Friday, November 18, 2011

Talking Turkey Stock

At some point, many of us will be faced with the sight of a turkey carcass, all that remains of a delightful meal. Lots of people pitch it, but hey, economy is a very good and mindful thing. Besides it's a cinch to make a great tasting stock that will serve as a delicious starter for the soup you planned to make with all the lovely bits of turkey meat you removed from the carcass after dinner.

This is a pretty basic stock method that also works great for chicken.

Start with a very large pot that has a lid. Place the left over bones in the pot (leave on the pieces meat and some of the skin - not JUST the bones, ok?). You may want to break it into a few larger pieces so it fits better. If you still have it, you can also add the neck. I never add the livers. I have no reason for this except that once I read a cookery book by the Great Julia Child and she said "no livers." Therefore, no livers will be added to your stock.

Add whatever other veggies you love in soups only keep them in their more elemental form. I like to add an onion with the skin left on and the roots sliced off. Cut it in half or quarter it so it fits in the pot better. Also good are rinsed and end trimmed big chunks of carrots and celery. No need to peel the carrot, but do cut in chunks or slice in half. Lots of good vitamins and flavors in those peels that will make your stock rock! Leeks are also good to add if you like the flavor - make sure you trim off the roots and cut them in half - oh, when you add in the celery, add all the lovely leaves. They have so much flavor they should not be wasted.

Also add at least 8-10 long stems of parsley (or a mix of parsley and cilantro), 1 large or 2 small bay leaves, 2 teaspoons of thyme, lots of fresh cracked black pepper or peppercorns if you have them, 5-6 large cloves of garlic (leave the skins on but do smash them well), and while you are adding cloves, throw in some cloves or allspice berries too - that's a hint from the Great Julia. I love to add a dash or three of Tabasco sauce because I don't use much salt and it seems to add just the right unifying element. I've also added paprika - either the smokey or Hungarian will do. But that's a taste preference thing and you may want to hold off on that til you taste it at the end - or add it when you turn your stock into soup, I've done that too.

Put enough water in the pot to cover all the bones and all the other things. You can salt, but do so very lightly. It's not good for you to eat too much salt. If you add enough other herbs and seasonings you should not miss the salt.

Bring to a gentle simmer - don't boil. You will notice that scum will rise to the surface for a while. Do not be afraid, it's normal. Just skim until it stops doing that. I guess it's just the final protest by the bird. When it stops scumming, cover loosely (let some steam escape), and simmer for about an hour and a half minimum. If the water reduces too much, you can add more, but the idea will be to intensify the flavors so just make sure there's enough water to simmer and barely cover all the ingredients.

Remove the largest chunks of stuff and pitch. Then strain the stock into another pot - use one of those great mesh colanders have the little handles that allow it to hang over the top of the pot. You may want to place a layer of cheesecloth over the colander first to trap all the little bits, a necessary step if your colander has larger holes. Allow the stock to cool until the remaining grease floats nicely to the top and firms up, making it simple for you to transform it by skimming into great low fat stock before finishing it.

Finishing is why you strain into another pot - you can really intensify the flavor by reducing the stock a bit - boil it down a little. As you do so, taste every now and then and add more seasoning if you think it is necessary.

You can keep stock in the fridge for a few days, or freeze it so you have fantastic stock whenever you want it. If you use small bits of stock in recipes on a regular basis, try freezing it in ice cube trays and then pop them out and place in a freezer bag.

Enjoy mindfully....I'll post a picture of my stockery after Thanksgiving! :D


  1. This was very helpful and I am eager to try it now that I understand the process.

  2. Thanks so much for the breakdown of labor. It seems like such a simple idea (and it is) but only if you do it right.

    Also, as a side note... has anyone ever done a turkey/chicken stock study in terms of nutrition? Some people (notably vegans)say boiling vegetables takes all the nutrients out of the food. But if this is so, how can we have knock-out chicken soup that virtually kicks a cold right out of you? Also, is there a place I could send my soup stock for a nutritional study?

  3. I leave the skin on the onions for a nice rich color. Yellow onions in the poultry stocks and red onions in the beef stock.

  4. Thanks for the info; This is this is the 1st year that I've tried this and your info was very helpful!!!

  5. my stock came out primo! I started with a lot of water and simmered at least 4 hours until reduced by almost half before straining bones and veggies. I then sauteed chopped onions, celery and carrots and added the stock and left over turkey to those for a fantastic turkey soup..(added salt and pepper to sauteed veggies as they cooked). I finished with lots of chopped parsley. I also put a squeeze of fresh lemon in my bowl before eating...very yummy!

  6. Yea for primo stock! Thanks, Val.

    Anonymous, the best thing to do is to just use nutrition facts from prepared. This one is salted - This one is not -

    as you can see, there is not much in the way of calories in stock. The process extracts all the nutrition from the veggies and concentrates it in the delicious broth. The defatting at the end removes most of the calories. Make it and enjoy!

  7. Making stock is simply a smart way to use the remains of a great meal. If you freeze it in portioned freezerbags laid flat, it saves room in the freezer and is simple to handle.