How to Can Turkey Stock (or, How To Make The Most of Your Holiday Meals)

turkey stock labels

Last Saturday, my family gathered for a belated Thanksgiving dinner at my cousin Angie’s house. It was one of those really fantastic family gatherings where everyone was genuinely happy to be there and spend time with one another. Ages ranged from four to 96 and there was much discussion about family history and connection (at one point, a family tree had to be drawn to explain to my cousin Sam’s girlfriend just exactly how we were all related).

Scott and I were the last to leave, having stuck around to gather abandoned plates and help put away the leftovers. When we finally headed home, we did so with a gallon ziplock bag of cut fruit (remains from a massive Costco tray), a dozen empty jars (returns from previous homemade gifts), and a disposable roasting pan holding two turkey carcasses, swaddled in a black plastic garbage bag. My cousins, knowing my fondness for making use of every scrap, had saved it just for me.

bagged turkey for stock

When we got home, instead of crashing out in front of a movie as had been previously planned, I headed to the kitchen to break down all the turkey into usable parts. In the end, I had three very large plastic bags of goodness. Two held bones for stock and one held usable meat (half went into a batch of turkey shepherd’s pie, the other half is frozen for a future batch of soup).

As I separated out the meat from the bones, I started thinking about all the times I’ve pressure canned various stocks and broths over the last four years and realized that it had been far too long since I talked about the magic of pressure canning here. The only stock canning post went up in the very early days of this site and I’ve learned a great deal about the dos and don’t of preserving under pressure since then.

cooking stock

The next morning, I started the first batch of stock (there was more than enough for two batches). When making turkey stock, I like to keep it simple and so don’t add carrots, celery, or onion. Instead, I combine the turkey bones with freshly filtered cold water in a 12 quart stock pot. I put it on the stove and slowly bring it up to a simmer. Once it’s near a boil but not rolling, I cock the lid so that some steam can escape and cook it over medium heat for 4 to 6 hours (I’m after maximum flavor extraction for minimal effort). Whenever you make stock, try to avoid a vigorous boil, as it will make your stock cloudy.

You really want to make sure that you make your stock within a day or two of the turkey’s roasting, as you’ll get the best flavor. If you wait until the carcass has been picked clean during the leftover stage, it takes on a funky, old poultry flavor that really isn’t worth preserving.

pouring stock

Now, in an ideal world, here’s how I’d preserve stock. I’d cook it one day, strain it, chill it overnight, skim the fat, bring it back to a boil and then can. However, I rarely manage to do it that way because I have a very small refrigerator and so almost never have the space for the volume of stock I’ve made. I also don’t have any outdoor space, and so can’t even use nature’s icebox this time of year. And so, instead I make and can my stock in the same day.

Because I can’t remove the fat through chilling, I spend some time carefully spooning it off. There are a couple of reasons why it’s a good idea to defat your stock. One is that if the stock siphons out of the jars during the processing (and it happens a lot during pressure canning, thanks to the increased ferocity of heat and pressure), the slippery fat can put your seal in jeopardy. The other is that fats can go rancid during storage and that will give your stock an off-flavor. Because I know that my stock still has some residual fat, I make a point of using it promptly (to me, this means within 6 to 9 months) so that it doesn’t have a chance to develop a funky flavor.

prepped jar

While I’m painstakingly defatting my stock, I set up my pressure canner. I use a 16 quart Presto canner with a dial gauge that I like a great deal. It holds seven quarts or nine pints, fits on my comically small stove, and doesn’t take up TOO much storage space. I fill it with about three inches of warm tap water, set the jars in it and fill them with just enough warm water to prevent them from floating. I also pour about half a cup of white distilled vinegar into the water in the canning pot, to ensure that the jars don’t get covered in scum during processing. I drop the lids in alongside the jars and bring the whole mess to a simmer to warm things up.

Once the jars are hot and the stock is skimmed and just off a boil, fill ‘em up. You want to leave a generous inch of headspace. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and twist on the rings. Forget everything you know about applying canning jar rings and really twist them on tightly. The intensity of the canner has a habit of loosening them some during processing, so you want to compensate for that. Don’t worry, the oxygen in the jars will still be able to exit during the pressure canning process.

pouring stock into jars

Once all the jars are filled and are in the canner, lock the lid into place. Bring the pot up to a boil and let the steam vent for at least 10 minutes. You do this by running the pot without the pressure regulator in place. That’s the little black and metal hat that sits atop the vent shaft. The reason for this is that a canner that has been properly relieved of its oxygen through venting can reach a higher temperature than one that is full of good old O2. The higher the temperature, the more effectively the canner will kill any botulism spores present.

After you feel like the pot has been sufficiently vented, apply the pressure regulator and bring the pot up to pressure. Once it hits the correct pressure, adjust the heat so that you stay at that pressure. This can be a little tricky if you have a pokey electric stove like mine, because it certainly isn’t impossible. It just takes a little extra attention and learning how your stove adjusts. If your canner drops below the required pressure level at any point during the timed process, you have to start the time over again as soon as it comes back to the correct level.

full jars in canner

Stock of any stripe gets pressure canned at 11 pounds of pressure for 20 (pints) or 25 minutes (quarts) in a gauged canner and at 10 pounds in a weighted canner. The National Center for Home Food Preservation has all the details and they can be found here. And remember, if you live at higher elevations, make sure to adjust your pressure accordingly.

Once the time is up, you turn off the stove and leave the canner alone. If your burner stays hot for a long time, you can slide it to a cooler spot on the stove, but other than that, just let it sit. I like to give my canner two or three hours to cool before I even attempt to open it (it will take at least half an hour for the pressure drop enough for the canner to unlock). Often I will let it cool overnight, to ensure that the jars can cool and seal on their own time. When the jars are finally cool enough to handle, remove them from the pot, twist off the rings and give everything a good wash with warm, soapy water. Dry the jars and store them in a cool spot out of direct sunlight.

canner gauge

The last time I had my pressure canner checked, it ran true, which means that I don’t have to make any adjustments to my pressure during processing. Sometimes a gauge registers a higher or lower pressure when it’s actually at 10 or 11 pounds and so you have to do adjust your pressure point. That’s why it’s important to have your gauge checked yearly to ensure that you’re preserving safely.

Now, the reason the subtitle of this post is that while I’m talking about turkey stock in this post, this technique is one that can be used for all manner of flavorful stocks and broths. This time of year, we all tend to invest a bit more money in hams, big beef roasts, turkeys, and mountains of vegetables. There are always scraps and trimmings to be gleaned from these holiday meals that can be cooked down into gorgeous, rich liquids. Save that ham bone or the bone from that celebratory steak. If you don’t have the time for stock making now, stash those goodies in the freezer and make a project of it after the holidays are over. You’ll be happy you did.

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December Sponsors: Cuppow, Eat Boutique, New West KnifeWorks, Preserving Now, and The Clay Studio

Fusionwood 2.0 chef's knife

December landed just a few days ago and that means it’s time to mention and thank the current Food in Jars sponsors. These are the companies make it possible for me to spent time testing recipes, writing tutorials, and answering canning questions and I am grateful for their suppost.

In the top spot is Cuppow. They are the maker of the original mason jar travel mug topper and, more recently, of the BNTO. Many of their gift packs are on sale right now, if you were hoping to pick up a few as stocking stuffers.

Next up is Eat Boutiquean online magazine and market that discovers and celebrates the best small batch foods by boutique makers. They sell specialty gift boxes and regularly host tastings and pop-up markets. We recently collaborated on a box that features a few of my favorite preserve flavors, along with a signed copy of my book. It’s the perfect gift for the preserver in your life!

I’m happy to welcome new sponsor New West KnifeWorks. Based in Wyoming, they are makers of gorgeous, sturdy, crafted in the US kitchen knives. They are currently hosting a giveaway on their site for a 4-piece knife set, so click on over there to enter.

I’m also happy to welcome Preserving Now back! Operated by Lyn Deardorff, Preserving Now is both a website and school dedicated to helping people expand their canning and preserving skills. If you’re in the Atlanta area, make sure to check out her schedule of upcoming classes and events!

Back for another month is The Clay Studio. This Philadelphia-based non-profit was founded in 1974 and is dedicated to affirming the importance of the ceramic arts. They work to make clay an accessible medium to a broad range of people. They sell a number of pieces in their shop that are both lovely to look at and to hold. There’s plenty there that would make excellent holiday gifts!

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Giveaway: Wüsthof Classic 7 Inch Chinese Cleaver

Wusthof Classic 7" Chinese Cleaver

I firmly believe that it’s important to have the right knife for the job. Sure, you can get most of your kitchen work done with a sturdy chef’s knife, a good serrated bread slicer, and sharp little paring knife, but when you get into deeper chopping and mincing, it’s sometimes nice to have some serious slicing power at hand.

That’s where the Wüsthof Classic 7 Inch Chinese Cleaver comes it. It’s flies through piles of vegetables (good for all that holiday cooking), holds a wickedly sharp edge, and has a wide flat blade that is fabulous for smashing garlic. I also like to use the blunt edge for bruising herbs, lemongrass, and other general tenderizing tasks.

It’s a knife that takes a little getting used to if you’re more accustomed to working with a smaller blade, but once you get comfortable with it, you’ll find yourself reaching for it all the time.

the cleaver in action

Thanks the lovely people at Wüsthof, I have one of these fabulous Wüsthof Cleavers to give away to a Food in Jars reader. Here’s how to enter!

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me about the give you’re most looking forward to giving this holiday season.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Saturday, December 7, 2013. Winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday.
  3. Giveaway is open to US residents (apologies to my more far-flung readers).
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post. I do not accept submissions via email.

Disclosure: Wüsthof has provided both my review unit of the Wüsthof Classic 7 Inch Chinese Cleaver and the giveaway unit at no cost to me. However, my opinions remain entirely my own.

Links: Mincemeat, Harvest Crackers, and a Winner

Roasting garlic for a batch of mashed potatoes (my family's t-giving meal is today!).

I hope that everyone out there had a lovely Thanksgiving! Scott and I spent the actual holiday with his mom in Northern Virginia and then came back up to Philadelphia for a second celebratory meal with my extended family on Saturday night. My cousins sent me home with both turkey carcasses and I’ve been a machine for the last 24 hours, picking them apart, making stock, and running quart jars of finished stock through the pressure canner. It’s such satisfying preserving, because it is such a useful thing to have in the pantry.

Now, links!

Homemade Living with Ashley English

Thanks to everyone who took the time out of their busy pre-Thanksgiving days last week to enter the Ashley English Homemade Living series giveaway! The winner is #18, Chip in SC. He said, “I am thankful for my family and friends!” Chip, I feel the very same way.

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Giveaway: Ashley English’s Homemade Living Series

Homemade Living with Ashley English

I am sure that most of you are knee-deep in Thanksgiving lists and travel coordination this week, so I’m going to keep this giveaway post short and sweet. Thanks to Ashley English and the kind folks at Lark Crafts, I have one set of Ashley’s Homemade Living books to give away. This series includes Canning & Preserving, Home Dairy, Keeping Bees, Keeping Chickens.

These books are the perfect resource for those folks who want to delve deeper into an array of homestead-y arts. If you’re limited by space (like me) and can only dream about having property enough for a flock of chickens or a personal beehive, they also make excellent aspirational reading.

Homemade Living with Ashley English

Because Thanksgiving is nearly upon us, let’s focus on gratitude in the comments. I’ll go first. This year, I am exceedingly grateful for my family. I am deeply grateful for the amount of love in my life. And I am outrageously grateful for all of you who take the time to read these blog posts and make my recipes. Giant thanks to you all.

And now, in more organized fashion, the giveaway instructions.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share something for which you are grateful.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Saturday, November 30, 2013. Winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday.
  3. Giveaway is open to US residents (apologies to my more far-flung readers).
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post. I do not accept submissions via email.
Disclosure: The nice people at Lark Crafts are providing the books for this giveaway. My opinions remain my own and I received no compensation for this post. It’s here because I like Ashley and her work. 

Links: Pumpkin Syrup, Cranberries, and Winners

Looks like we're all set for copies of my book for tonight's talk at Temple!

I spent the end of last week feeling like I was on the verge of getting really sick. In response, I hunkered down, drank buckets of tea, and slept multiple 12 hour stretches. Happily, the worst of the crud never came, but I did fall behind in everything but my Scandal watching. We’re off to Scott’s mom’s house for Thanksgiving on Wednesday morning, so I’m trying to squeeze all my catching up into Monday and Tuesday. It’s probably not going to happen, but I’ll do my best.

Now, links!

Anolon Dutch Oven

anolon DO winner We had two giveaways come to their end last week. First was the Duralex giveaway sponsored by MightyNest that ended last Wednesday. The winner in that giveaway was selected through Rafflecopter and is Brenda McNamee Diggs.

The Anolon giveaway ended on Saturday night and the winner, selected by random.com, is Sarah (commenter #8). Thanks to everyone who took the time to enter! I’ll have  a Thanksgiving week giveaway up tomorrow, so stay tuned!

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