Sunday, December 13, 2015

Tis the season- for turkey carcasses

I am that relative. Yep, you know the one- the crazy aunt or goofy grandmother who comes to holiday dinner and ends up going home with a plastic bag full of turkey remnants. It was easy to hide when I was the hostess cooking and serving dinner, but now our family has handed to reigns to the next generation of cooks and I no longer have to do it. I still make my own stock however so I need those old turkey bones!

Turkey (or chicken) stock is a pantry staple for me. It is one of the most versatile ingredients you can have. A pot of homemade soup in a snap. Gravy? Just heat, thicken and pour over. The uses are endless. Making you own stock is so easy and rewarding- you have all that slow simmered flavor without all the added junk and preservatives and artificial flavors. Storing stock for future use is super easy as well- pour into freezer containers and freeze, or if you're a home canner, you can process in jars for shelf stable stock. Let's get busy in the kitchen.

Bones. All stock begins with bones. For me, the best time to make a batch of stock is during the holiday season. I can always find a turkey frame somewhere. I've been known to keep a giant ziploc bag of chicken bones in the freezer also, waiting until I have enough to make a batch. If you are not the holiday meal host, go ahead and ask if the host will part with the frame! Can't hurt! 

It's not the prettiest sight, but there is a ton of flavor
in those bones!
Once you have a good amount of bones you can start planning your stock. Browning the bones is a very important step in making beef stock but it's not a necessary step in poultry stock. If you choose to roast your turkey bones, break the carcass apart and place in a large bowl. Drizzle with vegetable oil and toss to coat. Spread out onto baking sheets and pop into a 300-325 degree oven and roast until the bones are golden brown. One or two turkey frames in a giant pot (I use my water bath canning pot) is a good amount to start with. As long as I've got a pot started I'll make a last check of the freezer for stray chicken bones I might have been saving, and I'll throw those in as well.

Herbes de Provence are always part of my aromatics
Aromatics. Like beef stock, your aromatics should enhance the stock and provide some background flavors but NOT be an overdone flavor element. Remember, stock should be something that's a foundation, with your flavors being built for each individual dish. The traditional mirepoix, carrots, celery and onion, will lay the groundwork, and simple herbs- thyme, parsley, bay leaf- and peppercorns are about all you need but you can use any spices or herbs you like. I never add salt to my stock, saving this seasoning step for when I am preparing a dish with the stock. 

You don't have to fuss with peeling onions- just throw them in.
I didn't have fresh celery but I have tons of dehydrated- it
gives just the same celery flavor as fresh and stores in a jar.
Ok, so I am going to start by breaking down the turkey bones. Make sure you have picked off as much meat as you can and break the frame up into smaller pieces. Place in big stockpot. Add several bay leaves, a small palm full of peppercorns, several sprigs of fresh thyme and Italian flat leaf parsley. Add the vegetables- 2 or 3 carrots, scrubbed and cut into chunks; 3 stalks celery, washed and cut into chunks; 1 large onion, cut into chunks- you don't even need to peel it; 1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise. Our turkey was roasted with onion, garlic, thyme and apples inside the cavity- I left them in and will cook them with the stock. Fill the pot with cold tap water. Bring to boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer for at least 6 hours. Check the pot every once in a while and skim off any foam that's accumulated. This is a great project for a cold, gloomy day so you can let it simmer away while you settle in with a good book, some movies, or relax.

Let the stock cool slightly, then carefully remove the large pieces of bone and vegetable chunks and discard. Strain the stock through a fine sieve to catch all the herbs and small pieces. Place in pot and refrigerate overnight. The next day, scoop off any fat that has solidified on top. You won't get 100% of the fat but get as much as you can, especially if you are going to can it- excessive fat can prevent the jar from sealing.

After straining out the bones and vegetables my stock still has
some herb bits and isn't clear- but I like it this way. Here I am
condensing it slightly so I can use smaller jars and have more
flavor impact. I can always add water when I make soup later.

If you are going to freeze the stock, ladle into freezer containers, seal, label and freeze. If you want to can the stock you must have a pressure canner. Prepare your jars and lids. Reheat the stock to boiling, ladle into hot jars, seal and process at the correct weight for your altitude for 20 minutes for pints, 25 for quarts. Complete canning instructions can be found HERE

You now have jars of liquid gold, ready to turn into homestyle soups, rich flavorful gravies and luxurious reductions.

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