Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tip-Line Thursday #3 -- Turkey Stock

Roger and I were grocery shopping this morning (he comes with me on major shopping weeks because it takes about half the time) and I was moaning that I had this "tip-line" thing to do and I was clueless. Since we were buying our Thanksgiving turkey -- two, actually; one at each store with a super sale -- he suggested that maybe some of y'all might not know what to do with that turkey carcass after dinner is over. So I'm going to give it a shot.

The first thing, obviously, is to get all that great meat off the bones and into some bags in the fridge. I divide it into "sliceable" -- which is for sandwiches and our traditional Thanksgiving leftover meal on Saturday or Sunday -- and "choppable", which gets diced and thrown into the freezer in one- and two-cup amounts for things like soup or creamed turkey. Sometimes I pick it off very carefully, because I was raised by a depression-era mom, and we wouldn't want to waste anything! But sometimes that just seems like too much trouble, and anyway it'll go to flavor the stock.

Because mom or no mom, I am not going to throw away that turkey carcass (just yet). I'm going to put it -- skin, bones, scraps and all -- into my biggest pot. I have a 20 quart (5 gallon) pot, but you can get it into a 12 quart if you break it in pieces (or maybe also if you didn't start with a 20-odd pound turkey.) Anyway, I then fill the pan with water to cover the bones*, put on the lid, bring it to a boil, turn the heat down to simmer, and leave it alone. For two days.

During those two days. I occasionally take off the lid and give the whole mess a stir. As the stock simmers the bones, most of the connective stuff dissolves and/or relaxes, and it looks less like a turkey and more like a bag of bones. During this time my house smells wonderful!

At the end of two days (or more if I'm busy; I just make sure the heat stays at a simmer) I take the pan off the heat and let it cool. In November in Michigan I usually put it on the porch, but room temperature is fine. I just don't want to get scalded when I strain it. I put a big mesh strainer into my biggest bowl, and ladle the broth into it, scraps, bones and all. When the strainer gets full I slowly lift it out (see why it needs to be cool?), letting the stock drain into the bowl, throw the bones away, and repeat as necessary. I have a big enough bowl to hold it all, but if you don't, you can transfer some of the stock to other containers until the pot is empty.

At this point, I wash out my great big pot (it doesn't have to be grease-free, just no sludge from the bones) and put all the broth back into it. Then I taste it. Sometimes it has great turkey flavor already, but usually it's a little weak. So I put it back on the heat to boil until it has reduced by a third or a half. I taste it until it seems right. Please note: at this point I'm only looking for turkey flavor. It will not be salty enough, but salt intensifies when stock reduces, and again when you freeze it. It's better to have too little salt and be able to add it later.

When the turkey flavor is good, I take the pot off the heat and cool it again. At this point it really needs to be chilled, so if you don't have a "porcherator" like I do, divide it into the biggest containers that will fit in your fridge. ** Once the stock is chilled, I take off any solid fat and measure it by cups into freezer bags. (I usually like 2 cup and 6 cup amounts, which need quart and gallon bags respectively.) I mark and seal the bags, lay them flat on cookie sheets, and freeze. (Flat bags of stock are easier to store AND easier to thaw than storage containers, but those work fine if they're what you have.)

And then, all year long, I have turkey stock for soup, and gravy, and creamed turkey...YUM!

* At this point you can throw in other things, if you like. Potato and vegetable peelings, or celery trimmings. Any leftover Thanksgiving vegetables --onions, green beans, carrots, mushrooms -- that don't have cream or cheese in them. (Even green bean casserole is OK. Just rinse off some of the soup.) Just be sure the flavor is something you'd want in turkey stock. Yams are kind of odd. We always have Brussels sprouts (a tradition from Roger's family), and those are definitely too strong.

** If you don't have enough fridge room either, the stock CAN be bagged and frozen from room temperature. But that doesn't let you remove the fat, and also means the stock will be warmer longer in the freezer, which slightly raises the risk of bacteria.

1 comment:

Jen said...

I've tried turkey stock before and it isn't that great yet. I think I'm not cooking it long enough- I only do mine for one day.