Friday, November 4, 2011

What to do with a dead bird

Hi there!

This post might be a bit late for readers in Canada, but maybe it will come in handy for some of my American neighbours. October in Canada means Thanksgiving, which takes place on the second Monday of the month. Inevitably, there is turkey. Lots and lots of turkey... Poor little gobblers.

Now, with turkey comes the age-old question of what to do with the carcass of the ex-bird after all that meat has been carved off. Most people I know make some sort of turkey soup after picking the meat clean. This year, I offered to take the massive bird corpse off my Dad and Step-mom's hands with the idea of making turkey stock (and really, turkey soup is pretty much turkey stock with a few added ingredients). What I ended up with was a lot more than I had imagined!

Well, first up was making the stock. As you may have noticed, a lot of recipes call for chicken broth/stock. Personally, I've never been the biggest stock user, but that's been changing recently. I don't generally like using processed foods, so when I can get my hands on something authentic or make it myself, I will do so. Luckily, a local butcher sells stock by the litre, including chicken and duck stock (I don't remember if they do turkey). But it was fun to try making my own for once, and it was a rather easy process!

Turkey Stock

This is a long process, requiring up to 24 hours. Basically, you break up the turkey carcass as best as possible, shove it all into a pot, add some veggies and seasoning, pour in a bunch of water and simmer it down!


- carcass of cooked turkey, with a good amount of meat left on it, if possible
- 4 stalks celery, roughly chopped
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 3 large carrots, roughly peeled and chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, chopped
- handful of parsley, stems and leaves
- 3 bay leaves
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried sage
- additional herbs or spices as desired (I added a pinch or two of smoked paprika, because I'm hooked on that stuff like it was crystal meth)


- Find the largest pot you have and set it on a large burner on the stove. Leave burner off.
- Break down the turkey carcass into as many pieces as you can. Here's where you get to show off your inner barbarian and rip something apart with your bare hands (make sure they're cleaned or gloved)! Place all ingredients into the pot and fill with water until all ingredients are just covered by the water.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 24 hours. About halfway through, you'll probably need to add more water. You are looking for a liquid, not a stew!
- Run everything through a fine mesh strainer, draining all the liquid into one large receptacle, and putting the solid ingredients into a large bowl.
- After washing your hands or putting on rubber gloves, sort through the solid ingredients to remove all bones and bone pieces (I saved mine for a Halloween costume, but the folks south of the border might not find much use for them!).
- Let the stock sit for an hour or so, allowing a layer of fat to collect on the surface. It'll be easy to tell what's fat and what's stock since the stock will be a rich deep brown while the fat will be yellow. Skim the fat off the surface with a large spoon and discard (unless you have some secret use for turkey fat I don't know about). Stock is now ready to be used for whatever you want!

Meat and stock can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks, after that you'll want to freeze them. 

So, what you'll be left with is a lot of turkey stock and a lot of meat that has the tender string-like texture of unsauced pulled pork. The meat can be used in all kinds of recipes, but because it's meat that was already roasted and then boiled, it doesn't have a whole lot of flavour. But it'll hold sauce well and can be used to make all kinds of dishes, just make sure to add a lot of seasoning.

Because of the similarity to pulled pork, I made a Cranberry BBQ Sauce and mixed it all together, heated in the oven and it was some pretty awesome sandwichery! So, hey, let's get a recipe for that!

Cranberry BBQ Sauce (for Pulled Turkey Sandwiches)


- olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 cup high-quality ketchup
- 2-3 drops liquid smoke

- 1 cup fresh cranberries
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- pinch ginger powder
- pinch dried sage
- 1 tsp hot sauce
- 2 tsp molasses
- 1 tsp maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp honey


- In a small or medium saucepan, heat oil on medium-high and sauté garlic.
- Add all ingredients except molasses, maple syrup and honey and bring to a boil. Stir sauce often.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Stir in molasses and maple syrup and simmer for another 5 mins.
- Add honey and simmer for another 5 mins. Remove from heat.

To make sandwiches, mix 3-4 tbsp of BBQ Sauce with about a half cup of meat in a saucepan and heat through. Add more sauce as needed. Serve on buns, bread, whatever and top how you like it. If you have some leftover stuffing and/or coleslaw, that would the perfect compliment!

Kari also made a stew/chili using corn, potatoes, onion, garlic and arbol chillies, but she lost the recipe... Oh well! Basically, cook that stuff in a pot with meat and stock until it's what you want to eat. There, easiest recipe ever!

So, with Thanksgiving coming up in the US and maybe some of you Canucks wondering what to do with the carcass in the freezer (if it's in the fridge, throw it out, the time has passed), well, now you know!


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