Thursday, December 16, 2010

Turkey Stock Talk

Every year for the last 15 years I have cooked a turkey to donate to an inner city Christmas Community dinner.  I'm only just starting to learn about the problems with the meat industry in North America and know that there are huge problems with how we produce our meat.

But this post is not about whether I should be buying the turkey to begin with.

This post is about what to do with the giant mass of bones, fat, cartilage, & bits of meat left after you've carved the bird.  I'm sad to say that every year I would just take the whole disgusting mess & dump it in the trash, hoping that the raccoons didn't get to it before garbage day.

But last year, as I had become interested in cooking from scratch, I decided to take the plunge, or rather, let the turkey carcass take the plunge.  I was going to make stock.  Was this even possible without owning a giant pressure cooker like my parents did, or a restaurant size stock pot?  Yes it was!  Here's what I did.


Step One:
Roast the whole bird as you normally would, but make sure to also put the gizzards and neck in the roaster as well.  Don't just toss them because they look gross or you wonder who would ever want to eat them.  It won't matter to your soup stock what they look like!

Step Two:
After your bird has been carved, place the whole thing and the neck & gizzards in the biggest pot you have, and cover with water.  Try to break it up if you can, as that will help most of the nutrients to come out of the bones.

Step Three:
Toss in whatever extras you want...a couple quartered onions, garlic, pepper, celery stalks, seasonings, etc.  Experiment with whatever you have on hand!  If you have nothing on hand...who cares?  You can always season it later.  A great tip is adding about a tablespoon of vinegar or other acidic liquid like lemon juice.  Doing this will help leach the calcium from the bones. 

Step Four:
Bring to a boil, then turn on low and simmer for anywhere from 2 -4 hours.  Most of the meat should have fallen off the bones.

Step Five:
Strain broth through a sieve into another large pot or bowl.  Sit the broth in a sink of icy water to cool.  A layer of clear fat will form on the top after about half an hour.  Simply skim off with a spoon.  You might do this process a couple time. Don't stir it all up, that will mix the fat back into the broth.

Step Six:
After your turkey carcass has cooled enough for you to handle it (I place mine by an open window) you can remove the bone.  This is where you gotta get tough like your grandma was.  Just use your clean hands and start pulling.  The bones should be pretty easy to pull out, and the meat should have fallen off.  Any meat left on, simply pull it off.  Toss the big pieces of skin.  When I first did this, I would be really finicky about trying to get rid of every single teeny, tiny piece of bone & fat.  It was pretty time consuming.  But the more I do this, the more I leave for the stock.  It's going to be SOUP!  If someone finds a teeny little bone, it won't kill them, and I'm sure they're capable of removing it from their mouth without causing a scene.

Step Seven:
Put the turkey meat back into the broth and either turn into soup right away or simply store in a covered container in the freezer to be used at a later date.

I made two turkeys for our community outreach dinner, and I'll also be able to take the frozen stock and make soup for the same outreach program at a later date.  I'll have enough to feed about 50 people.  When you consider how cheap a bag of rice or potatoes is, that's a pretty decent amount for very little money.  I think it's worth the effort, and I feel good about not wasting all the meat and other nutrients.  Plus, homemade stock doesn't have the CRAZY amount of sodium that store bought ones do.  Even the low-sodium broths available have a ridiculous amount.  Not to mention the corn syrup, xantham gum, corn starch, and soy bean oil that is in almost every store bought product we see on the grocery store shelf.  And the whole corn & soy bean issue is for another post entirely.

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