I woke up this morning and thought–“Oh no! I hope I’m not too late to remind you to NOT throw away your turkey carcass from Thanksgiving!” If I’ve caught you in time, I’ll try to make it quick! And, if you haven’t thought about it and are still picking the meat off the bones–today is also the day to remind you that TODAY is the last day it could possibly be good.
(But before I continue, let me first say that not all Jewish mothers enjoy instigating guilt–although most of us mothers, Jewish or not, will do it happily when it serves an important purpose–and what I’m about to say about making turkey stock certainly does–so listen up! )
Throwing out a cooked turkey frame should make you feel bad—awful–like dumping out a vat of ice-cold, crystal-clear water in the middle of the sun-parched Sahara desert. (Don’t worry, if you’ve still got the carcass, there’s still time to save yourself.)
Turkey bones make the most fabulous broth!–Especially if you add some raw poultry parts, which will augment the taste substantially–See–it’s the bones (cooked or not) that lend texture (a discernible physical dimension) to stock that will make it seem almost thickened, yet still esthetically clear–This “thickness” comes from both, gelatin (contained in bones) and the breaking down of cartilage which, after enough simmering, creates a liquid with more depth. The fact that the bones have been initially cooked –provides a “browned” part–and it’s this that offers not just an amazing depth of flavor but also a noticeably rich color that is simply not attainable when using all raw components. So, when you add raw poultry–you are bringing the sweet, pure taste of virgin skin and meat to the table (to the pot) and, adding something cooked adds the flavor and color benefits (coming from a special kind of brown-color compounds– from caramelization). Each offers a completely unique set of attributes to your finished stock.
So, today, since Thanksgiving just passed–the star “cooked component” is the turkey carcass.
And making stock is so easy!
Instead of throwing the cooked carcass into the garbage, toss it into a big pot with aromatic vegetables.
(Cut up lots of carrots, celery, onions, cleaned and sliced leeks–and what you don’t use today, simply freeze in a doubled freezer bag.) I also add some whole cloves of garlic and a bushy bunch of Italian parsley–stems and leaves), whole black peppercorns along with some other chicken parts that I’ve always got stashed in the freezer. I usually keep a whole chicken or two frozen-as well as some boney wings, necks, backs, etc. (To see me cutting up a chicken in a way that will forever help you to replenish your supply of boney poultry pieces, click here.)
Then cover the contents with cold water (not hot, which is oxygen-deprived and isn’t as fresh-tasting) and add some whole black peppercorns. Bring the whole lot to a bubble, skim off any gray, bubbly scum that rises to the top, which is the impurities from the bones leaching out.
Here is a skimmer…
Here’s how to use it…
(This stuff won’t kill –it’s just not appetizing.)
Then, let the contents of the pot bubble gently, with the cover ajar, for a few hours–
Occassionally adding more vegetables, if you like.
After that, remove the pot from the stove and place on a sturdy wire rack, which will help facilitate cooling. Allow the solids to cool as long as you can, then use a large ladle or a big liquid measure, to strain the solids out of the broth (into a large sieve positioned over a large bowl).
Here (below) is something you never would have had if you threw out the turkey carcass!
Now–you can finally throw away all those solids.
But make sure to close the lid of the garbage!
Be careful–your dog will have an entirley different set of reasons why making stock is extremely valuable!
Now, chill the stock and allow the fat to rise to the top.
Skim off the fat–then ladle the pure stock into freezer containers and store in the freezer.
Now…whenever you or someone you love needs it bad, you can easily make a nurturing soup!
With or without matzo balls.
The Point: Thanksgiving gives us many reasons and ways to celebrate some of life’s most humble, albeit valuable, offerings like love, family, hospitality and friendship. And, choosing to make stock–whether from the bones of a holiday turkey or a weeknight roast chicken is one simple, yet far-reaching way to, at whim, provide more of these same offerings–especially needed and appreciated during the cold winter months. It’s also a way to revisit (and to teach to our 21st century children) the importance of being resourceful–and of living each day on purpose.