Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Save Those Carcasses!

I know, I know. Food blogs this week are filled with orgies of culinary debauchery. Luscious photos of golden roasted turkey with all the trimmings, including nostalgia. It is enough to make one weep.

I adore Thanksgiving; it is my favorite holiday, and not only because it is centered around food. There is something so beautiful about a day set aside just to be grateful. No presents to buy, no exhausting flurry of preparations. Just a day to gather with family and friends, hold hands in thankfulness and--dig in to the incredible bounty! Christmas could learn a lot from Thanksgiving.

After the big dinner, when you are packing away the glorious leftovers, don't overlook the bones!

By that point, I know, we are weary of the whole thing. But, if you can summon up the courage to face the bones, you will be so glad. And, in the spirit of being grateful for what we have, it seems a shame to throw away something perfectly good.

If you have ham, wrap the bone tightly and put it in the freezer. One snowy evening, it will make a delicious--and economical--bean soup (I'll provide you with some ideas later).

And the turkey carcass? Do NOT throw that away--it is pure gold! The broth you can make from one of these babies is incredible. Make it the next day or wrap up the whole mess and toss it in the freezer for later.

Now don't be afraid. Making broth is easy. I do it all the time and it makes such a difference in any dish--especially soups.

This is no fail--give it a try!

Turkey Broth

In a large pot, place the turkey carcass, including any fat or skin. Add a bay leaf, 2 scrubbed or peeled carrots, 2 celery stalks, an onion chopped into quarters, a few sprigs of fresh thyme and parsley, a tablespoon of peppercorns (crush them in your hands slightly--smells so good!) and a sprinkling of salt. You can also toss in a few mushrooms, a turnip, potato, or other mild vegetable. Pour in enough water to cover everything.

1. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer and cover. In the beginning you might want to skim off some foam (just use a large spoon) as this tends to cloud the broth. Check it occasionally. The longer you cook it, the richer the broth. Aim for 3-4 hours and add water if needed. (Definitely, I have cooked broth for a shorter period and it tasted so much better than store bought).

2. When you've tasted the broth and it meets your satisfaction (you might need to add salt), turn the heat off. Remove large pieces and discard.

3. Strain the broth and then skim the fat from it. There are two ways to do this: If you have a degreaser pitcher (I highly recommend one of these--they are so handy) pour in the broth in batches and let it settle, then pour out the broth leaving the fat behind. Or, place the cooled broth into the refrigerator and let the fat solidify--then simply skim it off the top. (Don't put the broth in the fridge right out of the pan--let it cool a bit first. I like to use an ice bath--place a stainless steel bowl of broth into a larger bowl of ice. Stir occasionally and it will cook quickly.) Broth freezes beautifully.

Make a turkey-vegetable soup or just a simple vegetable soup with the broth. You will love the flavor. Here's a warning, though: Once you have made your own broth you have definitely raised the bar. It will be difficult to go back to the canned varieties.


  1. Hello, just wandering thru and enjoyed your post. I do always cook up the bird carcasses for the broth and the meat. Thanksgiving turkey carcass is cooked up for turkey and noodles at Christmas. We serve Ham at Christmas but the pot of turkey and noodles is there for those that prefer the bird. The Christmas ham leavings is cooked up for ham and beans after the New Year. I was raised by Depression era parents. Waste not, want not. Merry Christmas!

  2. Hi Nance! Thanks for your comments. I, too, was raised by Depression-era parents who, to this day, have never wasted a thing! Happy New Year!