A Dozen Meals from One Thanksgiving Turkey

edenWe paid a ridiculous (by typical standards) amount for our 18 pound turkey this year–a locally grown, raised outside, antibiotic and hormone-free and probably pretty happy turkey up until the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  I didn’t take any pictures of it, because I was too busy taking pictures of my granddaughters–like this one of Eden. ($81 if you are still stuck on the ridiculous amount point). I could have gotten a turkey for free at Fred Meyer if I spent something like $150 on other groceries. Paying for our turkey keeps me mindful of actual costs to eat good meat from an animal that has been raised humanely and treated well from birth to death. So it feels right that it should cost me something. Besides, if we’d taken just part of our family out for dinner on Thanksgiving, we would have spent a lot more than $80, plus the $25 or so I spent at the grocery store.

But it also means I’m taking full advantage of the meals offered by the bird who died so that we could eat a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Here’s what I’ve done so far, and what I plan to do. I’ve estimated the servings we’ll get from this turkey–which will be at least 40, making the cost of these meals no more than $2/serving, which is pretty reasonable, after all.

Meal One: Thanksgiving Feast (serving eight meat-eaters):

I brined the turkey (new for me this year), and can’t imagine not always choosing to do so in the future. Our turkey came with brining spices and directions, and Martha Stewart offers all the necessary directions. The meat was delicious.

Meals Two-Four: Thanksgiving Left-overs (serving another 8)left

We sent home turkey with the two of our three daughters and their families who eat meat, and tonight will enjoy the traditional left-over feast since I have some of just about everything, including Rae’s Sweet Potato/Carrot Casserole, Megan Anna’s mashed potatoes, the Hazelnut Mushroom Sage Butter Dressing I made (recipe forthcoming), and two pieces of Sarah’s pumpkin pie.

Meal Five: Turkey Noodle Soup (Serves 6)

This soup sounds particularly good to me right now as I’m wrestling with a Nasty Cold. I’ll make it like the classic Chicken Noodle Soup–a broth soup, heavy on noodles, and light on turkey, carrots, onions, celery. It’s so simple I’ll tell you how to make it here: Heat 2 quarts of broth (see meal 11 below for how to get great broth from your turkey) along with 2 chopped carrots, 2 stalks of celery, 1 small chopped onion and parsley if you have it (dried or fresh) and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer. Once the vegetables are tender (20 minutes or so), taste the broth and add salt and pepper to taste. Turn up the heat a bit and add 1 c. of chopped turkey pieces and egg noodles (between 1/2-1 c.). I like thick short egg noodles, though any will do. If you want your soup a bit thicker, mix 1 Tbsp. of flour with 1/2 c. of broth to make a paste, and then stir into the soup along with the turkey and noodles. Cook another 10 minutes. Enjoy.

Meal Six: Hot turkey sandwiches (for two)

Lay warmed slices of turkey on toasted bread (a rye bread would be delicious) and spoon heated up left-over gravy over the top. Serve with a bit of cranberry sauce on the side.

Meal Seven: Turkey Pot Pie (serves six to eight)

I’m looking forward to this already. I recently made a root vegetable pot pie that used cornmeal biscuits on the top rather than a pie crust on the bottom.  Either way, it will be delicious. Here’s The Pioneer Woman’s turkey pot pie recipe, which is similar to what I’ll do.

Meals Eight-Ten: Turkey Curry–for example (Serves 6 or more)

Today I took turkey I knew we wouldn’t eat this week and froze it in baggies–1 1/2-2 c. per bag. I froze three today, and I’ll add another if we don’t use all I’ve kept out. We’ll have creamed turkey, use it in curries, stews, and enchiladas. The possibilities are endless.

Meals Eleven +: Turkey Stock

stockThe turkey’s carcass stewed its way into an aromatic and beautiful stock this morning. Mark and I taste tested it after three hours, and it is delicious. To make stock: take all the meat you want off the carcass and then put the carcass in a stock pot and cover with cold water. (The flavor and nutrients of the vegetables and meat will get transferred to the stock, so plan to throw the vegetables and meat out afterwards.) Add one quartered onion, a couple carrots, a couple stalks of celery, a handful of parsley, and just a bit of salt and pepper. Bring to a near-boil and reduce heat and simmer for 3 hours. Remove the bones and pour stock through a colander. If you want a clearer stock, pour it again through cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer. Set outside (if it’s nice and cold) or in the fridge to cool enough for the fat separate and harden a bit. Remove some, most, or all the visible fat. If freezing, put your now wonderfully gelatinous stock into clean glass jars leaving 1 1/2″ headspace and freeze before capping with a lid. This will prevent the kind of stock expansion that cracks jars. If you are pressure canning the stock, heat it up again and pour into hot clean jars. Cap and pressure can for 25 minutes at 11 pounds of pressure.

Optional Meal Twelve: Feed Carnivorous Critters (serves ?)

I took our carcass out to the forest and left it as a gift for various critters that will appreciate it on a cold late November day. Granted, they may well have preferred it came to them raw, but I have no doubt it will be consumed. You do NOT want to put this in your compost pile, as it will attract rats and mice to your pile, who will happily nest there if you encourage them.

So, in the end the whole turkey will get used efficiently and well, feeding lots of people, and a few critters besides. That seems right and good.

Grandpa Mark reading to Auden, Eden, and Juniper on Thanksgiving Day

Grandpa Mark reading to Auden, Eden, and Juniper on Thanksgiving Day


  • So I had this giant pot of broth/stock that I made (more broth than stock) and after I filled every glass jar in the house, I still had some left over. And then I did something BRILLIANT. I filled a couple of ice cube trays with the rest and froze them, and now I have these wonderful individual servings of broth that I can throw in with beans or whenever I need to add a little flavor to something but don’t want to thaw a whole 8-16 ounces. I was really impressed with myself.

    • Yes–be impressed with yourself! And it is a brilliance with many uses. I freeze tomato paste, tomato juice, OJ, apple juice… cubes of wonder and convenience!

  • Cubes of Wonder! That’s our next book!

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