…I froze my mother’s leftover Thanksgiving turkey bones and drove them* from New York to Massachusetts? Is it strange that when I got home, I chopped the bones up so they’d fit in my stockpot with carrots, carrot greens, a hacked-up onion, a handful of black peppercorns, some leftover parsley, a smattering of thyme and a couple of bay leaves? What if I told you I then covered the whole lot with water, and let it all simmer, covered, on the stove for about four hours? Would that be weird?
Yeah, I didn’t think so either.
Making turkey — or chicken — stock is so simple, there really is no reason why anyone couldn’t do so at home. All you need are the bones from your bird (ideally with some meat still attached, but no worries if that’s not possible, since the flavor really comes from the cartilage inside the bones), mirepoix and seasoning. If you want results that are a bit lighter in color, I’ve read that you can substitute parsnips for the carrots, though I’ve not done this myself.
You can also add a bouquet garni of thyme sprigs, bay leaf, parsley, sage, et cetera. I highly recommend tying your herbs together with kitchen twine, or making a little cheesecloth bundle, or using a tea strainer, since you want your stock to be as debris-free as possible.
Speaking of keeping your stock debris-free…
Once your stock is ready to come off of the flame, you will need a fine colander to strain it. I like to fish out the larger pieces with a slotted spoon or a pair of tongs before I go through the straining process, but that’s just a personal preference. Regardless of what you like to do, you will need to place a colander inside a large bowl to capture all of your freshly-made stock. I’m a bit clumsy, so I put my bowl and colander inside the sink, since I invariably will splash a bit — well, maybe more than a bit — outside of my target.
If you don’t have a very fine colander, that’s okay. Michael Ruhlman has a great tip for you:
…Strain [the stock] through a kitchen cloth, cheese cloth if you have it, or any kind of cloth (I use ones that i can wash and reuse because I’m a cheapskate and hate to keep buying cheese cloth).
After all your straining is done, it’s storage time. I like to freeze my stock in zipper bags because I have a small freezer; this way my stores of stock take up less space than they would in little plastic tubs. Normally I freeze stock in three-cup-quantities. To do this, I date and label my bags, then stick them in a clean, empty plastic quart container while I measure out my three cups. It’s much easier to pour liquids into a plastic-lined container than a floppy plastic bag.
As you can now tell, stock-making is so easy that writing a recipe for it seems a little silly, but here goes:
Makes about twelve cups
Leftover turkey bones from a fifteen-pound turkey
6 quarts cold water
4 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
2 large onions, unpeeled and chopped roughly into quarters
4 large celery ribs, broken in half
4 large carrots and their greens, broken in half
bouquet garni of parsley, 2 bay leaves, and thyme sprigs
15 black peppercorns
1 ½ teaspoon salt
- Melt butter in a 10-quart stockpot over medium heat. Add vegetables, stirring to coat. Lower heat to prevent burning.
- Break apart turkey carcass to fit into the stockpot. Transfer to stockpot, along with remaining ingredients. Cover with cold water and increase heat to high. Bring to a boil, skimming scum off as needed. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 4 hours.
- If you’re using the stock right away, go for it. Otherwise, let the stock cool to room temperature, about one hour.
- Set a fine colander inside a large bowl. Carefully pour stock through the colander and dispose of vegetables, bones, peppercorns and bouquet garni. Stock can be frozen for three months; otherwise it should be used within five days.