Boil it down

How to get the most from your turkey carcass.


Yay! It is getting cooler!


Time to bake, time to broil chickens and turkeys and boil down the carcasses for soup.


When my husband and I were just dating, he made a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner for just the two of us. And it was all perfect and I was thinking marriage, and then he WENT TO THROW THE TURKEY CARCASS IN THE TRASH.


Oh. No.


Deal’s off.


No, what really happened is he saw my look of horror and asked me what was going on. I ended up taking the turkey home, returning it as soup, and getting engaged by Christmas.


So, here’s what you do:

Put some nice music on, as this will take a while.

When you carve the bird for the first time, carve in medium thick but large pieces. Don’t make them too thin, because they are about to go in the freezer to be served later, and too-thin slices will go dry.

Put the slices in meal-sized portions in freezer containers and get back to the bird.


This is where, if you are not an expert carver, it is a good thing. You want some pieces still on the bird. When you get to where carving is no longer realistic, pull pieces off—this will be in the chest cavity area. Smaller pieces can be chopped (later) and used in fried rice or in soups or casseroles.

When you have all the meat off you can reasonably pull, put the carcass in your crock pot and cover it with water, not too deep. You can also (and should) throw in all the veg which have wilted in your fridge but not gotten slimy yet. Even lettuce can be made into stock, go ahead and use it.


Boil until remaining meat is off the bones. That will probably take a whole day. You can go do something else.


My mother didn’t have a crock pot until I was in High School, but we made stock this way, anyway, by putting the pot of stuff on a cooler part of the woodstove. This could be why I tend to make stock in the fall and winter, even though I DO own a crock pot—all through my childhood we tended to make stock only when the wood stove was operating.


OK, so! The meat has fallen off the bones. Let it cool to what used to be called “blood warm.” Not all the way cool, or the fat will congeal and make your life difficult.


Put a colander in a large bowl, and pour the meat, bones, and stock into the colander.


Go change the music, because this next part will take a while.


Have a plate for bones, one for meat, and one for things to throw away. You are going to pick through EVERY solid in that colander.


When you have separated good meat from bones, and wilted veg from everything else, put the meat in a container in the freezer. THIS meat is the perfect choice for turkey salad, for stuffing tacos, anything where you want the meat to take on flavors of something else.


Put the stock in containers in the freezer, too.


Now, you are going to re boil those bones.   Add a tablespoon or so of vinegar, which will help leach out calcium and other good stuff. Boil overnight this time.


You will note that the first boiling tastes a good deal like commercial stock, while the second boiling will be different in taste.   Both are good. Probably the second boiling is better for you if you are sick, and the first is if you want to make a soup that tastes a lot like Campbell’s.

Besides making soup, a good home made stock adds heft and nutrition to cooked rice, or the dried beans you make into chili.  If you happen to use instant mashed potatoes once in a while, you can restore some vitamins buy using stock instead of water.


And now you have wasted less of the bountiful harvest. Well done.



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