Sunday, April 3, 2011

Frugal Cooking, what to do with 20lbs of Turkey!

     I don't know about you, but I like to buy meat when its on sale. We just can't afford  it otherwise! At Thanksgiving every year, when turkeys go on sale at a loss (which was harder to find this past year, and might not happen at all next year!) we always buy two turkeys. One for Christmas, and one to keep in the freezer for later. Well, its later! Winter is almost over, and spring is in the air. Pretty soon it will be too hot to be roasting ANYTHING for five hours in the oven, so I though I would cook up the massive 20lb bird, freeing up some much missed freezer space and making future meals a snap.
I let him defrost for a week in my fridge, best do this in the roasting pan, or you WILL have a mess on your hands!
@  $.49 a lb, you can't go wrong.
     I roasted the bird at 325', plain (unseasoned) unstuffed and untrussed for about five hours, until the meat thermometers little arrow pointed to poultry. I covered it with foil for the first 3 -1/2 to 4 hours, then uncovered for the rest of the roasting so it would golden up. This isn't necessary though, unless your planning on serving the bird right away, because your just going to pull it to bits anyway. I let it rest and cool about 30 min, then removed all the meat from the carcass.

     I then put all the bones into the crock pot with a sliced onion and some wrinkled carrots from the root veg drawer in the bottom of the fridge. Throw in some celery too, especially the tops, if you have some. I didnt, but no bother, I can add some to any soup I make with the stock later on. Also, celery seed is a great (and cheep) way of adding celery flavor when no fresh celery is on hand. You can also add any number of herbs, I like bay and rosemary and parsley. I didn't add them this time though, as I wanted to keep it simple so I could use this stock in multiple ways.
    Add water to cover and set on high, and then I (literally) forgot about it for about 10 hours.

     I'm glad I forgot about it, as I now have some of the richest turkey stock I have ever made! I don't put skin into my stock, in fact, skin and globs of fatty gristle are the only parts of the bird I discard outright. The rest I use! I had a LOT of pan juices left in the roasting pan. I poured them through a fine sieve into a clear jug and popped it into the fridge to separate and firm up. Once its cool you will have a layer of creamy fat and a jelly layer of protein rich broth. I scooped off and saved the layer of fat to use for making rue balls for future gravies and white sauces, (mix equal parts *1c+1c* of fat and flour together, then freeze in ice cube tray, convenient ready to go gravy and sauce starter!) I am also going to try freezing this fat in ice cube trays, and using the cubes instead of marge or butter for sauteing veg and other things. Its funny, how our culture shuns natural fats, and does everything they can to avoid and discard them, then buys tons and tons of highly processed (and highly unhealthy) fats like margarine and vegetable shortening. Our great grandmothers would have told us its foolish to throw away "free" fat then go and pay for some other kind of fat!
     Now, by the time you have the stock started your plate of meat should have cooled enough to start further processing. I go through, pull off skin and slimy membranes, and weed out the rest of the bones (adding them to the pot) then I separate the white meat from the dark and bag in sandwich baggies, then wrap in foil and mark the outside with W Turkey of D Turkey accordingly.
     I wraped up nine packages of about one pound each boneless -ready to go into a recipe- meat. I also got a little more then 4c pan juices (shown before cooled and separated) and about 5 quarts of rich stock, not to mention about a cup or so of nice turkey drippings. I can make at LEAST a dozen meals from the meat, with about four servings each meal. Not too shabby for less than $10 and an afternoon of easy work! Not to mention a home that smelled like Christmas all day!
     Meal Ideas;
       turkey enchiladas
       creamed turkey over noodles
       turkey curry (many variations of this!)
       turkey salad sandwiches
       pulled BBQ turkey sandwiches
       turkey and ham (or bacon) casserole
       turkey pot pie
       turkey shepherds pie
       turkey Alfredo
       turkey and stuffing *cakes*
       cream of turkey soup
       turkey a la king on biscuits
     and many, many more. Turkey is interchangeable in any recipe that calls for chicken, and even in some that call for canned tuna, so get creative! Don't let small household size put you off getting the biggest bird you can find, once cooked you can freeze the meat in manageable sized packages like I have done, OR, if your mare ambitious you can even make yourself up a dozen meals to pop in your freazer, ready to reheat any time you want a quick dinner:) Use your imagination!
 Now I am signing off, I'm going to go turn some of that lovely stock into some turkey and dumpling soup to fight off this dratted cold! Enjoy the rest of your Sunday:)

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