If you had a big turkey for Thanksgiving, assuming that you haven’t thrown away the carcass, you are practically ready to make turkey soup with the leftover turkey carcass. All you need is a huge pot, a few vegetables, and a bit of patience.
The basics are similar to those for making chicken soup, except that instead of using a raw chicken, the soup begins with an already-cooked turkey.
3 Tips for Turkey Soup Success
- Cut off as much “good meat,” both white and dark, as you can get off without difficulty. (Save the meat to add it back after the broth is done and use any extra for turkey pot pie or other delicious recipes that call for small pieces of meat.) Keep any skin that you might otherwise throw away because it will flavor the broth. My turkey still had the wings on it and bits of hidden herbs from the herb rub my husband put on the bird before roasting. All that is fine.
- Use whatever vegetables, herbs and spices you like, keeping in mind that they should flavor, but not overwhelm, the turkey broth. Personally, I like to keep my flavorings to a minimum during this cooking phase, then use the finished broth as a base to which I can add herbs and spices for soups as diverse as spicy pho or comforting turkey rice soup with dill.
- The trick to this soup is a long, slow simmer – perhaps 3-4 hours. I suppose that you could do a version of this soup in a slow cooker, but I’ve never been tempted; I much prefer the aroma of the soup wafting up from the stove as I come into the kitchen. The longer you cook the broth, the more concentrated and flavorful it becomes.
Turkey Soup with the Leftover Turkey Carcass
Servings – many (at least 10 if your turkey was 15-20 pounds)
Cost – $3 (not counting the turkey bones)
- Carcass from cooked turkey
- 1-2 onions (I used 2 for a turkey that was originally 20 pounds)
- 2-3 celery stalks – the celery heart works great, including the leaves
- 2-3 carrots
- 2 bay leaves
- Salt and pepper
- Optional ingredients (to be added after the broth is done) – chopped or shredded cooked turkey, diced carrots, celery and other vegetables (parsnips anyone?), herbs, rice or chopped potatoes or noodles
- A huge pot
- Cutting board
- Vegetable peeler
- Large strainer
- Large bowl or a second pot
- Large spoon
- Smaller pot if making soup from the broth immediately
- Fat separator (optional) if making soup immediately
- Fit the cooked turkey into the pot. Once it begins to cook, the turkey will soften and easily break up but when it is cold, the turkey is somewhat difficult to maneuver. (Mine was even more difficult to maneuver because we had frozen it after cutting off enough for Thanksgiving dinner.)
- Add cold water to cover. Then add in vegetables, bay leaves, about a teaspoon of salt and ¼ – ½ teaspoon of ground pepper or several peppercorns.
- Bring the water to a rolling boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the broth for at least 3 hours. If foam comes to the surface during cooking and does not quickly disappear, remove it with the large spoon. (Do not throw it down the drain of your sink, as it contains fat. I usually freeze it in an empty aluminum can or other heat-proof container and throw it away in solid form or cool it down before pouring it into a container that I wrap in a plastic bag before disposing of it.) As the broth simmers, it goes from the transparent color of water to a light-colored, translucent broth. Taste it after several hours. The broth is done when it tastes delicious.
- Remove the carcass and other bones and strain the broth through the cheesecloth in the strainer into the large bowl.
- If you are finishing the soup immediately, you can strain out the fat using a fat separator or use the broth “as is”, adding in vegetables, herbs and potatoes or noodles to cook in the broth or cook them separately and add them in fully cooked, along with chopped or shredded leftover turkey. (I prefer to cook my vegetables and potatoes or noodles in the broth. Rice has to be cooked separately before being added.)
Cool the remaining broth and store it in the refrigerator overnight. Then remove the fat on the top with a spoon and pour into freezer-proof containers. Label and date each container and freeze it.
Although I’ve usually made turkey rice and turkey noodle soups similar to my chicken soup, I want to get more adventurous with my turkey broth this year. I’m definitely going to make turkey pho. What else should I use it for?