Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Turkey Stock, or Chicken!

So the Thanksgiving smorgasbord is done.  The cooking, the eating, the cleaning. The tension and stress. Now what is left?  A turkey carcass.  This is really the only thing left over from our Thanksgiving meal.  We do not reinvent left overs into some other turkey recipe or fried dressing balls (although these guys sound worth a try!).  We have a least two more meals of exactly the same thing we ate on Thanksgiving.  Does this mean we are not adventurous?  No, absolutely not.  It means we know all this food that we look forward to for a whole year won't be here for another year so we make it last as long as possible.

The one thing about a turkey carcass is once you think it is done, it is not. If you take a closer look, you will find a lot of tasty morsels all along the back, around the breast and thigh areas.  Very nice, close to the bone, succulent meat.  I found it and I had to hide it. 

Now do you throw the carcass away?  Absolutely not, not yet anyway, I can feel a broth coming on.  At this point if you don't have time or are just downright sick of turkey, toss the carcass in a large freezer bag and the leftover meat in a smaller bag and freeze them until you are ready for them.  I would definitely use them within a month or two.  In my case, within a couple of days!
My kitchen chicken.

Broth it is the cornerstone of any soup.  A soup or chowder is even better with a flavorful, homemade broth.  In this case, I am using turkey bones but chicken bones work perfectly and has more of a delicate, lighter flavor than turkey.  In all honesty, I like chicken stock the best.  Let's get to making a robust, flavorful stock.

How to make a broth:

  1. If you used stuffing in the bird when originally roasting then just rinse the bones off until the stuffing is removed.   If you plan to freeze the carcass, do this before you freeze it.
  2. Types of herbs are your choice.  I love parsley or cilantro stems and thyme. Herbs such as rosemary has a strong flavor and probably should be avoided during stock making.   
  3. I leave the onion peel on for the color it gives the stock.  Did you know that you can make a beautiful natural dye out of them?  Ask Martha, she knows!
  4. Don't be tempted to put a lot of onions in the broth.  The flavor can be overwhelming, especially since onions of some type are usually one of the first ingredients that are used to make soups, stews and chowders. One large or two small is probably enough.

Get your biggest stock pot.  Mine is an 8 quart stock pot.

Portion the bones so they will all fit in the pot.

Add a halved, unpeeled onion,
one or two celery stalks cut in half,
a large carrot stick cut into large pieces,
a smashed clove of garlic or two,
8 whole peppercorns,  a bundle of parsley stems, a few sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf or two.

This is a large spice ball which is way bigger than a tea ball.   I use this a lot in soups or for mulling cider.  It is nice because I don't have to strain out the herbs or spices later.  I don't run across these too often but here is one that is way nicer than mine.  I do really like the chain and ball thing but floating seems nice.

Add cold water to cover or almost cover the bones and a teaspoon of salt.  It is important to leave enough room for the water to expand a bit and simmer.  You can push the bones down into the broth later if they are still sticking out.  Bring the stock to a simmer, not a boil, and simmer for two to four hours.  Skim if necessary and it usually is.  (Note:  Raw poultry bones tend to have more of this "stuff" than pre-roasted bones.)  This help to removes those weird little tidbits and fat that cloud your soup.  What you should end up with is a gelatinous, robust stock that you can now use for soup or portion up and freeze for later use.

Strain the broth with a fine strainer underneath a large colander.  This method works well for me but you can also use a cheesecloth to remove the smaller portions, just put it in the bottom of the colander and secure it.

Methods for cooling the stock:
  • Let the stock cool 15 to 20 minutes and then put the stock in the refrigerator if you have room.  This method has a tendency to raise the inside temperature of your refrigerator, particularly if the stock is too hot.  
  • Place the stock pot inside a sink of cold water and ice can be added to until the stock is cooled.  
  • Pour the stock over ice in a colander but keep in mind this will add water back to the stock.  
  • Put frozen water bottles into the stock until cool enough to put in the refrigerator.
I usually let it cool down for about 30 minutes and put it in smaller containers and put them in the frig or the freezer.  The sink method works well, except you may use up all your ice!  In the winter, who cares anyway.

When the stock has cooled,  the fat will naturally rise to the top and form a layer that can be easily removed.

What is the difference between a stock and a broth?  A stock usually involves bones and is cooked longer to extract nutrients, flavor and collagen from the bones.  Collagen is responsible for the gelatinous consistency of stock after it cools down.  You can make a stock from a whole chicken or turkey, but the meat is not edible after many hours of cooking.  If you have done your job right then they should have no flavor left in the meat anyway.  It is all in the stock.  A broth is lighter in flavor and nutrients than a stock and usually involves poaching poultry for about 20 to 30 minutes basically with the same recipe as above.

If freezing, use freezer bags or ice cube trays and here is a tip if you are freezing in freezer bags, measure the broth before you put it in the bag and mark it on the bag plus the date it is put in the freezer.  I don't know how many times I have not measured the amount before freezing.  This really does make life a little easier.

Making stock is pretty easy.  The hardest part is clean up and that is usually what we all try to avoid.  I use box broths all the time.  Soup is just a little easier when you do.   Many of the ingredients you put into stock or broth you can also put into the soup or stew.   Homemade stock are flavorful, nutritional and homemade and they can't be beat.

1 comment:

  1. You can't beat homemade stock, and it's hard to have an excuse NOT to make it after the holidays are all said and done. What else is the turkey carcass good for? :)


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