How To Use Every Bit Of the Turkey

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Thanksgiving is a week away, so I wanted to share with you how I recently cooked two turkeys out of my freezer and was able to use every bit of both birds. I had purchased them last Christmas with the intention of canning them.  Here’s a blow-by-blow of how I used these particular birds. Hopefully it will help you get some ideas on how to get every last drop of goodness out of your leftovers or to take advantage of the great prices on turkeys this time of year.

Going full bird does works better with a pressure canner/cooker, but it is not necessary. Having a dog is helpful, too. The turkeys were about 10 pounds each.

Turkey Meat: I chose to pressure cook the turkeys in my pressure canner along with some peppercorn, onions, carrots, salt and Lawry’s seasoned salt. I intended to add celery, but I was out.  I cooked them separately, even though I have a large canner. Very yummy.

There is a lot of variation on how to pressure cook a turkey. The guideline I’m using right now is 15 pounds pressure for 4 minutes per pound. The meat falls of the bone easily. If you want the turkey more intact then cook at 3 minutes per pound. You may need to use less water to keep it intact. I haven’t experimented with that.

This is how I used the meat…

  • Made turkey salad with mayo, grapes, and walnuts.
  • Sliced some breast meat for sandwiches. I individually froze slices on trays and transferred them to zipper bags.
  • Canned the rest using a a dry pack method. Just put meat in jars with one inch headspace, fill jar halfway with water and can for 75 minutes at 10 pounds pressure for pints. Some people fill with broth, but I wanted to save that for other things. A pint is roughly a pound of turkey based on pre-cooked weight.

I was amazed at how good the canned turkey tasted. Next time I will skip slicing and freezing the turkey breast and just use the canned turkey for sandwiches.

Broth: I covered the turkey with water when cooking and the turkey released water as well. When cooking was done, the remaining liquid was ready to go as broth. I put it in the fridge overnight. The next day I removed the hardened fat and canned the broth. It can also be frozen. If  you roast your turkey, you will not get broth.

I pressure canned the broth and ended up with four quarts. I used 10 pounds pressure and cooked 20 minutes for pints or 25 minutes for quarts with one inch headspace.

Stock: I put the bones, neck and giblets of the turkey into my pressure canner, covered it in water and set it at 10 pounds pressure for one hour. I could have put veggies in it, but I didn’t bother this time.

I got 4-5 quarts of stock. I used most for a pot of soup. I put the rest in the fridge to add to recipes.  If stock is done well it will have a gelatinous consistency when cooled.  It can also be frozen in ice cube trays to be used as flavoring in everyday cooking. Canning stock is the same as canning broth above.
Schmalz/Turkey Fat: After the broth and stock had cooled I took the hardened fat, heated just enough to melt and strained it through a cloth. I put it in a mason jar in the fridge  to use for cooking and baking.

Bones: I didn’t even throw out the leftover bones. Pressure cooking will make the bones very soft where they just break away in your hand. I gently crushed them with my hands and fed them to my dog. If you don’t have a dog or don’t trust feeding cooked poultry bones to your animals, you can make bone meal.

Well, that’s the scoop. Turkeys are on sale this week so I will be buying some more and will keep this process going. What I love about this is that I can pull things out of the turkey that I would have normally paid extra for–broth, stock, fat, dog food. That’s a pretty substantial savings. I can also take advantage of seasonal prices and save even more.

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