Making turkey (or chicken) stock

I love making my own chicken (or, in this case, turkey) stock.

1. It’s so freakin’ easy. If you have your ingredients, a stock pot, water, and a chilly day, you have everything you need.
2. It’s so easily customizable. Play around with flavor profiles to come up with your own personalized stock recipe.
3. Homemade stock is so much better than store bought. Don’t get me wrong, store bought stock has the advantage of convenience, but it doesn’t taste like much of anything.
4. It’s just foolish to not get every penny you can out of every grocery trip.

To get started with stock, you need a few major components: a carcass (including giblets and any excess skin you may have trimmed off the raw bird’s cavity), vegetables/fresh herbs, spices, and water.

Carcass: I typically use a chicken or turkey that I have roasted (or grilled) myself. Right away, I set up a gallon freezer bag. Then, I remove the giblets from both the cavity of the bird and the packaging (they’re usually in a plastic or paper bag within the cavity), and toss it all into the freezer bag. If I am spatchcocking the bird, I toss the backbone in as well. If there is any extra skin around the cavity, I’ll often trim it off and — you guessed it — toss it into the bag, as well. When I grill a whole chicken, I typically trim off the wingtips and throw them in as well. After the cooked bird has been picked over, I can usually get that right into the bag. If it’s a little too big, it’s barely any effort to cut the carcass up a bit to make it fit.

On the rare occasion that I am using a rotisserie chicken, I typically wait until I have some extra bones to throw in. Sometimes, the price on bone-in chicken thighs or breasts are too good to pass up, so I’ll buy them and (badly) butcher them when I just want boneless thighs or breasts. I toss the bones in a bag and have something to add a little extra to a future stock.

I read online that turkey liver will make your stock bitter; despite the fact that I typically throw all of the giblets (as well as any extraneous chicken skin from the cavity) into my chicken stock, it scared me off. Hey, I almost never make turkey. I didn’t want to screw up my turkey noodle soup! I fried them in a little butter, minced them finely, and gave them to my and my roommates’ cats. (Most of them gave me sad eyes when they received that on Thanksgiving night instead of the finest of ground up animal bits. Yeah, kitties, you’re so terribly abused.)

Vegetables and fresh herbs: Throughout the year, I will keep a freezer bag in my chest freezer to keep all my vegetable trimmings. Everything you put in there should be clean and not spoiled. I stick to carrots (and their peels/ends), onions (and by that, I include scallions that are still good but have seen better days, leek tops, onion skins, etc.), garlic, mushroom stems (don’t knock it, it makes everything more delicious), and celery (including the leaves). When I have parmesan rinds, I toss them in as well. I have successfully tossed in lemons and oranges; when I have already grilled them or used them under the skin, I’ll add them in as well. As far as fresh herbs go, I usually just stick to parsley and thyme.

You might see some lists titled “never ever put [X] in the freezer!” And yes, celery is typically on there. But here’s the deal…it’s on there as a warning that thawed celery will not retain the crunchy and fresh properties it has when it’s fresh. We don’t care about that if we’re going to simmer everything down! So, if you’re like me, and often buy celery with the best of intentions but never use it before it starts looking sad, trim it and toss it into your freezer scrap bags.

Spices: I like to stick with a mix of whole allspice, whole cloves, whole peppercorns, bay leaves, whole star anise, and salt (unless I’ve brined the bird..I can always add some later if it tastes undersalted).

So, with all that talking done… Here we go.

Ingredients (these are very loose directions):
1 turkey (or chicken) carcass and giblets (excluding the liver)
Roughly 1 whole onion (skin and all), cut in half
Roughly 3 medium carrots (skin and all), roughly broken up (use your hands!)
Roughly 3-4 ribs of celery, roughly broken up
6-10 mushroom stems
(If using a scrap bag, just eyeball it!)
Half a bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, stems and all
Half a bunch of fresh thyme, stems and all
About 1 tablespoon of black peppercorns, whole
4-6 pieces of whole allspice
6-10 whole cloves (I love cloves in my poultry stock!)
2 pieces of star anise
2 bay leaves
1-2 tablespoons of Kosher salt (note — I will not be using salt in my stock because I brined my turkey and I don’t want to risk oversalting it)

1. Take out your big stock pot (mine is 2 gallons, but if I had a 4 or 6 gallon stock pot, I’d use that and load it up) and throw everything in.

2. Cover everything with water. Since my stock stuff is usually frozen, I don’t worry too much if it crests the surface. Once it’s thawed, it will all settle down.

3. Bring pot to a boil and cut the heat way down. Let it simmer for hours. (Literally, my stock usually simmers for about 6 hours or so.) If the water level starts getting low, add more water.

4. Once the stock has simmered for hours, kill the heat and carefully strain everything out. Once I’ve fished out as much of the big bones and vegetable pieces as I can see, I then carefully ladle it into a cheesecloth lined fine mesh strained so I can get super clear broth. Pack it into your favorite storage containers, allow to cool, then either put it in your fridge or freeze it! (Keep in mind that you can’t pack your stock up to the very top because water expands when frozen. I usually leave about .5″-1″ head room in my containers when I freeze them.)

I’ve left chicken stock in my chest freezer for 6 months or so with no ill effects whatsoever. I like to use chicken stock for pretty much anything! This time of year, I like making noodle soups with fresh Udon noodles, bok choy, thinly sliced shiitakes, and shredded carrots from my local Asian market. When I’m planning on doing that, I’ll also add a nice sized chunk of ginger and some dried chiles to my stock.

Once my turkey stock is completed, I’ll add some veggies (I usually go with something like the Trader Joe’s Organic Foursome), leftover turkey, a little fresh parsley, and egg noodles.

I’m not a fan of cooking my egg noodles in the soup or even packing the egg noodles in the soup. I usually cook what I need for a couple days, and then ladle the hot soup over the noodles. I just think that egg noodles suck up all the broth too easily, leaving you with overcooked, mushy noodles. Nobody wants that! I will add grains like farro, barely, or even rice directly to my soup because the softer texture doesn’t bug me as much.

There you have it! I typically get about a gallon of stock out of this (very loose) recipe, which holds me for a little while with soups, stuffings, risottos, grains, and deglazing. It might seem like a lot of time and effort, but it’s 100% worth it.

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