Ah, Thanksgiving. A holiday centered around the company of one’s closest family and friends, around a spirit of gratefulness and–of course–a delicious meal. A feast the size of a typical American Thanksgiving dinner leaves behind happily full stomachs– and lots of leftovers.
From turkey bones to vegetable scraps, these leftovers often languish in the fridge until they inevitably make their way into the trash or compost. This year, do not let those precious leftovers go to waste; they can be put to good use in a delicious turkey stock. Soup stock is a very versatile broth that can be used to braise fish, cook grains, constitute a soup base and even be drunk for its health benefits. Turkey stock keeps in the fridge for three days, and can be kept frozen for up to three weeks.
1 turkey carcass (if your Thanksgiving dinner happened to include chicken or ham instead, those work just as well)
3-4 white onions, quartered
3 carrots, peeled and chopped into large sections
4 stalks celery, cut into pieces of similar size to the carrots
1 Tbsp whole peppercorns
1/2 Tbsp whole allspice berries
2 sprigs thyme
1 sprig rosemary (optional)
2 bay leaves
1 gallon water
3 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
2 whole cloves (optional)
*Note: while not necessary to the recipe, any scraps left over from cooking thanksgiving dinner (such as carrot tops, beet greens, onion skins) will add depth of flavor and nutrients to the stock. However, strong-tasting greens such as kale, spinach, cabbage, or collards can impart a bitter flavor.
*Note: bones are not necessary for stock. This recipe can be altered for vegetable stock simply by omitting the turkey carcass and reducing the stock for a shorter amount of time.
Simplest and easiest method:
Place all ingredients in a large stockpot and bring to a boil. AS SOON as the water begins to boil, take the heat down to a steady simmer (boiling can degrade the proteins in the bones of choice, making your stock cloudy). Simmer uncovered for 3-8 hours, testing periodically and skimming regularly to reduce cloudiness in the broth. When the strength of flavor in the broth is to your taste, remove from heat, salt, and cool immediately. Stock must be cooled immediately in order to prevent bacteria growth. The best way to do so is to place the stock pot in a large tub full of ice until room temperature before ladling your delicious finished stock into tight-sealing jars for storage in the fridge or freezer.
A slightly more time-consuming method (which improves flavor, clarity and color, and is definitely worth it):
Heat a very small amount of any high-heat-tolerant cooking oil in the bottom of the stockpot until it “shimmers” (that is, until it’s nearing its smoke point). Carefully place the quartered onions cut side down in the oil to brown slightly. The slight caramelization of the onion gives the stock a richer flavor profile. Leaving the onion skins on causes the stock to take on a deep golden-brown color; in fact, onion skins were once used as a natural dye for everything from leather to fabric due to their beautiful golden color. If you are using any dried herbs or spices, now would be the time to add them. The high heat of the pot brings out more of their fragrant oils than the lower heat of the liquid stock would. However, fresh herbs should be added after the water. Once all cut sides of the onions have been slightly caramelized, add the remaining ingredients, bring the mixture to a boil, and let it simmer gently for 3-8 hours uncovered, skimming as needed (see above). Once the stock has simmered for a few hours and the vegetables have given your stock all their flavor, remove them and set them aside so that they don’t break down and cloud your stock. The amount of liquid in your broth should reduce significantly, this is a big factor in getting a full-bodied stock. When the strength of flavor in the broth is to your taste, remove from heat, salt, and cool immediately. Stock must be cooled immediately in order to prevent bacteria growth. The best way to do so is to place the stock pot in a large tub full of ice until room temperature before ladling your delicious finished stock into tight-sealing jars for storage in the fridge or freezer. If your broth becomes gelatinous when cooled, don’t worry; instead, congratulate yourself! That is the sign of a good quality stock. The collagen extracted from the bones into your stock becomes gelatin and is incredibly nutritious, especially for your joints!