That’s right. This time of year, turkey is the best meat bargain you can find. Grocery stores use it as a loss leader to entice you to do all your holiday shopping at their store. With coupons and other special offers, you can get some really amazing deals on turkey this season. Your goal is to buy at least one extra turkey this month. Preferrably two or three.
I can hear you right now: “Three turkeys?!?! That’s just crazy. What on earth am I going to do with all that turkey?” We’ll never eat that much.” Well, I hope you do. Because turkey is not only a very healthy, but if you cook it and freeze it in portions or can it, it is a wonderful convenience food.
A 14 lb turkey can provide 10-15 meals for just less than $2-3 a meal. In our house we usually buy four or five extra turkeys. I can 1-2 of the turkeys and the remaining birds are cooked and broken down for future meals.
Cooked frozen turkey is good for at least 6 months. Canned turkey is good for 1-2+ years.
Now I hear you saying “Canned turkey?!?! You really ARE crazy!” Yes, well, I probably am, but that’s besides the point. Canning turkey really is not at all difficult. The prep time will take you about 40-60 minutes (depending on how big the turkey is and how practiced you are at canning) and will reward you with a couple dozen almost-ready-to-eat meals for just a few dollars.
Now I don’t expect you to can turkeys right in the middle of the holiday season (I’m not THAT crazy!). Just put them in your freezer or if you don’t have room and you live in the cold north, they’ll stay frozen outside during the winter months. Just put a laundry basket or a blanket over them to protect them from curious animals. In January or February, after the holiday rush is over and you have a couple quiet days, plan to thaw and can those turkeys. Here is a post with additional information on canning turkey and choosing a pressure canner.
You don’t have to can
If you don’t want to can the turkeys, you can roast the turkey in the oven. When it has cooled, take all the meat off the bones and divide into 1–2 pound portions (depending on the recipes you will use and
your family size.) Put the portions into baggies and store in the freezer. You will use this in soups, sandwiches and casseroles.
After getting all the meat off the bones, break the bones up and put them into a stock pot along with the neck, heart and gizzard. Bring this to a boil and then turn down the heat and simmer for 6-8 hours. Or put into a crock pot and simmer overnight.
A long simmer like this will release all the nutrients of the marrow and cartilage and makes a wonderful, nourishing broth. Use this broth as the base for another 3-4 meals. You can increase the nutrition of the broth
by adding onion, garlic, carrots, celery or any other vegetables. This long simmer will also help you get the last remnants of meat off the bones, especially the wings, back and neck where there is often a lot of meat that otherwise goes to waste. That will give you another 1-2 meals.
Be sure to check out my turkey cookbook. This cook booklet is designed to help you make the most of this economic protein and find creative uses for turkey. If nothing else, I hope you will try the Wild Rice Dijon Turkey Soup. It is a wonderfully tasty soup that has become our family’s favorite. I hope it will be for yours as well.