After Thanksgiving, I do as many other Americans do and cook up a nice big pot of turkey soup, the problem is, I still have 4 quarts canned up from last year since I seem to be the only one in the house who eats it (crazy right?!). Certainly I could have canned up more, but since I don’t own a pressure cooker this would have required me to borrow one from a friend again or go out and buy one, alternatively I could have just separated it out into quart size freezer bags and tossed in the freezer, but things tend to get shoved to the back and forgotten in there, plus it takes up space for things that need to be in the freezer, like ice cream (ice cream will beat turkey soup every day of the week). I hate to waste food (or anything for that matter) so I was determined to find a new method to preserve my turkey soup long-term, the answer was dehydration.
“Dehydrated soup! Are you f’in nuts?” Well yes I am but I thought the same at first, it turns out, I will do this again and again over pressure canning the stuff. The key to making this work is to keep your soup simple. When I make turkey soup, the ingredients are turkey, water, and some spices like salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder…simple. I do this is because I have a very picky family when it comes to eating and it allows for each of us to do as we wish with our soup. I like to toss in pasta and spinach, my wife does not like the pasta. A side benefit of this is I can easily separate broth from meat and not have vegetables mixed into the meat which require different dehydrating times. When all is said and done, in the end you will have dehydrated broth and turkey, (and any other additional dehydrated ingredients you’d like) that keep well dry on a shelf in the cabinets in a glass jar or ziplok bag and I’d imagine would keep even longer vacuum sealed.
So here’s how its done:
- Buy and cook a big turkey. Deep fry that baby and have a fantastic meal.
- Toss the carcass into a pot and fill with water but use half the amount of water you would normally use. Add in salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper whatever spices you want to your liking. Cover and cook on high until boiling, let it boil for an hour or so then reduce heat and uncover, then let simmer for another couple hours.
- Remove the pot from the heat and grab another container large enough to hold all the broth and capable of withstanding the heat.
- Set a strainer over the empty container and pour your soup through it to separate meat and broth.
- Throw your pot of broth into the fridge for a few hours, the goal here is to let the fat settle to the top and harden so it can be easily removed.
- After your meat cools, start to pick through and remove meat (shredding it using your fingers as you go) from bones, skin and other undesirables you may encounter. Keep the meat, toss the rest.
- Spread the meat out on your dehydrator, but since the meat is shredded and will shrink during the dehydrating process, be sure to use liners (saran wrap works too) on the trays so it doesn’t fall through. Dehydrate the meat for about 6 hours or until completely dry and brittle. When done place in a glass bowl to cool, then its safe to put into a sealed container.
- Remove your broth from the fridge once the fat has solidified, and use a ladle to remove ALL the fat from the top. Be generous in removing and don’t worry about taking some broth out with it. Toss the fat unless you want to use it for something else, and then return your broth to heat, bring to a boil uncovered and then let simmer pretty much all day until you have only about a half inch of broth left in the pot.
- Once you have boiled off 95% of the water, kill the heat and let it sit uncovered to cool, water will continue to evaporate while it cools and you should be left with a gelatinous blob of concentrated broth. Line your dehydrator trays and scoop the gelatinous goo onto the trays and spread it out as evenly as you can. Dehydrate this stuff overnight, in the morning it should be somewhat hard (if not just let it keep going until it is, not a lot of science to this) but don’t be fooled it’s not ready yet. Place the hardened broth into your blender ( I used one of those Magic Bullets) and grind it down to a powder, then return to the dehydrator for a couple of hours to complete drying.
- You are done! You now have dehydrated turkey soup. 1 tablespoon of the dried broth will equal about 1 cup of broth, adjust to your taste as you see fit. I put about a tablespoon and a half into a ziplock back and then tossed in a handful of the dried meat along with some other dehydrated vegetables (cherry tomatoes, carrots, onions), then squeezed out the air and tossed into a cabinet. It has kept well there and I ended up keeping some in my desk drawer at work to have on hand for lunch (which I ate while writing this today, photos below).
To prepare, just add a cup of hot water cover and let sit for 5-7 minutes. Using only the hot water dispenser in my office is enough to get the job done, out in the woods, I heat the water with everything in it, bring to a boil then remove from heat and let it sit for 5 minutes.
I like to add pasta to my soup to make it more filling. Through a little experimentation I have learned that it’s worthwhile to cook pasta as you normally would, then dehydrate it to make dry again. Sounds stupid to take something dry and make it wet only to dry it again but this will give you better taste in your soup by not having the starchy water created by cooking pasta in your broth, and also speeds up cooking time, your pasta is already cooked so only needs to rehydrate, the cooking times referenced above are what I used for my soup which did have pasta in it.
The process of dehydrating turkey soup is pretty easy but it is time consuming to get it done although it is just time you need to be present, not actual hands on time. I would estimate I put about 25 minutes of having to do anything most of which was pulling the meat off the bones. I have found the finished product is almost just as good as when it was fresh in the pot and is perfect to take backpacking with flavor that beats the store bought dehydrated meals. Give it a try and don’t be afraid to experiment a little bit.