With Thanksgiving fast approaching, we decided to do a little experiment and see if we could use the whole turkey from our first fabulous feast until literally every thing was used. The reason for the experiment were twofold; 1. To see if it was possible, and 2. Demonstrate that although our birds are on the pricier side, you can get a LOT of meals out of them. Consider this our updated and more holiday specific version of How to Eat Healthy on a Budget (but not skip on the good stuff). For a quick overview of the different days, you can watch our Youtube video Turkeygiving: Using the WHOLE bird. Read on for recipes, notes, and a little bit of commentary.
Day 1: Test Run for Thanksgiving for 9 Guests
We started out with a 15 lbs Certified Humane Firefly Farms blast frozen turkey. We did the necessary defrosting and on the day we brined the turkey for 4.5 hours. Some people will brine their turkeys for up to a full day, but since we have had a little experience (and one disaster!) we have learned to keep the brining under 6 hours. Besides, we did not want to lose the amazing taste to over saltiness. Dried, rubbed, and stuffed (with onions), we put our turkey on our rotisserie attachment on our grill. We have used this for ducks, chickens, and now turkeys with amazing success!
First we seared the skin to get a nice golden glow and to help seal in the juices. Then we lowered the temperature and let it cook for the next 3 hours with periodic checks to make sure it was perfect. The husband informs me this was 14 minutes per pound… exactly. We know some people use an internal temperature to determine a level of doneness, but we hate using this method because it punches holes in the skin and lets the juices run out. We like to use the wing wiggle to determine if we are getting close and THEN use a thermometer only to confirm what we know. We shoot for the inner thigh at 165 F (USDA safety temp) and have never been disappointed.
We let the turkey sit for 20 minutes while getting all the sides out to accompany our golden centerpiece. When it came time to cut the turkey, the vultures arrived in the kitchen and the most hopeful of all was our 14 year old pup who KNOWS that Grandpa will always sneak her a few treats. She was joined by every single one of our guests attempting to get a sneak taste test of the bird. I know this because I was one of them.
We like to think that fresh is always best, but honestly, I am very happy to go with a blast frozen turkey if they all taste like this one. Moist and full of flavor. Every single person went back for a second helping and even when we were to the groaning stage, fingers kept picking at the carving board.
We strip as much of the meat off the bones as possible and put it in storage containers based on light or dark meat. SAVE THE BONES!!! The bones were put in a large Ziploc bag and put in our freezer to be used later. You may want to write what type of bones they are and the date depending on how long you may wait to use them.
Day 2: Turkey Sandwiches and Wraps for 2
Arguably one of the best reasons to have Thanksgiving is so that you can have leftover turkey sandwiches. A family favorite and one of the very few times I will let mayo get anywhere near a sandwich… it is allowed to waft and mingle with turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing and lettuce. Everyone has their own preference on what goes on their turkey sandwich, but all of us look forward to them.
We paired ours with some kettle potato chips and homemade pickles. We had big enough pieces to make about four sandwiches which took care of two lunches.
Day 3: Fancy Mac N’ Cheese for 2
At a very young age, I can remember the switch from Kraft (and all its orange glory) to Annie’s with its more sedate white cheese, but healthier history. To this day, Mac N’ Cheese is one of our comfort foods and there is almost always a box or two on hand for those days when a little extra lovin’ is needed… or we cannot be bothered making a full dinner. Enter the fancy Mac N’ Cheese that contains whatever protein is on hand along with all the veggies in the crisper drawer.
We saute the veggies which in this case were mushrooms, peppers from our garden, zucchini/yellow squash, and in my case black olives. You can add broccoli, spinach, artichokes, tomatoes… the possibilities are only limited by your imagination or what’s in the fridge or pantry. The turkey was tossed in for long enough to warm up while we followed the directions on the Annie’s box. Mix all together and serve up!
Note: We make no claims about this being the healthiest of meals, but if you also happen to have some leftover cream from making whipped cream for the pumpkin and apple pies you had for dessert at the dinner party… you can always add that instead of milk and get a REALLY rich tasting sauce.
Additional Note: Depending on what size box you use, you may also have leftovers from this one.
Day 4 and 5: Turkey Pot Pie for 2
This is one of the meals my husband does incredibly well! By this point the pieces of turkey have gotten pretty small or they are not the most attractive slices. It does not make them any less tasty and they are going to taste AMAZING in Turkey Pot Pie. You can get as fancy as you want with the recipe, but my sweetie went with the first one in the search engine which was Pillsbury Chicken Pot Pie Recipe. The obvious change is that instead of chicken, he substituted our leftover turkey already cooked and ready to go. This recipe calls for broth and depending on what you may or may not have already done with your bones, it is possible you already have some turkey broth that you can also use. We had some broth from a previous stock making session and used this in the recipe. Again, feel free to tweak and add anything that you like in your Pot Pie.
The theory is that you should get at least two meals out of this… unless you are me and totally love Pot Pie. This time of year brings out my hibernation instinct and a desire to eat all the delicious food just in case I need an extra layer of blubber for the winter.
Note: You can make more than one! Put the uncooked one in the freezer for a later date when you are a little pressed for time.
Day 6 (or whenever is convenient): Making Stock from the Skin and Bones
I am popping this in as Day 6, but this can happen as soon as the day after your turkey dinner (this is my Dad’s approach) or you can freeze your bones and wait until you have a large amount and a weekend. We save all our bones whether they are pork, beef, chicken, turkey or duck and make them into broth. While bone broth has become ‘trendy’ some folks have found there are some benefits to consuming bone broth on a regular basis. Yeah for benefits, but personally I just like knowing where my broth is from and getting an additional use out of my bird.
Here is a link to a Firefly Farms video on Making Stock.
The short text version is that we grab all the frozen bones out of the fridge, smoosh as many of them into our two crockpots as humanly possible. We then cover the bones completely with water and put them outside on high for about 12 hours. We check on the pots to make sure that the water is boiling and to see how the broth/stock is coming along. When it reaches a rich golden brown color, we bring the pots in and pour off the broth into labeled storage containers making sure to keep the bones in the pot. Remember to leave enough headroom as the stock will expand as it freezes. While the stock cools on the counter top, we recover the bones with water and put them back outside for another 12 hours. We can typically get three boils out of our bones (some times more), but it is all about the color of the stock… once it is pale it is time to say it is done.
Once you have determined you have gotten all the goodness you can get out of the bones, let them cool until you can safely and easily handle them. This is where you discover all the additional meat that you never knew was still there. We divided it between meat for humans and all that other meaty stuff that would make a dog very happy. She gets all the skin, fat, and meat that just is a little odd with her dinner until it runs out.
Save the human consumption meat either in one of your stock containers or in a container all of its own. Save the bones still! Once you have cleaned them of all meat, rinse them off and either refreeze them or head to Day 8.
Note: Depending on when you are using the stock to make soup… you need to either refrigerate until use (within a week), or you can refrigerate until properly cooled and then place in your freezer for future use. We have found that this method reduces the number of ice crystals in the containers or danger of a popped top.
Day 7 or Future Day: Your Favorite Soup either for 2 or to share
We LOVE soups and stews! Some of our favorite ones can be found on the Firefly Farms’ website, but here are the direct links to two we use all the time. Use the stock from your epic stock making adventure to form the base for your soup.
Van Brown’s Oh So Simple Chicken Soup which is pretty much his version of Stone Soup and uses everything that you have on hand that tastes good in soup. This recipe includes potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, and celery, but again… feel free to personalize it.
Grandma Brown’s Corn Chowder while no relation to this Brown family, we are definitely making it a family tradition. During the summer, we buy a whole bushel of corn from the Davis Farm and freeze it for the winter… specifically for this soup. It is warm, it is filling, it is comforting, and it is SO incredibly good. Use Firefly Farms bacon for some extra awesomeness.
We like to make double batches of our soups so that we can enjoy now and freeze half (again write what it is and the date on the container) for later!
Day 8: Making bone meal from the bones: Your garden will thank you!
New to this experiment we are making bone meal to put in our garden! Here is one overview for making bone meal which is a lot like what we did, but we decided that with two cats and a dog that leaving bones out to dry would be problematic. Our work around was we put our bones on a baking tray in the oven so that every time we used the oven (which we do daily) we would slip the tray with the bones in while it cooled. Our bones got baked and dried at the same time without using extra electricity and nor did the animals get in trouble.
The bones get so brittle you can literally crumble them with your hands. It is highly therapeutic and easy to do. Once crumbled store them in an airtight bag or container until the spring when you are turning your garden. Mix the bone meal into the dirt to further enrich your garden. Enjoy your turkey one last time when you harvest your garden produce.
There you have it folks! How to get the most out of your whole bird and use ALL of your Firefly Farms Certified Humane bird. Nothing wasted and everything used.