Recipe – Turkey Soup

My poor mom was not a grand cook.  If she was still alive, I think she’d even fess up to that, as she always told us as kids that her mother NEVER let her cook anything.  She could follow a recipe and have everything turn out fine (minus the fact that she had a knack of burning muffins).  She just didn’t have any seasoning instinct.  Not even salt or pepper.  As a matter of fact, my brother called me during his first semester of college, after eating cafeteria food, and commented on how mom didn’t know how to season.  In other words, I grew up on a very bland diet, typically meat, and boiled vegetables (you know, the frozen bagged ones like “mixed veggies” or lima beans… boiled, drained and served).  I never learned to season either.

Well, about 16 years or so ago, I set out to have some understanding of how to season things and how to cook/season without a recipe.  I started off with going through all of my herbs and spices in my cabinet and reading the labels, which kindly told me things like “goes well with poultry.”  I then set out to make my first “winging it” recipe…. turkey soup.

My soup was probably ok, at least enough that I kept experimenting.  My soup was probably something to the effect of turkey, water, vegetables, and seasonings. As time went on, I would make dumplings and throw them in there (so good, in my pre-Paleo days).  I remember being a bit scared of trying to make soup, as I imagine others might be too, if you’ve never made a bone broth based soup.  If you’re nervous, here’s the gist…. it’s hard to screw up.  At best, it’s delicious.  At worst, it’s watery or you got some bones in it.

I doubt I’ve ever made it the same way twice, and I’ve never measured, but here’s the basics:

You need a big pot or a big crock pot or both, if you have them.  I find it easier (and faster) to cook the turkey in a pot.  Generally, I use a leftover turkey carcass, like one which we ate for Thanksgiving, and all the big meat is off.  I will often freeze the carcass in a big plastic grocery bag after eating the “easily obtainable meat”.  I then pull it out at a future date.  It typically makes a big pot of soup.

Take your giant carcass out of the freezer and plunk it in your big pot.  My big pot isn’t typically big enough to hold the whole carcass, so it’s usually hanging out the top quite a bit.  Sometimes a little messy, but no worries.  Cover as much of the carcass with water as possible, leaving room for a good boil at the top.  Try to cover the top if you can, even if the lid won’t seal.  Boil the turkey.  The longer it boils, the more the bones start to fall apart at the joints, and you can start pushing that big part at the top down into your pot.  I usually boil 1-2 hours, as low as I can that still creates a good boil (usually high at first them medium to medium low as it heats up).  Keep the lid on as secure as possible.  You don’t want all of your water to boil out.  If it does, add a little more.  When your turkey is a relative pile of bones, and the broth has a sort of milky appearance to it, you can turn it off.

If you have another giant pot or crock pot, I start that going right after the turkey.  If not, no biggie.  You can start it after the turkey is done in your original turkey pot.  In your second pot/crock pot, I put about 12-16 ounces of water, 1 pound of carrots (usually those carrot sticks already cut for you), one whole yellow onion, diced, and about 6 celery stalks, diced.  Then I add some or all of the following herbs (a teaspoon, a tablespoon, I don’t know.  Just shake it in there.  It will be ok):

  • Rosemary*
  • Sage*
  • Thyme
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Bay leaf
  • Poultry seasoning
  • experimenting with majoram

* If you’re going for that “comfort food” flavor, I think rosemary and sage are essential. 

If all else fails, you can dump a pile of Italian seasoning in, and it’ll be good too.  Cook your veggies on low/medium while the turkey is going.  You want them to be tender, but not mushy, by the time the turkey is done.

After your turkey is done boiling, you need some tongs, a slotted spoon and 2 big plates or platters.  Pull your turkey out of the broth with tongs/slotted spoons, and put it on a plate.  You need to wait a little while for it to cool.  KEEP THE TURKEY BROTH (the water you boiled the turkey in).  It’s the BEST PART!  I used to separate the broth in a gravy separater to get “the grease” out. I don’t do that anymore.  Eat it all.  It’s delish.  If you’re using a second pot, separate the turkey meat from the bones and skin.  Put the bones on your empty plate and the turkey in with your veggies.  You’ll have to pull some of the turkey meat out of little crevices.  Avoid putting bones in with your veggies.  Get ALL those little turkey pieces, the dark, the light, it’s ALL good.  Next, you need to put your broth in with your veggies.  I usually do that by very slowly pouring it from one pot to the other.  Usually all the bones sink to the bottom, so you can avoid getting them in with the veggies.  Pour as much as you can into the veggies.  Heat the whole potion back up, and you’re golden.  If you’re not Paleo, Bisquick has a pretty awesome dumpling recipe you can do at this time.

If you only have one big pot, you’ll need to get the bones out of your big pot.  You might pour your broth into a smaller pot, get the bones out of the big pot, then put the broth back in the big pot.  You can then add your veggies, turkey, seasonings, and a little water.  You’ll need to cook a little longer until your veggies are tender.

You can store your leftover in the frig or freezer.  Cold soup may congeal and look like jello.  No worries.  It’s still good.  Just heat it up to return to soupy consistency.  Enjoy!

 Turkey Soup