Among the gifts I received this past Christmas was one turkey carcass, courtesy of my virtually vegetarian father, who, due to his dietary choices, would have little use for it after our holiday dinner.
My plan was to use its remnants to make soup.
I had never made turkey soup before, but it had long been one of my favourite post-Christmas treats, and besides, how hard could it be?
Having no experience, I consulted the person whose soup I’d been eating all my life — my mother. I caught her in the midst of making her own soup so the recipe was fresh in her mind. Armed with knowledge gleaned from her decades of soup making, and a bottle of poultry seasoning, I was ready to get cooking.
Making turkey soup is surprisingly time consuming. I knew that it would need to spend hours on the boil, but I was struck by how long it took to de-meat the carcass, and in the process discovered places that I had no idea actually contained edible bits.
Into the pot went the bones and skin and it wasn’t long before the recognizable smell of turkey soup was emanating from my kitchen, whetting my appetite for what was to come.
When I was satisfied that there was no more boiling to be done I took it off the heat and prepared to remove the non-soupworthy material.
This was a thoroughly unpleasant task.
Aside from the bones and bits of skin there were random globs of gelatinous ooze that made me wonder if turkeys were actually earthly creatures or some form of alien life (albeit a tasty one).
Upon my mother’s advice, and given the late hour, the pot made its way into the fridge for the night.
When I came back to it the next day I realized I forgot to buy barley, which necessitated a trip to the store. After not finding it initially, I asked a stock boy, who asked another, who asked another and in all three cases their responses were the same: “Barley? The spice?”
In spite of their help I got what I needed and went back to my cooking.
Before turning up the heat again and adding the extra turkey meat, I skimmed off the layer of gloopy, greeny-yellow fat from the top of the pot — a job that was only slightly more pleasant than playing “find the ooze” the night before.
I turned my attention to the veggies, including an inscrutable wax-covered turnip which took several minutes of puzzling before I figured out a way to get at the edible bits. It was also so hard that I developed blisters on my right index finger from pressing down so forcefully on the knife.
Into the roiling soup caldron they went, followed an hour later by the barley and spices.
Finally it was finished and without waiting for it to cool down to eating temperature I ladled out myself a big bowlful, which led to another big bowlful and then another. I guess you could say that I was pleased with my handiwork.
A little too pleased perhaps as I was so full of soup that it felt like I’d eaten the whole thing, pot and all.
— Gordon Cameron is Group Managing Editor for Hamilton Community News.