The countdown begins and the pressure is on—or at least it should be. Say what? Thanksgiving is the Holy Grail of family dinners where many of us go all out to make sure we serve the very best to our loved ones. Whether your favorite part of the meal is the stuffing, the sweet potato casserole, or the bird itself, one thing is for sure, the gravy better be damn good because it is such a key player in the overall success of the holiday repast. So I’m going to put the pressure on… with a pressure cooker that is!
To save time, many people just add boiling water to a regular stock cube, which is fine for convenience, but lacks any depth of flavor, and it’s likely that you will be left with a very salty liquid, which does not compare to a proper homemade tasty stock. Or perhaps you just open a jarred, store-bought gravy and toss in some pan drippings and call it a day. Trust me, I’ve been guilty of doing both of these options in the past…
Nowadays, we start from scratch and make homemade stock, which is an easier process and less time consuming because we own a pressure cooker. It speeds the process up quite a bit, and helps seal in flavor that otherwise boils off into the air as the stock simmers and steams.
What is the difference between stock and broth? For the purpose of this blog, they are the same thing. You can make stock out of just about any animal bones by simmering them in a pot with water and aromatics, which are the veggies, herbs and spices that you add to flavor your broth.
Since we’re talking turkey, start with around 4 pounds of turkey backs, wings and/or necks. We got ours from the Newtown Farmer’s Market when we put in our order for the T-day bird. And to obtain maximum flavor from the parts, hack them down with a meat cleaver into smaller pieces. This way when you brown them, all of the flavor from the bones seep out into the pot. The nutrition comes in part from the aromatics, but the biggest healing factor in stock is the minerals, collagen and gelatin that is leached from the bones.
A very basic stock is a pretty simple affair: it’s made with water, poultry, aromatic vegetables like onion, carrot, and garlic, and then herbs. The exact ingredients are up to the cook. If you don’t have access to fresh herbs you can use a large pinch of dried instead. You can also get creative! Use whatever root veggies or herbs that you have on hand and like the flavor of. The following ingredients are just what we used.
Once you learn how to make fresh stock, you’ll be hooked for life. So go forth with confidence and use your stock to make the bestest turkey gravy ever!
Russ chops down the turkey parts into approximately 4″ pieces.
The unpeeled veggies are also cut down to smaller pieces, and the garlic cloves are smashed.
- 4 pounds turkey backs, necks, and wings
- 2 large onions, unpeeled and quartered
- 3-4 carrots, unpeeled and cut in chunks
- 4 ribs celery, cut in chunks
- 10 sprigs fresh thyme
- 10 sprigs fresh parsley with stems
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 10-12 whole cloves garlic, peels left on
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 10 cups cold water (or up to the line in your pressure cooker)
Brown turkey parts in batches in a little oil in the bottom of the pressure cooker.
Pile the browned poultry parts onto a plate as you finish each batch.
After scraping up browned bits with a little wine and a wooden spatula, add all of the ingredients and water.
- Brown the turkey parts: Heat the oil in the pot of your pressure cooker over medium heat. Add the raw turkey in a single layer and cook until lightly golden on all sides. All the poultry may not fit into the pot, so remove pieces as they are done, replacing them with a fresh raw piece. Note: You are not trying to cook the turkey all the way through; you are just browning the skin. You do not have to brown an already cooked bird, such as leftovers from a carcass.
- Brown the onion (optional): As you remove the browned chicken pieces from the pot, replace them with the onion quarters to brown them slightly. Adjust the heat to avoid burning any bits left on the bottom of the pot. Again, you do not want to cook the onions all the way through but just brown them. Remove from pot.
- Add the wine: With a wooden spatula, scrape up from bottom of pot any browned bits left from the bird parts and onion. (You could just use water if you don’t have wine.)
- Add the remaining aromatics and water: Add the browned turkey and onion, garlic, carrots, celery, salt, peppercorns, herbs and bay leaves. Then add remaining water up to the liquid limit line.
- Pressure-cook the stock: Cover and secure the lid. Raise the heat to high and bring the pot up to full pressure. This may take about 15 minutes. When your pot indicates that it’s at full pressure, lower the heat to maintain pressure and start timing. Cook for 45 minutes.
- Naturally release the pressure: After 45 minutes, turn off the burner and allow the pot to release pressure naturally. This will take about 15 minutes.
- Strain the stock: Place the sieve or colander over a large bowl and line with cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer. Carefully ladle the stock into the colander and strain. Discard the solids.
- Cool and place in refrigerator overnight. Remove solidified fat from surface of liquid and store in container with lid in refrigerator for 2 to 3 days or in freezer for up to 3 months. Prior to use, bring to boil for 2 minutes. Use as a base for soups, sauces and gravies.
This is what the stock looks like after it cooks and before you strain off the solids.
The strained stock cools before it goes into the refrigerator.
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