Wednesday, November 26, 2014

DIY: Homemade turkey stock in the slow cooker

Whatever you're doing right now -- reviewing tomorrow's cooking schedule, giving the pillows one more fluff, or showering off the pre-company sweat that's earned from the last-minute cleaning of the house -- I beg of you to stop.


Stop and make both a mental and literal note to do one more thing tomorrow on Thanksgiving: SAVE THE TURKEY CARCASS!

I'm sorry for yelling.  Forgive me.  It's because you're my friends, and I love you.  And friends don't let friends throw away perfectly useful turkey carcasses.

I'm saying carcass a lot.  Forgive me for that, too.

You're going to want the scraps because I'm about to tell you how to make the quickest and easiest homemade turkey stock ever.

This past weekend, Matt and I attended our first Friendsgiving celebration.  For years, we've talked about organizing one but, as you know all too well, schedules around the holidays tend to become a bit packedtothegills.  Finding a day that's open for 15 to 20 friends to get together is darn near impossible.  Alas, we did, and it was absolutely wonderful.  (Props to our host and hostess!)

My best friend since childhood cooked her very first turkey and, after we arrived, confessed that she had no clue about how to carve a turkey.  Laura asked if I knew how and, if so, would I do it.  Would I?  I'd be honored!

You see, for as long as I can remember, my dad has been the turkey carver in our family.  Year after year, I observed his every move, slice, and cut, cataloguing tips and tricks in my mind for a future time when I might need the knowledge.

This year, unbeknownst to me, I got called up to the big leagues.  I was being given the chance to carve the turkey for a group of 15 friends.  Huzzah!  Would I remain cool under pressure?  Could I put all of my years of study to good use?

You bet I did.  The carving was a success!  And the turkey was deeeeeelicious, as was the rest of the spread.  There was a nice mix of traditional and inventive dishes: stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, pies, tofurkey, cheesy kale and green bean casserole, and balsamic roasted cauliflower with red onions and golden raisins (loved!).

After we feasted, I asked Laura if she had any plans for the turkey carcass; if not, I would happily take it home and make turkey stock.  She responded as you might expect: "Take it.  Please.  Then I don't have to clean it up.  Thank you!"  I do what I can to help.

Take it I did and, the next day, I made the easiest, most fragrant and fresh turkey stock, thanks to the ever-valuable Crock Pot.  Homemade stock saves major bucks (32 ounces of stock can run up to $4 at the store) and makes the house smell absolutely incredible.  Welcoming, cozy, home-for-the-holidays kind of incredible.

The only downside of homemade stock is that, despite what the mouthwatering aromas might suggest, there's no turkey to devour.  In fact, in our case, there weren't even leftovers to enjoy.

So, this Thanksgiving, I wish you and your family a healthy, happy, and delicious holiday!  May your blessings be plenty and turkey carcasses up for the taking :)

One year ago: 5-ingredient Crock Pot ham & bean soup
Two years ago: Black bean confetti soup
Three years ago: Orange creamsicle cookies
Four years ago: Homemade green bean casserole
Five years ago: Broccoli cheddar quiche

Homemade Slow Cooker Turkey Stock
-makes about 3 quarts

A few notes: Carefully bag, possibly double bag, the turkey carcass and keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days until you're ready to make the stock. Also, you can use take-out containers, freezer-safe bags (I recommend double-bagging), or recycled yogurt containers.  The 32 oz. Dannon ones we get were perfect for this.

Turkey carcass and bones from 10ish pound turkey
1 large white onion, halved
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 celery stalks, cut into large chunks
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Place turkey carcass and remaining ingredients in the large bowl of a slow cooker.  Fill with enough water to completely cover contents. Cover and set heat to low and cook for 8 to 10 hours.

Using tongs, carefully remove and discard turkey carcass and large pieces from cooking liquid.  Pour stock into a large bowl through a fine-mesh strainer and discard any remaining solids.  Allow to rest at room temperature for an hour; using a spoon, skim off film that forms on surface.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.  The following day, use spoon to remove layer of fat that's collected on the top of the stock.  Portion stock into half or full-quarter size containers, and label.  Refrigerate for 3 days or freeze for up to 6 months.

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