The smell of Thanksgiving is probably what I love more than the food. Yes, I love planning the menu, foraging for just the right (and best) ingredients and, of course, I love cooking. But really it's the smells of the food that take me right back to my childhood.
The savory and herbacious turkey roasting in the oven, tart cranberry relish, my now famous roasted sweet potato and banana mash, perfectly caramelized vegetables, yeasty Parker House rolls baking away, creamy gravy and roasted pumpkin dessert with freshly grated nutmeg. Topped with slightly sweetened homemade whipped cream.
When all of the dishes have been washed and the food has been put away, the guests have returned to their own homes and another holiday has come and gone, then it's time to take all of the meat off the turkey carcass and make soup! It's what my grandmother did. She was always so proud of how she "never wasted anything."
This year, we were fortunate enough to purchase one of a select few locally-raised turkeys from Travis of Parker Creek Ranch. It browned beautifully with crispy skin, lots of moist white meat and barely any dark meat on the bird. David said this was possibly the best turkey we have ever had and since I don't eat fowl, I trust his assessment.
We treated this bird with respect and used every last bit of it. The dogs got the heart and liver mixed in with their dinner one night and we stewed the neck and the giblets to make a luscious stock for the gravy. After we removed all of the meat from the carcass, I placed the carcass in a large soup pot, covered it with water and added lots of vegetables and herbs and simmered it ever so gently for eight hours until the stock was rich and tasted like Thanksgiving.
Before you toss that carcass into the garbage, use it to make a succulent stock so you can make turkey soup for the soul. It will make your house smell amazing, your spirit will be rejuvenated, your grandmother will be proud and after a few days of stuffing it--your belly will thank you.
The Cowgirl Gourmet
Everyone needs to have a good homemade stock on hand. You can use this stock to immediately it turn into turkey soup or you can freeze it for a cold night when soup is required to warm us up. You'll be glad you saved the carcass when you taste how amazing the soup is.
1 turkey carcass
1/2 big yellow onion, roughly chopped
3 carrots, organic, rinsed and roughly chopped
4 celery ribs (outer ribs not the tender inner ribs), organic, rinsed and roughly chopped
10 whole black peppercorns
Parsley, a handful
2 rosemary sprigs
2 sage sprigs
1 bay leaf
Place the turkey carcass in a large soup pot and cover with water. Some of the carcass may stick out of the top and that's perfectly fine. As it cooks, the bones will eventually break down. Add the chopped onion, carrots, celery, black peppercorns and herbs.
Place over medium high heat for about 10 minutes. Once the water warms up, turn it to medium-low and let it simmer gently for 4-12 hours. The longer you let it cook, the deeper and richer the flavors will be. Stir the stock occasionally, but you can mostly just leave it alone.
Once it's ready, strain the bones and veggies from the stock and toss. Reserve the stock to make soup or freeze it. Once you make soup, be sure to taste the stock and add salt, as needed.