Odds and Ends: Don’t Throw Away That Carcass!

I probably should have posted this before Thanksgiving, when many people were cooking a whole bird and throwing away one of the best parts! Oh well, you can always redeem yourself with the Christmas turkey.

When preparing your bird for roasting, be sure to save and freeze the neck if you aren’t going to use it right away for broth to make gravy. Set aside the carcass of the turkey, including bones from the drumsticks, wings, and thighs after carving. (Don’t save any bones from parts of the turkey that people have put in their mouths. Cooking with bones that people have slurped all over is both gross and disturbing—even though you will be boiling the bejeebers out of them. That’s my opinion, but it is your call!) I throw away the fat, tail, and skin because I like a leaner broth. (You can put the carcass in a large plastic bag and freeze until you are ready to make broth if you don’t have time to make it the same day.)

Put the carcass and neck into a big pot when you are ready to make broth. Cut into large pieces and add:

  • 3 large onions
  • 5 or 6 stems of celery
  • 2 large carrots
  • 6 or more whole peppercorns
  • A generous handful each of parsley and sage

Cover the contents of the pot with one to two inches of water and bring to a boil. Simmer until the carcass falls apart. Add water as needed to cover carcass as it cooks.

Remove most of bones and vegetables with a slotted spoon and pour the broth and what solids remain through a strainer or cheese cloth.  I use a wire strainer, but if you want a clear broth, line the strainer with cheese cloth. Throw away the bones and spent vegetables and herbs—all of their goodness is now in the broth and they are pretty much mush.

My broth usually doesn’t have enough fat in it to worry about because I discard the skin, tail, and visible fat while carving the turkey, but sometimes it is necessary to remove fat. You have several options:

  • Chill the broth and scrape the fat off once it rises to the top and solidifies.
  • Skim with a spoon and then drop paper towels onto the surface of the broth to absorb the last of the fat.
  • For small amounts of broth, use a fat separator pitcher to drain broth from underneath the fat that has risen to the surface.

You now have broth to make soup, gravy, or sauce or with which to cook rice, vegetables, or potatoes. You will note that I didn’t add salt when creating the broth because I use it for so many different purposes. (I add differing amounts of salt depending on the dish.)

You can use the broth right away, refrigerate it for a couple of days, or freeze it for months until you need it. I usually freeze my broth in 2-cup and 2-quart batches because these are the most common quantities needed for my favorite recipes.

You can use this method of making broth with chicken and beef, too. There is nothing nicer than the smell and taste of a good bowl of soup made with homemade broth on a cold winter day! Begonia

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