Sunday, December 28, 2008

Turkey Soup From Scratch

Aahhh, the wonderful rewards of homemade chicken or turkey soup... . For those of you who haven't tried making your own stock, or broth from scratch I promise you it is well worth the relatively small amount of time it takes to make. Making soup from scratch stretches your food dollars and is a healthy as well as delicious way to make the most of your leftover Turkey, (or chicken),carcass and all.

Chicken or Turkey Stock
1. Remove any meat from the carcass that you deem good eating meat. If you have a large turkey like ours each leg will offer up enough meat for multiple sandwiches (no lie). If you leave this meat on the bones your stock will just be that much richer, but I believe it is a waste. I pull off all the meat, place in a tight container in the fridge and then "pull it" or shred it at the very end of my soup making process, adding it to the soup after all the vegetables are done cooking.

2. Fill a large stock pot with enough water to cover the entire carcass, legs, wings, neck if you've got it, etc. Set the pot on the burner and turn it on high.

3. Add vegetable bits. I save all my scrapes from garlic and onion skins and ends to carrot and fennel tops just for these stocks. Just remember to cut vegetables into large chunks that will not turn into total mush before the stock is done... Here are some veggies to make a great stock...
Fennel greens from the bulbs you buy for roasting etc.(with out a great deal of the stem)
Carrot greens and Carrots pealed and chopped into 2-4 large pieces. You don't have to peal them, but if you don't the skins make make your stock taste bitter.
Onions, skins and all. Halved or quartered.
Garlic, skins and all. If you grow your own and have a bunch of small heads, just slice the bottom off the whole head, break it up a bit in your hand and through it in.
Celery tops
4-5 whole peppercorns
A nice pinch salt... Alice waters says it is important to add this now to help bring out the flavors and not wait until you make the actual soup.
Sage, Rosemary, marjoram, thyme ( I have all these in the yard, and keep dried bunches of them in the kitchen during the winter.

Again Alice Waters recommends allowing the stock to come to hard boil, then turn it down to a soft simmer right away. As soon as you have turned it down use a large spoon to remove the foam off the top. Allow to simmer for at least 30 minutes, but 2 hours is great too. Just remove and cool a little from time to time to check the taste.

When stock is ready place a large colander over a bowl or stock pot large enough to hold all the stock and strain it off from the bones and veggies. If you are not going to make soup right away, be sure to refrigerate the stock fairly quickly rather than let it cool slowly at room temperature. Once it's cooled a little, you can finish cooling it in the fridge in a large metal pot with some kind of covering and a towel underneath... or after its cooled some you can divide it into smaller containers and freeze or chill those. These are great to have for sauteing, or making various soups etc.

Turkey or Chicken Soup

If you want to make soup right away, just pour the still hot stock into a large stock pot and place it back on the stove maintaining a very soft simmer until you start adding your veggies.
Here is an estimate of what I put in... it varies every time depending on what I have available and what I am in the mood for. These veggie number are for a good gallon of stock...

Throw each group in the stock when your done chopping.
1. 3-4 large carrots, scrubbed or pealed, and sliced 1/4" thick. (pealing is less important here and I usually leave the skins on)
2. 1-1/2 large onions. pealed, and chopped.
3. 4-5 medium potatoes, pealed or scrubbed and cut into about 1" pieces. (To peal or scrub for me depends on if I see green under the skin. The green of the potato is a toxin, and if your potatoes are starting to green just under the skin then they should be pealed)
4. Celery rinsed and chopped into 1/4" pieces. ( I have substituted the thicker fennel stems at times)
5. Salt, pepper and dried herbs to taste.
6. "Pull" or chop up your leftover turkey meat and toss that in once the veggies are almost tender.

7. If I am using potatoes I usually don't use rice or noodles, but you could have chicken or turkey with rice and veggies, or noodles instead. I always make mine with egg noodles and I make the rice or noodles separately and add them into just the amount of soup I plan to serve. I keep the rice or noodles separate in the fridge and add them to each batch I reheat when I put it on the stove. This may not be necessary, but it is the only way I have found to keep the rice or noodles from slowly absorbing more and more liquid until I end up with an extremely thick soup that looks like it's been condensed.

All of this may sound like a lot, but really the amount of actual prep time is probably only about 1/2 hour for both stock and soup combined, especially once you've done it several times, and the warmth and healthful taste of a nice soup that you can have on hand makes it well worth the effort.

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