This is the time of year when folks tend to get together to share warm wishes and piles of food. I tend to be a fan of both of those things, and would bet my paycheck that the rest of my BCP family is as well. Unfortunately, the most popular meats served at this time of year are expensive and frequently have unnecessary amounts of waste, due to difficulty removing it from bones. There is a very simple solution to this problem, however, and it requires nothing more complex than a large pot and a few hours of time.
Boiling down meat for soup is a classic way to make the most of your food dollars. It is (or at least was) so prevalent that you can ask your butcher for soup bones year round. Soup from bones provides a rich flavor that is hard to match otherwise, and it also works with virtually any meat. Every year after Thanksgiving, I cook down the turkey carcass, and my mom was an artist with ham bones when I was a kid.
For a turkey, I use a 3 gallon stock pot. The bird doesn't fit completely at first, but it will as it breaks down. Smaller bones, such as beef or pork, can also be cooked in a slow cooker.
- With your leftover meat in the pot, add enough water to cover the whole lot if possible, but not so much that it will boil over.
- Cover your pot and set it to boil. (I like to season my soup at this point, but this can also be done before you serve it.)
- Let your pot boil until the meat separates and falls from the bone. This may take a few hours. Check on it occasionally, adding water as needed.
- When the meat has fallen off the bone, you'll need to remove the bones from the pot. I use a slotted spoon for this, and simply remove all of the meat and bone. I then separate them, returning the meat to the pot and discarding the bone.
- At this point, you can either add vegetables and other ingredients and serve immediately, or you can portion out and refrigerate or freeze your soup for later. A large turkey ends up making me about 2 gallons of rich, hearty soup. A beef or pork roast could make nearly a gallon.
Dollars always seem to need streching this time of year, and this is a tasty way to do it.