Chicken or Turkey Stock
A steaming bowl of soup is another of those feel-good comfort meals, especially if you make the soup yourself. My Mom always seemed to have some kind of soup on the stove, and while I didn’t really appreciate it then (I wanted the packaged kind with the little straight noodles), I came to miss it when I was on my own, and so I learned how to make a great soup too, so that my family could have the same scent and taste memories of home that I do.
I save the carcasses and bones from chickens or turkeys that I have roasted. I save the backs and necks that I don’t cook with the roast, and put them in freezer bags until I have enough to make soup. I like to have lots of meat with the stock too, so when I carve, I try to leave some meat on the bones. I even save the bones from the roasted chickens that I buy from the supermarket. It’s worth the space it takes up in the freezer to give you a deep, rich soup stock to serve as a base to all kinds of soups. Yes, it is time consuming, and I would recommend that you make the stock one day, then make your soup the next day. Yes, it is old-fashioned. And yes, it is so worth it!
You can see that I just pulled these out of the freezer. Frozen or not, spread them onto a baking pan and put into the oven at 450 degrees F. It will take about 15 minutes or so, until they are nice and brown.
Once the bones are nice and brown, transfer them to a large soup pot. See all of the oil in the pan? I soak that up with a paper towel and throw it away. But see all of the brown bits left in the pan? I want those, because they add lots of flavor to the soup. So, after getting rid of most of the fat, I add some water to the pan and stir it around, scraping up all of the browned bits. Add this water to the soup pot, along with additional water to almost cover the bones. Turn it to high heat and start bringing it to a boil.
Prepare the vegetables and add them to the soup pot along with the spices. Looks like I was out of celery that day. If that happens to you, add about 1 tsp of celery salt to the soup stock to give it that celery flavor.
Bring the pot to a boil, turn down to simmer, give it a stir, put the lid on, and let it simmer for about 3 hours.
Here’s what it will look like once it’s cooked. Don’t worry about the mushy vegetables, because you have boiled all of the flavor out of them into the stock, which is what you want. They have done their job of adding flavor to the stock, and so now you are going to throw out the mushy vegetables.
I let it cool for an hour or so before draining, just to make it easier to handle without burning yourself. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bones and any large vegetable pieces. I just put them back on the same pan that I used to brown them on. Then, set a strainer or colander over a large bowl or pot (large enough to hold all of the stock). Pour the stock through the strainer to catch all of the small solids and spices. Throw the contents of the strainer or colander out, and set the stock in a cool place (fridge is best if you have room, or a cool garage works too). Let the stock cool overnight, then skim all of the fat off of the top. What you have left is your finished stock. Use it to make wonderful homemade soups.
The last step is my least favorite part, and that is picking the meat off of the bones. There is no way you can avoid getting your fingers sticky and greasy, so just dive in and do it. Pick all of the meat off of the bones, and be sure to get rid of the cartilage, fat, skin, and other icky stuff that may be in there. You want to end up with a nice pile of meat that will go into your soup, and you will throw out the bones and anything else that isn’t meat. You don’t want any nasty surprises like a chunk of gristle in somebody’s soup bowl. Put the good meat into a zip lock bag, and store it in the fridge. Or, if you won’t be making your soup for a while, you can store both stock and meat in the freezer until you are ready to make your soup.
That’s it. It is a long process, for sure. That’s why I suggest that you make up the stock one day, and make your soup a different day. It’s a great week-end project. Your house will smell wonderful all day, and there is nothing better than the smell of soup on the stove to make you feel warm and comforted on a cold, dreary day.
Home-made soup stock makes the best soup! Use carcasses from roasts, or save backs and necks and add a couple of thighs for more meat. Make up the stock a day before you plan to make your own soup.
- 1 large turkey carcass or several chicken carcasses, or 8 backs and 2 thighs – plus necks if you have them.
- Water to cover, approx. 12 cups
- 1 med onion, cut in eights
- 3 large cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
- 2 stalks celery, with leaves, cut into large pieces (or use 1 tsp celery salt)
- 2 med carrots, sliced into large pieces
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp whole peppercorns (or 1/4 tsp pepper)
- 3 small bay leaves
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 3 whole cloves and 3 whole allspice berries
- sprig of rosemary, or 1 tsp dried rosemary leaves
- Browning the bones and/or chicken pieces before boiling really enhances the flavor of the finished stock. Spread bones and chicken pieces onto a baking pan, and place in 450 degree oven till nice and brown.
- Put all ingredients into large stock pot. Bring to boil. Turn heat down to low and simmer, covered, for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Taste and adjust spices if needed. I usually add 1 Tbsp chicken boullion to strengthen flavor. My favorite is “Better Than Boullion”.
- Cool and strain. Discard vegetables and whole spices. Remove meat from bones and save to add to the soup later.