stock pot. On the right is my chinois strainer. After hours of simmering, I'll most likely be left with broth that will just fit into the pot on the right. The fine strainer is used for the final straining. I'll pass the stock through that a few times.

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  1. I’m on the East coast and making stock today along with you today. Just started to simmer mine for 4 hours. Going to finish up a pair of socks I’m knitting and maybe break it up with some watercolors. Thanks so much for the two posts so far on cooking stock.

    1. Wonderful! Thank you so much for letting me know. I hope you had a lovely day knitting and cooking. I did!

    2. Also, please let me know how it turns out!

  2. I'm making stock with you too and my house smelled beautiful all day. I knit my Christmas hats while the stock was bubbling away! Diane in Oregon.

    1. Fabulous! Thank you for letting me know. Yes, I forgot to say how wonderful the house smells for the two day soup making foray. Please let me know how it turns out.

  3. Cooking right along with you! The house smells lovely. Getting ready to knit on a hat for my Hubs. Thanks for all the heartfelt tips.

    1. Wonderful, and thank you for letting me know. It makes me so happy. I hope it turns out great.

  4. I’m a day behind but making stock! Thank you for the tips.

    1. Stock is patient! Thank you for letting me know you have joined in. It makes me so happy! I hope it turns out wonderful! Kristen


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