“Waste not want not” was the mantra passed to me from my parents and grandparents. Having experienced the Great Depression and rationing during the Second World War, they knew the meaning of lean days and learned how to conserve and stretch a meal to get the most out of everything. Given this, I was really surprised recently when I heard someone say that they refuse to entertain the idea of leftovers. What? I love them! For me they are a challenge to get my creative juices flowing. How can I transform them into something wonderful? Nothing gives me that opportunity more than a whole roast turkey, which we love and cook often all year long. Let’s face it, it is impossible to cook a small amount so inevitably you will be faced with what to do with “the remains” as my father so affectionately referred to them. Trust me when I say there is so much more than the beloved turkey sandwich. Let’s first address the carcass. I cringe to think that people throw it away when it can so easily be transformed into a rich stock.
Remove the meat from the bones and reserve the meat for another use (we will get to that later). Place bones in a stock pot large enough to submerge all the ingredients in fresh cold water. It isn’t necessary to peel any of the veggies as they will do their job and then be discarded. Add a large onion, 2-3 carrots and 2 ribs of celery cut into chunks, 3 garlic cloves, smashed, 2-3 bay leaves, a small handful of whole black peppercorns and a small amount of salt (optional). If I have them on hand, I also add some parsley stems and a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme. Cover with cold water. Bring to a low boil and reduce heat to a slow simmer. Cook for 4-6 hours, uncovered. A few pointers to avoid cloudy stock: do not boil hard, do not stir, skim off any foam that rises to the top. Leave it alone! Check every so often to make sure it is simmering low and slow. After the simmering for the allotted time, turn off the heat, cool slightly and strain the stock through a sieve lined with fine cheesecloth. Wrap the cheesecloth around the spent bones and veggies and discard. The cheesecloth strains out all the fine bits and makes clean-up easy. You could use a chinois (sheen-Wah), a conical sieve with extra fine mesh, if you wish. It is important to cool stock quickly for maximum safety so place in an ice bath or put stock in the refrigerator uncovered after it is slightly cooled. Cover after it is completely cooled and store overnight. Skim off any fat that rises to the top. If you want to use it right away then skim the fat off the hot stock before proceeding. When I am not making soup, I portion it into 2c and 4c portions into freezer bags and freeze for later use. If not sure how I am going to use it, I use little or no salt and then add it later. Salt does get more concentrated as it sits so, if using, add sparingly. Don’t have time to make the stock right away? I freeze the carcass and make stock on a day when I am going to be home and want to make my house smell heavenly. Sometimes I accumulate 2 or 3 chicken carcasses before making stock since they are so much smaller than turkey.
That’s all there is, folks. So easy and so satisfying. There are endless uses for this precious broth. Although there are some very good quality commercial varieties available, there is nothing quite as good as homemade.
In the next couple of posts I am going to give you some recipes for using both the leftover meat and the stock. Sneak preview, “Turkey Pot Pie” and “Chicken (turkey) Soup with Almonds and Wild Rice.” The soup instruction includes a quick and fool-proof method for preparing the wild rice. Got to have that! Right? These recipes are economical, gratifying and definitely high on the comfort food scale. I look forward to sharing them with you so stay tuned.