"Can I have your carcass?"
"Your turkey carcass. If you're not using it. And the neck and giblet bag too."
"Using it? What would I be using it for? I throw it out."
"NO!! uh, I mean, no. Don't do that. Just wrap it in foil and I'll come get it on Friday."
"And if you have any leftover veggies, after eating leftovers, I'll take those too."
"I'm making stock."
My first usual pre-holiday conversation with new friends. The old ones have it figured out and make their own stock now.
Thanksgiving and other holidays offer a bonanza of bones and vegetable scraps for making a giant potful of turkey stock that will provide the base for soups, stews, sauces, and anything else that will benefit from cooking in a nice broth. It freezes nicely and if you have a pressure canner (NOT a pressure cooker) it cans nicely, sits on your shelf ready for use, and saves valuable real estate in your freezer.
I save all the washed vegetable trimmings from my feast preparations: onions, celery bits, carrot peelings, herb stems and leaves. After the feast and the post feast leftover meals I save any veg that was served whole (like buttered green beans) but not as a casserole or mashed, and if there's still a bit of gravy I save that too. I go on my rounds and pick up carcasses. I come home, get out my OMG-sized stock pot and pile everything into it, throw in some whole carrots, celery, parsley and onions for good measure and then fill the pot up with cold water until it covers the contents by an inch. I then heft the pot onto the stove, bring it to a boil, and then turn down the heat to a simmer leaving the pot uncovered. The simmer that I'm looking for is one where the bubbles spiral lazily to the surface and pop. A very slow simmer. That pot sits there doing it's thing for at least 24 hours. I check the water level occasionally but rarely have to add any to keep the contents covered.
After 24 hours, the carcasses have fallen apart, collagen from the cartilage and bones has rendered (this is what makes stock jell and gives it a nice mouth feel) and all of the flavor has cooked out of the meat bits and veggies and into the liquid. I strain out the bones and debris and ladle the stock into gallon jars to cool before going into the fridge.
I remove the jars from the fridge and lift off the cap of fat that's formed on top. The stock gets carefully poured back into the pot, taking care not to pour in any of the sediment that's formed on the bottom. If you have a fine strainer, you can pour the stock through that to catch any bits. Once again I bring the uncovered pot to a boil and then turn the heat down to a fast simmer allowing the stock to reduce to half the volume.
While the stock is reducing I set up my canning jars, tools and pressure canner. Meat stocks are a low acid food and must be pressure canned. It simply can't be done in a boiling water bath because the contents of the jars won't get hot enough to kill off the nasties. Steam under pressure is much hotter than boiling water and will raise the jar contents to the temperature needed for safe canning.
Once the stock is reduced I ladle it into pint and quart jars through a screen and funnel to catch more particles.
National Center for Home Food Preservation they no longer need to be sterilized if they are going to be processed for more than 10 minutes. Fill the jars leaving a generous 1" of head space.
Put the lid on the canner and bring it to 10 lbs of pressure (at sea level) according to your manufacturer's directions. Adjust the poundage for your altitude. For example, I can at 2,300 ft. of altitude so I bring the pressure to 11 lbs.
When the time for your load is up, carefully move the pot off the heat, preferably on to the cold burner beside it. Allow the pressure to zero out of its own accord. Do not try to hurry it. Once depressurized, allow the canner to sit unopened for another half hour, then carefully open the lid AWAY from you (no steam burns!). Remove the jars to sit on a towel or newspaper padded surface to guard against abrupt temperature change. Allow to cool completely without disturbing. You may or may not hear pops as the vacuum in the jars is created. Once the jars are completely cool, remove the rings and try to lift them by the lids only. If you can, you have a good seal. Wash the outside of the jars thoroughly, dry, label and date, and store in a dark cupboard.
Tip: Not all burners on your stove heat alike. Always use the same burner for your canner and maintaining the heat will become much easier as you become familiar with it.
For those of you who have the space, freezing is the easy option. Just ladle your stock into freezer safe containers leaving a little room at the top for expansion, label, date, and freeze. I like to freeze some stock in ice cube trays and then store the cubes in plastic bags so I can grab a cube or two to toss in sauces without having to open or thaw a bigger container.