Mike’s Annual Turkey Leek Soup

Many traditions, I think, are the result of an unlikely mix of circumstance, inspiration and serendipity that weaves itself into a Mobius strip long enough to become entrenched.

BonesWhen my extended family decided to make Christmas dinner a potluck, sharing the duties while preserving the family favorite recipes, the turkey prep fell to me. As a result, I was left with the puzzle of how to cope with the annual leftovers from a large turkey after twenty folks had had their way with it.

I’m not exactly sure how the idea for this soup came into being, but I decided to invent a soup recipe, for good or ill. While it has been adjusted over the years, it’s remarkable how little it’s changed.

So, the day after the feast, I break out the pots (including my prized soup pot – a gift from Tim and Marlene) and get to it.

Step 1 – Boil ‘dem Bones

Separate the meat from the bird and break apart the bones and carcass. Stuff the bones, stuffing, fat and skin into a large soup pot… top up with water and bring to a boil, then simmer for an hour or two, adding water as the level drops.

StockStep 2 – Strain the Broth

Get out another large pot, roughly half the size of your big one, a large strainer and the roasting pan for the turkey. Remove the large bones and detritus with a slotted spoon into the roasting pan. Strain the remaining liquid + stuff into the second pot.

Dump the strainer sludge into the roasting pan and let it drain a bit. Tilt the roasting pan and ladle any broth into the second pot. Now dispose of the bones and wash your big pot, strainer and stuff.

One thing about this project – there’s no shortage of washing up – and unless you’ve got a big kitchen, you’ll have to manage your space.

Split the broth between your two pots, and dilute with water about 1.5 to one – in this case, I have 4+6 cups in one pot, and 12+18 in the other – one pot being about 3 times the size of the other.

IngredientsStep 3 – Assemble the Troops!

Get the diluted broth boiling, and while you wait, get slicing, woot!

3 bunches of leeks
1 bunch of celery
1 bag of pearl barley
1.5 bags of red kidney beans
1 bag of red lentils
1 bag of green lentils

The wine is for the cook, jus’ sayin’.

Step 4 – Simmer and Spice

Once the broth is gently boiling, split the ingredients roughly 3-1 between the pots, as per the ratio of liquid in each pot – roughly:

Soup in Pots3/1 quarts of sliced leeks
1/.33 quarts sliced celery
3/1 cups red kidney beans
2/.8 cups pearl barley
2/.8 cups red lentils
2/.8 cups green lentils

This will be a concentrate, so I add spices liberally: generally a LOT of Sage, Thyme, Black Pepper, some Basil, a smattering of Marjoram and Nutmeg. It should be pretty intense tasting, so err on the side of strong. I don’t add salt when I cook the soup – it’s easy to add it when it’s served, and people’s taste on salt concentrations vary considerably.

Let simmer for 30, 40 minutes on low heat to cook the spices through and let the barley absorb the water. Watch it carefully – the volume will expand as the barley absorbs, and stir it often to keep the bottom of the pot from burning.

Dice the turkey you pulled off the bird into 1/4 inch chunks or so while it simmers. Once the barley and lentils are soft, add the diced turkey – this year I added 6/2 cups of diced turkey. Let the turkey warm through and then turn off the heat and let it cool, in preparation for bagging.Bagged Soup

Step 5 – It’s in the Bag

After the concentrate (aka turkey soup sludge) has cooled, you can ladle it into bags for freezing.

I put about 3 ladle’s worth into a medium double lock Ziploc freezer bag – it’ll make about 6 cups of soup, when served, per bag.

This year’s yield was 18 bags (or about 108 bowls of soup). Chow doown!


Photography on this blog was done using my new Galaxy Nexus phone – an experiment. Not bad, but there’s a reason pro photographers don’t shoot with their phone, lol.