Thanksgiving makes me slightly insane. Somehow I channel my grandmother, who is still among the living so I’m not even sure if that’s possible metaphysically speaking, and I make vast quantities of food that bear no rational relation to the actual number of people for whom I am cooking. Our Thanksgiving dinners when I was a kid could have anywhere from 30 to 50 people attending, and I apparently cook for that many people for Thanksgiving no matter what. I’ve been known to do a turkey and a ham for 4-5 people, not to mention several appetizers, squash, turnip, mashed potatoes, my grandmother’s meat stuffing, boiled onions, a couple of kinds of cranberry sauce, gravy and several desserts. This always results in boatloads of leftovers, obviously. I will pack up full meals in containers and freeze them for later, but that doesn’t take care of all of it. So I always make a vat of soup, using the turkey carcass to make stock. This recipe is a bit involved. But you’ll get a good amount of soup that you can put in individual containers and freeze, and nuke later when it’s convenient.
First things first. You have to make the turkey. I use Alton Brown’s Good Eats Roast Turkey recipe with some modifications. You can follow his ingredients if you like his flavor profile better. Rather than me repeating his directions, please go to the link to read how to actually brine, stuff the cavity with the aromatics, and then cook the turkey. If you want to follow my modifications, I’ve listed the changes in the ingredients below:
For the brine:
- 1 cup of kosher salt
- 1/2 cup of light brown sugar
- 1 gallon of chicken stock (glutenfree and dairyfree)
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons of black peppercorns
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons of white peppercorns
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of allspice berries
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of chopped candied ginger
- 1 teaspoon of rubbed sage
- 1 gallon of heavily iced water
For the aromatics:
- 2 small onions, quartered
- 1 celery stalk, cut into 4 pieces
- 4-5 fresh garlic cloves, sliced in half
- 4 springs of fresh rosemary
- 6-8 fresh sage leaves
Another way in which I deviate from Alton Brown’s recipe is that I baste my turkey every half hour as it cooks. My basting method uses the giblets and is somewhat old fashioned, but it makes wonderful drippings for soup and for gravy.
For the basting liquid:
- Giblets from cavity of turkey (take out of the paper or plastic wrapping)
- 1 onion, minced as finely as possible
- 1 celery stalk, minced as finely as possible
- 3 cups of chicken stock (glutenfree and dairyfree)
- 2 Tablespoons of Earth Balance Soy Free Vegan margarine
- 1/2 teaspoon of crushed garlic (crush it yourself with a mortar and pestle, or buy some)
- 1/2 teaspoon of rubbed sage
- 1/2 teaspoon of thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon cracked rosemary
- several shakes or grinds of pepper
Place all basting ingredients in a small sauce pan. It should be of a size that the chicken stock covers the giblets. Bring to a low boil and then turn the heat down to simmer. Every half hour, use a turkey baster to baste the turkey. As liquid/drippings build up in the bottom of the turkey roasting pan, you may be able to use those to baste the turkey as well. If you do not use all the basting liquid, you can use this to build up your stock later as well. Drain out the solids and reserve the liquid. (I grew up in Maine on a farm, so I generally eat the giblets. They need to have been simmered for quite some time to be tender, so I leave them on the stove simmering in the liquid while my turkey cooks.)
Once your turkey is cooked, a la Alton Brown’s instructions, have at it. Eat some turkey, have dinner, have a great time!
Make sure you reserve the turkey drippings, or leave half of them if you’re making gravy. Remove the turkey from the pan, placing it on a platter or cutting board (both should be able to catch drippings).
Once you’re ready to think about making turkey stock, you need to strip the turkey meat from the carcass. Save some breast meat and some dark meat aside to put in the soup, cubing it.
Take all the bones, any fat and skin remaining, and the aromatics from the turkey cavity (onion, celery, garlic, sage and rosemary) and put them in a 9″ x 13″ roasting pan, along with:
- 1 onion, sliced
- 4-5 cloves of garlic, sliced in half
- 2 carrot, cut in one inch pieces
- 3 stalks of celery, cut in one inch pieces
Roast these ingredients in the oven at 375° until the bones brown a bit and the vegetables are roasted. (This will vary depending on the size of the turkey and the size of the pan, but it took about an hour or so for the remains of my 21 pound turkey this year).
Now you have two choices, which will depend on the size of the turkey. You can do this on a stove top, or you can do it in a 7 quart Crock-Pot over night. I wanted do this in a Crock-Pot because it’s easier and I think you get better stock, but I’m the idiot that bought a 21 pound turkey.
If using stove top: Put the contents of your roasting pan into a stock pot that’s large enough (I’m using a 20-quart because, again, I’m the idiot that bought a 21 pound turkey) that you can cover the bones and roasted vegetables with the drippings, the leftover basting liquid, and any additional water needed. Add the drippings, leftover basting liquid, and enough water to cover. Bring to a medium boil over medium-high heat and then once you’ve reached boiling, turn the heat down to medium-low. This needs to simmer for at least two hours, but preferably three.
If using a Crock-Pot: Even if you had the world’s smallest turkey, you’re going to need the 7 quart Crock-Pot. Put the contents of the roasting pan into the Crock-Pot, add your drippings, leftover basting liquid, and any additional water. Do not overfill the Crock-Pot. If using the low heat setting, cook for 8-10 hours. If using the high heat setting, cook for 4-5 hours. (I like to do this late evening so I can just leave it on overnight).
Once your stock mixture has simmered for the right amount of time, regardless of your method of cooking, you will need to strain out the bones and vegetables. I like to use a spider cooking utensil to get all the large pieces out. Then I strain through a colander, and then through a fine mesh strainer until I have nothing but stock left. Now on top of that stock you’re going to have a nice thick layer of fat, I know, I can hear you saying “Is it supposed to look like that?” The answer is yes. But we don’t want that fat (or at least most of it) in our soup. So put the stock in a lidded container in the fridge over night. The next morning you can take a spoon and peel the congealed layer of fat off and put it in the garbage. Now you just have lovely turkey stock. Yay! Sometimes I end up with so much that I freeze half of it so I can use it later when I don’t want to make a whole turkey again.
Now for the actual soup! Yay! The amounts of ingredients will depend on how much stock you’re using and whether you prefer a thicker soup with more stuff in it, or a soup with more broth. Also, if you want to skip the whole making stock from scratch thing, buy chicken stock at the store that’s dairy and gluten free, or get some Better than Bouillon in the chicken and vegetable flavors and mix them in equal proportions according to the amount of stock you need. I measure all my ingredients so you can get a sense of proportions to change yours up based on what you have.
- 14 cups of turkey stock
- 1 1/2 cups of brown rice (My husband is diabetic so we use brown rice, but you could use white or wild rice, or if you can have gluten, you could use pasta. If you use pasta add it much later in the cooking process about 10 minutes before you add the kale and peas.)
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 5-6 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
- 5-6 stalks of celery, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon rosemary
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 cups of chopped turkey (bite size pieces of white and dark meat)
- 4 cups of kale leaves, stems removed and broken into bite size pieces
- 1 cup frozen peas
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 shakes of Tabasco sauce (You won’t be able to taste it, but it brightens up the other flavors)
Put turkey stock, rice, onions, carrots, celery, sage, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves in stockpot. Bring to a boil and then turn down to simmer until rice is cooked and onions, carrots and celery are tender.
Add turkey, frozen peas, and kale. Continue to simmer until kale and peas are cooked. Add 3 shakes of Tabasco sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!