Nov 26, 2010

After Thanksgiving tradition - Leftovers!

Besides a great Thanksgiving meal, there are two things you can count on at my house. First, we will have LOTS of leftovers from the Thanksgiving meal. This is intentional. Second, I will make turkey soup the day after Thanksgiving.

This year's turkey - 17 lbs.
While cooking the big dinner, I keep in mind that I actually WANT lots of leftovers, so if we're feeding four, I'll cook for eight or ten. As soon as dinner is over and everyone is up from the table wanting to go sit and digest, Jeff and I start dealing with the leftovers. We make "TV Dinners" -- Thanksgiving Day meal replicas for the freezer.

I line aluminum pie plates up on the kitchen table -- usually 9 to 12, depending on how many leftovers we have. As we bring the dishes of leftovers in from the table, each pie plate gets a portion of that dish. Often this empties out the serving dish of that particular item, so we move to the pans of food still on the stove and dish those out as well. So each pie plate gets a serving of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, several vegetables, a roll, and gravy. Half of the pie plates get cranberry sauce, half do not. Then I wrap each plate in Sarah Wrap, and cover it with foil. The plates with cranberry sauce are marked with a "C" on the foil. All the "TV Dinners" are stacked in the freezer for future dinners.  When I want to have these dinners, I take them out of the freezer and place them in a 400 degree oven still frozen, and bake them for about 45 minutes... just like a "TV Dinner"!

Because I buy a large turkey (16 to 18 lbs), we still have plenty of turkey left for sandwiches for a few days. That meat is sliced and placed in a storage container for everyone to grab from the fridge as they want it. I also cube up some turkey meat for soup the next day and a separate bag of cubed meat for additional quick dinners (over rice or baked potato with gravy), which gets labeled and goes in the freezer.

As we're doing this, Jeff breaks down the turkey carcass. The drumsticks and wings (with meat) go immediately into a big soup pot. We take off as much as the turkey skin as we can do easily (it doesn't really add flavor and does add a lot of fat). The bones are semi-chopped and, except for the spikey rib bones, everything goes into the pot of water. About a cup of chopped celery (including leaves) and a cup of chopped onions goes in the water as well. This simmers on the kitchen stove for the evening, is allowed to cool down for an hour or so before bed, then gets placed in the garage if it's cold enough that night, or placed in the fridge if we can find room.

On Friday, I get the pot of soup out of the garage and skim off the fat that has risen to the top. I put the liquid through a two-layered sieve (I place a layer of cheese cloth over the sieve itself) to catch all the little bits of bones and skin. The results in a nice, clear broth. I pick over the meat in the strainer and pull out any bits that can be added back into the soup.

Today I still had leftover turkey gravy, so added that to the soup stock. I also added about a cup of chopped celery and a cup of diced onion, plus 1 tablespoon of diced garlic. I added some oregano, thyme, turmeric and sage as well. I do not add salt because we try and restrict our salt, but most cooks would also add salt here.

Veggie freezer bag w/cooking liquid
I went to the freezer and pulled out my bag of "freezer veggies." These are saved up little leftover bits of dinner vegetables measuring anywhere from a tablespoon full to a half cup, along with their cooking broth (if they weren't canned veggies) that I have continuously added to a ziploc bag in my freezer. I put the contents of that bag into the soup -- which added corn, peas, green beans, zucchini, brussel sprouts and spinach to the soup, along with a vegetable (cooking) broth for flavor.

Another 30 minutes or so of simmering, and I decide what my starch is going to be in the soup. I might break spaghetti up into thirds and use that for "noodle soup", or I might add a full cup of rice for Turkey Rice Soup. You could also peel and dice potatoes to add. I do not like barley or tomatoes in a poultry soup, but that's probably just personal preference.

Tonight I'll be adding the spaghetti, let the soup simmer for 10 minutes, then add the chopped turkey at the last minute. If you add it to early, it will just fall apart into tiny pieces.

Right at the end, I add 1 teaspoon of cider vinegar. It helps "brighten" the flavor of the soup. If you've never tried this, you will be happy you did. It adds just a bit of acidity to the soup. You can't actually taste vinegar, but you can tell the difference. I check for flavors one more time before serving and that's it! Great homemade turkey soup. We'll have it for dinner tonight and I will put six meals of soup in the freezer for busy nights ahead.

If we add all this up, you'll find, in addition to a very large Thanksgiving dinner, my turkey will give us 16 to 18 more full meals, plus four to six sandwich lunches and a bit of late night pickin'!


Karen said...

Ugh...I think I lost my comment! What I said sure know how to stretch a turkey! Tag made soup this time and made the fatal error of putting in too much rice....we have turkey sludge instead of soup!

LittlePeopleWealth said...

Mmm, I love Thanksgiving leftovers. You are so organized! I like Turkey sandwiches more than the plain turkey so I generally use all my leftover turkey to make those :)

Carol............. said...

What good information! Many people today have no clue what to do with those small portions that are left over and just throw them away.

Carol said...

I am impressed with how much you are able to accomplish from the one meal :)