I'll start by saying I hate the word "carcass." It conjures images of road kill and vultures and grinning rotted skulls. However, it seemed to be accepted terminology for what's left over after a roasted bird is picked of its choice meat, so I'll use the word. Even though it makes me... Ew.
I've read many articles on stock-making. Everyone has an opinion. People will wax poetic about aromatics, clarity, "fouling" the stock by stirring or boiling or *gasp* putting in the wrong part of a vegetable, or breaking the bones. Entire litanies abound, and you could truly scare yourself right out of making one of the easiest, most magically rewarding things to ever come out of your kitchen if you let THEM get in your head.
Don't let THEM get in your head.
If you can roast a bird, you can make stock. Heck, even if you can't roast a bird: say it came out overdone, underdone, or you just picked up a rotisserie bird at the store; you can still make this poultry-infused liqueur of the gods.
The beauty part? You don't even need to dirty another pan. You're welcome.
So, here goes: your bird (one turkey or two chickens) is picked mostly clean. Save those parts-es that no one wants: skin, bones, fat, wingtips, neck, gizzards. If you didn't use the drippings from your bird for gravy, pour those in too. Just leave out the liver - it's mushy and too bitter. Hack the carcass up Dexter-style so it'll fit back in your roaster pan. I just use an el cheapo Granite Ware turkey-sized roaster: you know, the porcelain-on-steel one your mom had, and your grandma, and your great-grandma... Probably blue with white speckles. Throw all those beautiful bird parts back in the roaster.
Now here's where you can get a little fancy. Or not. Your stock, your choice.
I like my stock really golden-brown. To me it tastes richer. But hey, some don't. No matter what, this isn't going to be the neon-yellow broth you get from bullion or a can, but if you wanna kick it up a flavoriffic notch, roast those bones at 400 degrees for about 20 min. They'll turn brown and start to smell amazing.
Or just skip the roasting.
Either way, the next step is to throw some aromatics in there. Now some will cry "BLASPHEMY!!!" because they think cooking the aromatics overnight "dulls" them and leads to "one-dimensional" stock. And hey, they're probably right. But I'm no stock connoisseur and I'm not trying to win $10,000 on Chopped. "Multi-dimensional" or not, this stuff is from a totally different dimension than store bought cans, cartons, or cubes. It's not gonna taste anything other than amazing.
THEY would wait to add the aromatics until an hour before the stock is done. That's great, but I'm not giving up an hour of beauty sleep to get up and add aromatics. So unless THEY are swinging by at 5am to do this for me, I'll be adding my aromatics with everything else.
Toss in an onion, cut in half or quarters, skin on is fine. You'll be straining it all later. Break a couple celery stalks into 3 or 4 pieces and chuck 'em in there. Also a couple handfuls of baby carrots or two regular carrots broken into a few pieces. Throw in a bay leaf if you like... it's not the end of the world if you don't have one. If you have other root veggies you like, add them too! I hear parsnips are good. Some people like parsley or even a bouquet garni, and that's probably where adding late in cooking would pay off the most. Me? If I want that stuff I'll add it when I use the finished product. Same for salt: add it when you use the stock for it's final purpose. You don't want over-salty stock.
Once you've got it all in there, just pour cold water over it all. If you're feeling fancy, use filtered stuff. Heck, use Evian if you want - it's your baby. Barely cover everything with water. Then stick the pan back in the oven - woah there, partner! First turn it WAAAY down. 180 degrees. You don't want this goodness boiling (refer to above: "fouling")... THEY actually have an important point here: boiling all night will break your bones and veggies down to mush.
Now walk away. You heard me. No skimming or pot-watching required. Go watch tv or fold laundry or whatever you need to do. This magic is gonna take all night. How long? I don't know - 8 hours, 12 hours... How long do you sleep? You're not gonna screw it up unless you totally forget about it for, like, 24 hours or something.
Before you go to bed, take a little peek at your love-child. At this point I like to tuck the little snookums in (cover with the roaster lid or foil), but you don't have to. It depends on how concentrated and brown you want your stock. When I use a cover, I tend to end up with a little under a gallon of stock. Without covering, more like a quart and a half or so.
In the morning your house will smell incredible. Pull out your pan and strain that liquid gold! I use a fine mesh strainer, but if you're super picky you can line the strainer with a couple layers of cheesecloth and it will catch any bits. I'm not a person who tends to have cheesecloth just sitting around, but maybe you are (I want to be like you when I grow up!). Either way, cover your container of goodness with plastic wrap or a lid or whatever, stick it in the fridge, and carry on with your day.
When you're ready to use, scrape off the fat layer and either set it aside for another use (it's delicious) or discard. You're left with what should look like chicken or turkey jello. That's from all the glorious gelatin from the bones, and it's gonna make this stock unbelievably silky. It comes from the super-slow cooking... Take that, store-bought stock!
Now, just use or freeze. If I don't blow the whole wad on chicken and dumplings (my family's favorite), I'll freeze some. I like ziplock freezer bags for this, but fancy/rich people with way more freezer space than me like to use glass jars. If you do, leave an inch of headspace for expansion during freezing (science!). Or you could put in ice cube trays and transfer the cubes to a baggie when frozen. Then you can pull out 1 or 2 or a few for finishing a sauce or something.
Look at you! You just made stock! You'll never look at a carcass the same way, now, will ya?
P is for Plodding - These days I seem have more to say than I do time to say it. Or in this case write it. It's been a busy hectic summer and fall, but I think the one normal ...