After days of preparing and eating and decorating and eating and presents and eating, the idea of saving a stripped, disarticulated, meatless carcass just seems like far too much effort.
And also gross.
But I did it this year! And while dealing with the carcass felt slightly barbaric, it was worth it.
- Carcass from a 14-16 lb bird
- 4 quarts water
- 2 medium yellow onions
- 4 carrots, scrubbed and chopped
- 4 celery ribs, chopped
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 3-4 cups spaghetti noodles, broken into 3 inch pieces
- 2-3 cups turkey meat, chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2-3 teaspoons of dried herbs of your choice (I used a mixture of thyme, rosemary, and basil)
- A good glug of olive oil
Put your water in a nice big pot on high heat and get it boiling. My carcass was frozen (which felt even more barbaric and slightly serial-killer-with-a-body-in-the-freezer-esque), so before I could rip it apart with my own bare hands (picture me in hulk-mode, tearing apart a frozen turkey carcass, muscles ripping through shirt, a series of deep roars ensue), I just put the whole thing in the boiling water to start.
Add all your herbs, peppercorns, salt, and bay leaves to the boiling water, turn it down to low heat and let it bubble away for 3 hours or so, skimming the fatty frothy stuff that forms on the top as it simmers.
If your carcass is frozen like mine, pull it out of the water with tongs after a few minutes and pull it apart into a few pieces before it gets too hot.
After a few hours of fat skimming and drooling from the smell of turkey soup filling your home, pour the soup through a fine sieve into a big bowl, discarding all the bones, peppercorns and bay leaves.
Now measure out the broth as you pour it back into the pot – it should be about 12 cups. If it’s much less, just add water and simmer, and if it’s much more, boil it for a bit to reduce it down.
Then turn off the heat and let it stand for a couple minutes, skim off the remaining fat from the top. If you want a leaner soup, you can put your whole pot into the fridge for a few hours and all the fat will congeal and rise to the top, making it easier to skim most of it off. But calorie counters beware, FAT = FLAVOUR.
Side note on FAT, which I learned from a book called FAT: All poultry fats contain the monounsaturated fatty acid, palmitoleic acid, which is said to boost our immune system, and chicken fat has more of this acid than any other types of poultry.
The Germans believe that if you can’t see the glistening golden circles of fat floating on top of your soup, then the soup is no good. Those Germans and their delicious fatty foods. They were onto something.
You can imagine how much I use this book to justify certain eating habits. Extra butter on the toast, extra cream in my coffee, extra cookies for breakfast… the list goes on.
If you’re not putting your soup in the fridge to skim off the fat, pour your slightly skimmed broth into your big bowl and set aside. Chop up your veg and put the pot back on medium heat with a good glug of olive oil. Cook your veg in the pot for about 10 minutes, or until the onions begin to turn brown, but the carrots and celery still have some crunch.
Pour your soup back into the pot and give the bottom of the pot a scrape with your wooden spoon to get all that yummy, fried up flavour mixed into the soup.
The noodles will keep cooking in the hot soup even after you turn off the heat so you don’t want to overcook them.
Serve up a big bowl with buttered toast and cozy up in front of a feel good movie so you can block out the disturbing memories of how you kept a turkey carcass in your freezer for weeks, boiled it, and tore it apart with your own bare hands.
But you made delicious turkey soup, so enjoy!