First off, I should say that soups are one of my absolute favorite things to cook and eat. Not sure if this dates back to eating out with my father who would order soup and salad for dinner many places, or because soup is one of the most nutritious foods on the planet, but why-ever, I love soup. Good soup is an easy but time consuming process, however, but it’s one I enjoy.
This recipe is not going to be your typical recipe card type thing, and you won’t find specific ingredients or amounts listed here. Just a description of the process. This can be adapted to almost anything you have on hand. It starts with a good bone stock.
Bone stocks are awesome. First off, they allow you to get every bit of nutrients out your meat purchase, so they are economical. Secondly, they’re healthy, because they capture many of the nutrients (like calcium) from a meat product that you wouldn’t normally get unless you like to crunch down on bones.
I use my Nesco cooker on slow cook to make broths, since it doesn’t take a lot of electricity compared to cooking the stock on the stove and using propane. In this instance, I break the turkey carcass down so that it fits. This is a messy job and requires confidence with your knife skills. Just make sure your chef’s knife or butcher’s knife is good and sharp for this. A dull knife will slip off some of the cartilage or small bones and frustrate you, and possibly cut you.
Add the carcass to the slow cooker along with some aromatics like carrots, celery, onion, and garlic (if you want a garlic broth). You could also use leaks, shallots, or roasted garlic; fennel; or daikon radish. I wouldn’t replace the root vegetable (carrot) in this recipe with other root vegetables like turnip, unless you roast them first and really like the taste of turnip.
You can, before adding to the slow cooker, roast off all the vegetables with the pieces of the carcass for a more intense flavor. It all depends on how intense you’d like the stock to be. Try it both ways and see how you like it. For basic turkey or chicken soup, I don’t typically roast the carcass or vegetables, because I like a slightly milder stock for these soups and my carcass has already been roasted once. If you’re using beef or pork bones (neck, thigh, etc.) that you bought raw, you’ll need to roast them off first, so add the veg in large chucks to the pan as well.
At this point you can add spices (but not salt yet). I like peppercorns and bay for turkey or chicken soup, but you could add star anise, whole coriander, or just about any whole spice you so desire. Woody herbs like rosemary or thyme can be added here too.
Turn the slow cooker on and go about your day. You can leave this to cook overnight, but at least eight hours is what works for me, but the longer you cook the stock, the more nutrients you’ll get. Remember to give yourself time for the stock to cool after cooking when planning this out. You don’t want to add a container of hot stock to your fridge, because it’ll throw off the interior temperature, especially if you have a smaller RV fridge.
A note about time when cooking stock. Some folks cook their stocks for less time, because the shorter your cook time the clearer your broth will be. If you want a clear stock (for an elegant consommé or a savory gel, for instance), then don’t cook it for more than four hours. But there is a catch to those clear stocks. You won’t get all those good nutrients I mentioned. Particularly, you won’t get a good amount of calcium if you don’t cook it long enough for the bones to become a little soft.
Cooking for a long time does produce a cloudy stock, but it’s a super-flavorful stock packed with nutrients, so it’s your call. I always cook my stocks for as long as I can because I’m not really one of those folks who buy into the “food must be beautiful” theory. Some of the best food I’ve ever had could be considered “ugly.”
Strain the soup once it’s cooled enough to handle. If you’ve got a lot of meat on the bones, save it and separate the meat the next day. Once the stock is room temperature, put it in the fridge overnight. This will allow the fat to separate off. I often incorporate the fat into my soups, because I like the mouth-feel and flavor and I’m not afraid of fat. But if you’ve been advised by your doctor to go on a low fat diet, or if you don’t like the taste, make sure you skim the solidified fat from the stock before using it. This will be easy if you’ve cooked your stock for at least eight hours. Why? Because the stock will gel in the fridge from all the collagen in it after the long cook time.
After you’ve skimmed the fat, you’re ready to make the soup. For my traditional turkey soup, I use carrots, celery, and onion. I use a medium dice for these because I want them to have their shape in the finished soup and be a good size on the spoon. You could go smaller if you like, but don’t cook the soup for too long, as a smaller dice will break down.
I soften the veg in the soup pot over medium heat in either olive oil or olive oil with a little butter. I don’t use straight butter because it can burn/brown. This could be good for some soups, a brown butter base, but I’ve never tried it. Might be good for a soup with a nutty profile, such as a squash soup. Let me know if you’ve tried it!
Once the veg softens, add the stock and cubed or shredded turkey. Let this simmer for as long as you like, or until an hour to a half hour before dinner, depending on what else you’ll have in the soup.
Now for the add-ons. I like turkey soup with egg noodles, rice, potatoes, or barley. This year I made it with egg noodles. I added the dry egg noodles and simmered for about an hour, which resulted in noodles with just the tiniest bit of toothsome-ness but not mushy. The noodles were nicely flavored by cooking in the soup, but FYI, they will thicken the stock a bit while they cook, since they will give off starch. If you don’t want this, pre-cook your noodles and add at the last minute.
Adding uncooked rice will always thicken the soup, sometimes to the point of it not being a soup anymore! So I use pre-cooked or par-cooked rice. Barley takes a long time to cook, so I pre-cook my barley as well. Add these at the end, bringing the soup back to a simmer before serving.
Finally, right before serving, add any fresh leafy herbs you like and the salt. I like parsley, dill, marjoram, sage (cut very fine), or basil here. If you want to use a woody herb to flavor the soup, like thyme or rosemary, you’ll want to actually add this to the stock with the aromatics the day before.
Salt your soup to taste. I tend to under-salt my food and let my eaters salt at the table. If this is the first time you’re making soup, you may be shocked at the amount of salt you’ll need to use. But remember, you’re talking about salting, at minimum, 6 cups of stock! It’ll take a lot, but go in small increments, because once it’s too salty it’s hard to go back. Adding some canned stock (not broth!) if it’s too salty can help bring it back into balance.
I will occasionally, if I want a very rich broth, add about a quarter cup to a half a cup of homemade gravy to the soup. On other occasions I’ve brightened the soup with the juice from half a lemon right before service.
Ultimately, making this soup is about love and fun. It’s never the same year after year, and I always enjoy approaching it with a free hand. It’s a lot of labor, but I enjoy it since I know I’m bringing a delicious and nutritious meal to the table for my loved ones. Enjoy! And of course, if you have any questions, please ask below.