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Recipes and Stories

21 November 2022: Mastering Thanksgiving Dinner IV: Homemade Turkey Broth

Roasted Turkey Broth


My late Baptist-preacher father used to love relating the story of a minister who one bright Sunday morning delivered a rousing sermon on love, and then repeated it word for word the following Sunday. And on the next one. And again on the one after that. Finally, a deacon cautiously approached and, after complimenting the stirring words of his message, gently pointed out that it was the same sermon the preacher had delivered every Sunday for at least a month.


The preacher smiled, nodded, and said, "Well, yes it is. I'm glad you finally noticed. I had to keep repeating that message until I thought you all were hearing it."


Well. Here we are four days from Thanksgiving and here comes the same sermon about homemade broth that y'all have heard from me dozens of times. It may not be soul-saving (though some of us might argue otherwise), but good broth is the foundation of the meal, and a homemade one is the difference between a good Thanksgiving dinner and a great one.


And I reckon I'll keep repeating it until y'all stop saying "Oh, sure, right: I'm not making a mess cooking something I can get out of a box that will be good enough—and cost a lot less."


Yes, making your own broth is a bit messy and more trouble than popping the lid of a container. And yes, that container is a whole lot less expensive. But altogether it only takes about an hour of your time, including cleaning up that mess, and the aroma as it simmers makes that investment in ingredients and time well worth it.


And you know I'm going to keep on saying so until you do it, so now is as good a time as any.


Roasted Turkey Broth


When I put on my own stockpot today, I had the forethought to brown the turkey parts that went into the broth by first roasting them at a high temperature, which gives it a richer color and flavor. You can omit that step, but it's worth the extra trouble, and since you're going to extra trouble already, why not?


Makes about 3 quarts


3-3½ pounds turkey wings, necks, and thighs or drumsticks

Olive or canola oil

1 large or 2 medium yellow onions

2 large or 3 medium-sized carrots

1 large or 2 medium-sized leafy ribs celery

1 large, leafy sprig sage

2 large, leafy sprigs parsley

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon peppercorns

4-5 quarter-sized slices fresh gingerroot

4 quarts water



1. Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 400° F. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Rub a rimmed half-sheet pan or large roasting pan with oil, then spread the turkey parts over it, drizzle lightly with oil, and turn to coat them. Turn skin-on pieces skin up and roast, turning them after 25 minutes, until they're nicely browned, about 45 minutes altogether.


2. Choose a heavy-bottomed 8-to-10 quart stock pot or Dutch oven. Trim, split lengthwise, peel, and thinly sliced the onion and scatter it over the bottom of the pot. Scrub the carrots and celery well under cold running water. Trim and cut the carrot crosswise in 2-3 pieces. Quarter the thickest pieces and halve the smaller ones. Thinly slice and add them to the pot. Cut the leafy tops from the celery and add them to the pot, then thinly slice the stalk and add them.


3. Add the herbs, peppercorns, and ginger root, and lay the turkey parts on top of the vegetables. Pour 3 quarts of water over them and add a couple of large pinches of salt. Bring it slowly to a boil over medium heat, about 30-45 minutes. As scum begins to rise to the top, skim it off until it no longer forms. Meanwhile, cover the bottom of the pan in which the turkey parts browned with water and scrape up the cooking residue. Pour it into a 1-quart measuring cup and repeat until the pan is deglazed. Add enough water to the cup to make 1 quart and then add it to the stockpot.


4. Let it come to a full but gentle simmer, then adjust the heat as low as you can get it and let it simmer, loosely-covered, for at least 3 hours, checking periodically to make sure it never boils, but is simmering with the steam bubbles not quite breaking the surface. You want to lose about a quart of the liquid—but no more than that, so if the liquid evaporates too much, bring a teakettle of water to a simmer and replenish as needed. Turn off the heat and let it cool enough to handle.


5. Strain the broth into lidded stainless steel, enameled metal, ceramic, or glass containers, discarding the solids. (You may pick the meat from the turkey parts and save it for soup if you like, although it'll have surrendered most of its flavor.) Leave the broth uncovered until completely cooled, then cover tightly and refrigerate until needed. When the fat solidifies on top (about 3-4 hours), remove and discard it. The broth will keep for at least 5 days. To store it longer, once it's chilled and its fat is removed, spoon it into freezable containers, seal, and freeze for up to 3 months.

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