There are times when a home cook sees something that makes so much sense, he or she will sit back in awe and wonder why in the world they had never thought of it in the first place.
I, a home cook, am writing about a new revelation to me, something I saw on the television program The Chew last month when they did Thanksgiving to the max (bless their hearts!), and initially thought it too good to be true. It was a simple concept: instead of presiding over a huge pot of turkey stock for hours a day or two after the Thanksgiving feast – something I have never viewed as unpleasant – why not toss the fixings into a slow cooker before you go to bed at night, and let that slow cooker work its magic while you sleep?
Really, you may ask?
In the morning:
I love turkey soup. I love turkey soup as much as I love turkey itself, and that’s saying a lot. I love cooking up batches and batches of stock, freezing it and savoring it all winter long. There is nothing more comforting than a huge bowl of turkey soup when the temperatures outside are frigid and the wind is howling something fierce.
My love of turkey soup – and the process of making that delicious stock out of the turkey carcass – is so well known in my particular circle that my friends and family tend to save their carcasses for me if they are not making stock themselves. One year I actually had 3 turkey carcasses in my freezer after Thanksgiving. Then came Christmas, and I had 2 more. (If you think that’s a bit too much, I agree with you! Now I go one at a time…)
I admit I approached this new way of making turkey stock with trepidation. I reassured myself that since I plan on making another turkey at Christmastime anyway, if something went awry I would still have another carcass to cook on the stove top this season. So I gave my slow cooker a try.
You know what? I’ll never make turkey stock any other way.
I feared I would miss the heavenly scent of the stock as it cooks – I love that smell almost as much as I love the smell of a turkey as it roasts – but I was rewarded the instant I woke up the next morning, and the scent of the stock stayed in the house throughout the day, just as it does when I make stock using the stove top method.
The only change I made to this incredibly easy recipe was this: we (The Chew’s viewing audience) were told there was no need to season the water when placing everything in the slow cooker, as the turkey carcass had probably absorbed the seasoning of the bird and would therefore flavor the cooking water. Well, not so much. I made a pretty flavorful bird on Thanksgiving, but when I checked the stock in the slow cooker after 10 hours of cooking, it needed seasoning. I added 1 teaspoon each of kosher salt, black peppercorns, and Herbs de Provence, along with a couple of bay leaves, and let the cooker go for another 2 hours. Perfection!
To fatigued home cooks everywhere: it’s OK to take a shortcut like this. It really is. You deserve it! Besides, you’ll be full throttle in the kitchen again in a few weeks, cooking the Christmas feast.
Overnight Slow Cooker Turkey Stock
- 1 turkey carcass and bones (my Thanksgiving turkey was 14-1/2 lbs)
– 1 large onion, peeled and cut into large chunks
– 3 ribs celery, cut into large pieces (celery leaves are also a good addition)
– 2 large carrots, cut into large pieces
– Water (to cover)
– 1 teaspoon kosher salt
– 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
– 1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence
– 2 bay leaves
Place the turkey carcass and bones in the crock of a large slow cooker:
Add in the onion…
Add in enough water to cover…
…up to just half an inch below the crock’s edge:
…set the slow cooker on low and let it cook for 12 hours.
This is what you will see after 10 hours of cooking:
Stir the stock up, and add 1 teaspoon each of kosher salt, black peppercorns, Herbs de Provence (or your favorite herb), and 2 bay leaves:
Cover the slow cooker again, and let the stock continue to cook for the remaining 2 hours.
It should look like this:
I truly dislike the term “scum” when referring to the debris and fat that rises to the top of stock, so let’s not use that term. Let’s just say: skim whatever debris and fat has risen to the top of the stock, and discard.
Not it’s time to strain!
I use tongs to remove the largest pieces in the stock, and I place them over a couple of strainers I have set over bowls:
Then I remove the bones…
…taking care to remove whatever bits of meat still clinging to them:
(There might not be much left, but I am Italian and was raised with the credo: there is no waste in this kitchen! Besides, there is lots of leftover turkey meat in the fridge just waiting to join the party when it’s time to make the soup.)
Here is what I removed from the stock in the slow cooker:
I discarded the bones (upper right) and set the meat aside (lower right). Then it was time to extract all of the stock from the veggies in the strainers.
Press against them with a spatula…
…until you have all of that flavorful liquid left in your bowls:
Now it’s time to strain the liquid in the slow cooker. I do this the easy way; I line the strainer with paper towels.
In goes half of the stock:
Time to strain! Just shake the stock and strainer over the bowl:
Once again, press on the solids left behind…
…to get all of that flavor!
Now for the remaining stock in the slow cooker:
Press on the solids:
Now you have stock!
I transferred mine into a plastic container:
This yielded 2-1/2 to 3 quarts of stock. I refrigerated it for several hours, and when I went in to skim off the hardened fat that usually rises to the top of the stock, there wasn’t any! I don’t know if this is an exception to the rule or not, but I’ll take it.
Next up: TURKEY SOUP!