One of my weirdest qualities is that I am a total sicko evangelist for/of/about (I don't know the proper preposition, sorry) homemade stock and broth. If you're ill, and I'm nearby, and I know you're ill, and you are my friend, I will make you soup. Part of is that I want you -- my friend!-- to feel loved and to get better, and making soup accomplishes both. The other part is that I get a kick out of the fact that you can literally simmer water and bones and get the most deeply flavored, delicious, most restorative liquid ever, and I also want you to realize and remark upon this and be like, "Wow, Kim!!!!" followed by something like "This is the best soup I've ever had!!" I mean, it doesn't have to be exactly that wording, but I'd like to be remembered for my soup making abilities, so it'd be pretty cool if this ever happened.
If this doesn't sound endearing or interesting, I'll just say right now: you may not be interested in this post, because it's for my fellow stock geeks. (Is anyone out there?)
I know most people don't bother to make stock. And I get it. Boxed stock isn't expensive, and it's undeniably convenient. But I love the process of making stock, and I especially love the flavor of homemade stock. After a little active work, everything gets delicious while I just sit on the couch watching Firefly. And the end result tastes infinitely richer and better than almost anything you can buy. And homemade stock makes the best, best, best soups and risotto. No contest.
I do think making turkey stock before Thanksgiving is a good idea, even if you're not a stock geek like myself. For one thing, if you have turkey stock on hand, you have the option to make your gravy in advance. This is no small thing for people who get harried by all the little things you have to do in the 30 minutes between the turkey coming out of the oven and the turkey being carved (hello!). For another, turkey stock is excellent for moistening stuffing, serving as a base for soup, or adding moisture to, say, green beans. And finally, there's also the generally agreed upon fact that people who make homemade stock are loved and admired by everyone. (SHHHH, just let me have this.)
You can easily scale this recipe down, depending on how many turkey parts you have. Even if you only have one neck and giblets, you can apply this technique and get some additional stock for your turkey gravy. Just use a small pan (your turkey neck should fit as snugly as possible) and less water.
4 pounds turkey necks, backs or wings
Giblets, excluding the liver
1 carrot, chopped into 2 inch chunks
a handful of onion and celery trimmings
5 whole black peppers
Place a large stockpot on the stove and turn heat to medium-high. When hot, arrange the turkey parts and the carrots -- not the giblets -- on the bottom of the pan and let brown, turning the parts until deeply browned on both wides. Alternatively, slide the pot into a 425 degree oven and let the parts roast 30-40 minutes, turning once. I skipped the browning last year and my turkey stock was anemic, both in color and taste. Don't do it!
Move browned turkey parts to a plate and add 1 cup of water to the pan. Using a flat-bottomed wooden spoon, diligently scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen the brown bits. Be as thorough as you can, because these brown bits add a ton of flavor to your stock. Return the turkey parts to the pot, and add the onion, celery, pepper, giblets, and enough additional water to just cover everything. My 4 pounds of turkey needed 8 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then adjust heat so the mixture simmers slowly. Simmer at least 3 hours, partially covered. Strain, reserving the turkey parts and giblets. Cool and refrigerate the stock. If you like, pull and chop meat from the necks and the giblets and reserve for your gravy or soup. After overnight refrigeration, the fat will have risen and congealed on the top. I sometimes skim and toss, or use it for sauteeing vegetables.
Refrigerate for up to 3 days. Use by the 4th day, or freeze.