Ever since I slaughtered my own chickens I feel a much greater desire to not waste anything on an animal. Ever since starting a vegetable garden I feel bad about any part of the plant being wasted. My guilt about slimy vegetables at the bottom of the crisper is definitely magnified now that I have a connection to the energy and time it takes to grow those plants. A few years ago I heard that your average person wastes about 30% of the food that is brought into their homes. That's kind of an enormous figure. And I hate to be a total cliche, but with all the starving people out there, and all the problems caused by modern agriculture/food production/etc… I just see the effort to not waste any of our food as being one of the very simple and necessary acts of stewardship that each of us should employ.
I am happy to say that we waste almost nothing- it all goes into our bellies, or it goes to the chickens, and beyond that- into the compost to be used again. Closed loop. The only thing I have yet to do is compost bones, but I just learned that the old advice to keep meat/dairy/bones out of the compost pile is a myth. Apparently, when you are actively composting (meaning the pile gets hot and has the right mix of water/air/materials), these components hardly pose a threat. So, bones are going in from now on, or at the very least getting buried around the yard.
My point is, this is a subject I feel pretty strongly about. I believe that every household should have a compost pile. If anyone feels daunted by this task, or thinks this is something they couldn't do, please write me a comment. I would be happy to write a post that outlines the hows and whys of composting and tackle any questions you might have. It's just one of the simplest ways we can give back, and as a species that just takes and takes… I think doing what we can to give back is imperative.
Back to the food, yes? Turkey. This year I found myself really working to use all of this animal. First step: turkey stock.
I got the bones from one of our Thanksgiving celebrations, and that made about 10 quarts of stock. Then I cooked my own turkey up for a dinner with my family and that made about 9 quarts of stock, not including the few quarts I put directly in the fridge to use for soups that week.
After I had made stock, I was left with cooked meat that I divided up into two containers. One was for the "good" meat that I would use in sandwiches and soup, and the other for everything else. This included all the skin, organs (including liver, which is a challenge for me), and little bits of meat that just seemed less savory. There was a lot, and I really picked it clean. Big birds, those turkeys.
The plan? Turkey meatballs. I ground up all of it in my food processor until it looked a lot like tuna salad. I added breadcrumbs, eggs and spices, rolled them into balls, and baked them up on cookie sheets.
While those were cooking I took the last window ripened tomatoes (they were looking pretty sad and wrinkly) along with an onion, some garlic, and spices. I roasted that for a while, then put it all in the food processor. I have to say, it felt pretty great to have the last of my homegrown tomatoes at the end of November.
Finished product- turkey meatballs with a fresh homegrown tomato sauce on top of cheesy polenta. It was totally delicious (I couldn't even taste the liver!), and I feel good knowing that I used every last scrap of meat from that animal.
The kiddos definitely approved.
I also made a turkey and vegetable soup that was lovely- made with the stock and lots of homegrown veggies (including green beans, kale, parsnips, carrots). I froze 4 quarts of this soup for easy meals in the future.
There were many leftover meatballs, too, so they turned into a saucy Italian style soup. Again, I froze 4 quarts for use over the winter.
With just a little extra effort I managed to squeeze at least a dozen extra family-sized meals out of those birds. Not to mention all the turkey stock.
Thank you, turkey.