If I accomplish nothing more today than filling the house with the fragrance of turkey soup simmering on the stove, I’ll be happy. I’m testing a new theory. I’m imagining that the smell alone of turkey or chicken broth may have healing powers. Not to mention, the actual consumption of a bowl of rich brothy soup on a cold dark day. Although I couldn’t get anyone to stay inside long enough to test my theory, I’m pretty sure it’s true.
The ritual of making turkey soup the week after Thanksgiving is one I’ve been looking forward to. Last year I read Alice Water’s complete description of making broth in The Art of Simple Food after having some not-so-great results in the past. I know making broth seems simple but she had many tips I hadn’t known before. So I thought I’d pass on some of the ones I found most helpful, just in case.
Start with roasted (not grilled), meaty bones and cold water. If your turkey carcass is picked completely clean, you may want to buy a turkey leg or two to add more flavor. As the water heats up, it draws the flavor from the bones and the meat. (If you want to use the meat later, you can take it out of the soup after an hour or so, remove it from the bones and return the bones to cook in the broth).
Bring broth to a full rolling boil, skim the foam (but not fat) from the surface. Turn the temperature down to a gentle simmer, then add the herbs and vegetables. If your broth stays at a hard boil too long, it may become cloudy.
Taste often (my favorite part) and add salt as needed rather than just salting at the end. Salt helps the flavor develop. Just remember your final product will be concentrated after the liquid evaporates so don’t be too heavy-handed.
Simmer for 2-5 hours and strain when you’re finished cooking. If you’ve been tasting, you can be the judge of how long to cook. Cool completely before covering and storing in the fridge. Skimming the fat off the top is much easier once it’s cool but don’t be tempted to speed up the process by putting it in the fridge early. If it’s still warm, it may sour and spoil. Once completely cool, it will keep for a week in the fridge and 3 months in the freezer.
The vegetables and herbs Alice Waters uses in her broth are: 1 carrot, 1onion, peeled and halved, 1 celery stalk, 1 head of garlic, cut in half, 1/2 t black peppercorns, a large bay leaf, couple of sprigs of thyme and parsley. No need to chop the veggies, whole is better so they don’t fall apart and will be easier to strain out later.
After three hours, I couldn’t wait any longer to try it. I strained out the bones and vegetables, skimmed off as much fat as I could, then sauteed some vegetables from the Farmers Market. I used mushrooms, baby turnips, leeks, kale and some fresh pasta. I topped it with shredded cheese and chopped italian parsley. It was a welcome break from the heavy meals of the last few days and I was able to fill up a couple of yogurt containers with broth for the freezer. You never know when the healing power of homemade soup will come in handy.
I learned something new at Whistling Train Farm at the University Farmers Market. (We’re so happy to have Whistling Train back at our market) When I’ve seen recipes using Cavolo Nero, I’ve assumed they meant Dinosaur Kale, you know, the dark bumpy kind. Here was the real thing, a whole different beast. I tried it in my soup and it was delicious, though the leaves are thicker, more like collards. I look forward to trying it on its own so I can really taste the difference.