Feast of Leftovers: Turkey Soup!

homemade turkey noodle soup

The Feast of Leftovers is far from over! Yesterday, I wrote about making soup with my leftover Prime Rib dinner. I seem to have hit a current trend! I have never had so many Google hits on my site on one day. The search terms: Prime Rib leftovers

While my Prime Rib problem has been solved, my fridge is still groaning with turkey that needs some serious attention. You can start making a turkey stock at any time – and usually I start right after Christmas dinner is completed. The first step to dealing with turkey overload is stripping down the carcass to the bones.  Taking the choice meat off the bones for sandwiches and nibbling.  This is easiest to do while the turkey is warm, but really it isn’t like the turkey will fight back if you wait a day or two. If you don’t have time to strip the meat, just make sure you wrap the bird well so it doesn’t dry out.

Turkey soup made from leftover turkey is the same process as making Prime Rib soup – or any bone soup! This is not any sort of culinary science or magic. It is simply placing the left-over bones with selected seasonings and enough liquids to cover, and simmering a long time. (Usually that liquid is just plain water – but could include pre-made stock, vegetable juices, etc.)

To create any soup from leftovers, I make things up as I go along! Soup from leftovers is improvisational cooking and experimentation. This is about extracting flavour – so while you may remove the excess fat from the bones – remember you must leave some fat on the bones and other scraps: fat is flavour! You can always skim off the excess fat at the end of the cooking.

Poultry bones/scraps are not as rich in flavour as beef bones/scraps. Be prepared for a long slow simmer! If the flavour isn’t quite rich enough I will add pre-made vegetable or chicken stock – BUT only after the cooking is done and a taste-test!  The reason I do this is to control the salt content. Because we are using leftovers that have already been seasoned it is a good strategy to wait before adding more seasoning.  You can always add more of what is missing – but you can never take it back once it is in the pot!

(I have a Sour Cream Biscuit recipe here if you want something to go with the soup. Easy to make while the stock is simmering!)

Step One: Bone Stock

Strip the turkey down saving the choice bits of meat for sandwiches – or adding back to the soup at the end. Now release your holiday stress and go crazy on the bones; break ’em down! This will make the turkey carcass take less room in the pot, and you will use less water for cooking. Water dilutes flavours.
Place the turkey bones and other turkey scraps in a pot large enough to hold the bones and just cover with water. Again: you do not want too much water at this point as it will dilute your flavour. I also add the scraps of turkey I know won’t get eaten – so skin, giblets(but not the liver!), neck, all go in the pot.

Turkey (poultry) is a delicate flavour so it  needs some help while simmering in the pot. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 large onion (quartered), 1 or 2 cloves garlic, peppercorns (I add a tablespoon but not everyone likes this much pepper – 5 peppercorns should be good), and 2 bay leaves. Now add root vegetables of your choice. I like adding one large parsnip root, 2-3 large carrots, and celery leaves. If I have leftover vegetables from a veggie platter (cauliflower, broccoli, sliced red/green peppers) I may throw them in as well; CAUTION go easy on broccoli and peppers as it can dominate the flavour of the soup!). You will not be saving these vegetables so no need to peel, or carefully chop. Just make sure they are clean of dirt, and roughly chop them anyway you want! Have fun.

Again, make sure you have enough water to cover the contents of the pot. Set on stove-top and bring to full boil, turn down and let simmer for about 2-3 hours. Or even longer! Remember the bones and meat are already cooked so what we are doing is extracting the flavour. Letting the stock slowly simmer will intensify the flavours – just don’t let your stock boil away!
A large slow-cooker is perfect for this first step in the process. If you use a slow cooker set on HIGH until hot (1-2 hours) and then LOW for 4-6 or more hours. Go skiing and sledding. Or sit back and catch up on Netflix while drinking wine. You may need extra bottles of wine.

Before you walk away you will have to hang around and skim! During the early boiling process a thick foam will appear. Skim this off as best you can to keep the soup stock clear.

While your stock is slow simmering you can prepare any additional vegetables you want to add to the final soup. I like adding 1/2 cup celery, 1 1/2 cups chopped carrots, 2 medium potatoes (cubed), peas, and chopped/shredded turkey meat. Set them aside for later (keep the potatoes in cold water so that do not turn black on you!). I also add egg noodles when finishing the soup – but that is optional

When you think the stock is done (the meat will be falling off the bone)- take it off the heat and let it sit 15 minutes to cool and settle. Once the stock has settled you can skim off some of the the excess fat at this point – or leave it for skimming later. Remove the larger items (bones, meat chunks, root vegetables, onion) from the stock and when they are cool throw in your green bin for composting.

Step 2: Season the Stock

Take a new pot and place a fine sieve  over the new pot, then gently and slowly pour your stock into the new pot. The last little bit in the pot may be quite thick with sediment so you may decide to not use that part of the stock. I strain it all, then let it settle again and do another pour and filter. It all depends on how clear you want the stock to be!

Now for the taste test! Get a small spoon and sample the stock. What does it need? Salt? Spices? More flavour? Does it need a little more water? Or maybe some pre-made stock to add both volume and flavour. This is the part where you use the magic of your senses to make the soup your own! While tasting is an important part of making soup do remember to use a new and clean spoon for each taste test!

Always add any other seasoning or flavouring before adding more salt. If you feel you need more salt add it slowly! Once something is too salty there is no saving it. It is better to let people add their own salt to the finished product.

At this point you can save stock for later – by freezing it. Or move on to make soup! If you have more stock then you want to use right away you can do both!

Step 3: Add vegetables (and other ingredients that need to cook)

Once you have adjusted the seasoning (and the volume of liquid) – add the vegetables to the prepared stock.

Place the soup on the stove and bring to boil. Turn down to a simmer and let cook for 20-30 minutes or so (until vegetables and are nearly cooked to your liking). In the last ten minutes of cooking I add a cup or two of medium egg-noodles to make a complete meal. For the lower carb or gluten free you can leave out the noodles.

Step 4: Finish the soup and eat!

IF you have meat that you did not use in making the stock then you can add that choice meat to the soup so the meat will be heated, and soften. Make sure it is cut/shredded into bite sized pieces. It is up to you when you add this meat. Some people add the meat with the vegetables so it all cooks for 30 minutes and the meat falls apart easily. I like the cooked meat firmer so I just place it in the soup bowl before serving. The meat is warmed by the hot soup, and speeds up the cooling of the broth. This also stops my kids from doing the fishing for turkey in the soup-pot exercise!


Remember this is not an exact recipe so you can experiment and find what works best for you.

3 thoughts on “Feast of Leftovers: Turkey Soup!

  1. Pingback: Feast of Leftovers: Sour Cream Biscuits | merlinspielen

  2. Pingback: Feast of Leftovers: Sour Cream Biscuits | merlinspielen

  3. Pingback: Feast of Leftovers! | merlinspielen

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