Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman


I’ve posted this before and I’m posting it again earlier this year. Thanksgiving is two weeks from this Thursday so if you have time, make some fresh turkey stock now and freeze it, or make it up to five or six days before Thanksgiving. It may be the most critical element of the Thanksgiving meal—the basis for a great gravy, of course, but it can also moisten the dressing and be used to keep the quick-to-cool sliced breast hot and moist.

To make the stock I roast drumsticks, wings, and necks. (I read in the Times that the venerable Jacques Pépin picks the meat off the neck of the turkey and adds it to the gravy. I might try that this year.) Roasting them will give your stock a nice flavor. All that golden-brown roasted skin above? Equals flavor.

I take enough meat off the drumstick for dinner on the day I make Thanksgiving stock, then throw the bones into the biggest pot I own, and put it in a low oven overnight (or leave it on low on the stovetop; just be sure it’s not simmering). The following day, I remove the bones (12 hours in hot but not simmering water does the trick!), add the vegetables and aromatics, and cook them, again without a bubble but with the pot too hot to hold your hand against, for another couple of hours. I then strain the stock through a basket strainer and, because it’s cold here, I’ll chill it outside, remove the fat, then strain it through one of my reusable All-Strain straining cloths, so that it’s very clean on the palate.

I’ll taste it. I may reduce it further but usually it’s pretty good by now. If I happen to have some veal stock on hand, which I do, I’ll add that because veal stock puts everything over the top.

I’m unaccountably lucky to be able to work from home, so this is easy for me to do any day to freeze and transport to the Hudson Valley, where we spend Thanksgiving with Donna’s family. But the weekend will be here before you know it, so if you plan ahead, this weekend or next, or whenever your weekend happens to be, pick up some turkey bones and roast them, then cover them with water and put them in an oven at 200°F or below overnight. That’s how great gravy begins, from the stock that is also an all-purpose player on the Thanksgiving table.

Easy Turkey Stock

Yield: 2 quarts stock

  • 2 large turkey drumsticks
  • 2 large turkey wings
  • 2 Spanish onion, sliced
  • 4 carrots, cut in pieces
  • 4 celery ribs, cut in pieces
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon peppercorns, cracked beneath a pan or with a mortar and pestle
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • fresh parsley and thyme (optional)
  1. Roast the turkey pieces (you should have 5–6 pounds/2–3 kilos) in a hot oven, 425°F/218°C at least, till it looks delicious. Scatter the onion, carrot, and celery in the same pan, and take them out when you take out the turkey. Don’t let the veg burn. (You can cut the meat off the bones for dinner if you wish; but the meat will add lots of flavor to the stock.)
  2. Put the turkey bones in a big pot and cover them completely with water, 3–4 quarts/liters, and put the pot over high heat. Turn your oven to 180°–200°F/80°–90°C. When the water comes to a simmer, put the pot in the oven for 8 hours or overnight.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients (if you don’t have enough room, remove the turkey bones—they will have cooked out by now). Bring to a simmer, then reduce the temperature to low and cook for another hour or so. Strain into a clean pot. Cool, then refrigerate.
  4. Reserve any fat that’s congealed on top for the roux on Thanksgiving day. Reduce the stock to 1 1/2 to 2 quarts/liters if it’s not already at that level.


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© 2014 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2014 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.