One of the tasks my mother insisted every woman should know was how to cut up a chicken. Our Sunday dinner was frequently chicken that had been bought from a farmer on Saturday. Often it still had pin feathers to be plucked out and then it would be singed over the open flame of the gas stove (little hairs were sometimes abundant on the wings) and then cut into pieces.

It was a good skill to know later when I was preparing food my family. Whole chickens were much cheaper that parts and scraps could be simmered to make stock for soup.

Fast forward fifty years and I’m using my chicken cutting skill to dismember an enormous turkey. We grow our turkeys large here at the orchard. Unfortunately there aren’t that many occasions during the year when twenty people come to dinner and need a thirty pound turkey. Thus I spent the afternoon struggling with three well sharpened knives and a very large bird.

At the end of the day I had two 2-pound drumsticks, two thigh roasts, pounds and pounds of cutlets and enough scraps for several packages of ground turkey. Best of all, the bones and bits went into my stock pot with an onion, celery stalks and leaves, a couple cloves of garlic, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, salt, pepper and a handful of fresh sage from my garden. It simmered all night on a very low fire. In the morning I strained all the solids out and reduced the liquid by about half. The bones and scraps went into the compost. I’m left with two quarts of lovely, intensely flavored stock for soup or to enhance gravies.

Everything is now tucked safely away in the freezer for future dinners.

Turkey Gravy for Thanksgiving dinner
Turkey gravy doesn’t need a recipe but here’s the way I do it. It can be done the day before to make dinner preparation easier. The first thing is to make a stock from the giblets.

Place the turkey neck and giblets in a pot with enough water to cover.
1 onion
1 stalk celery
1 carrot
1 clove garlic
Salt and pepper
½ teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon sage
Simmer all ingredients together until the meat is tender, a couple of hours or so. Remove the turkey meat from the broth. Puree the remaining vegetables with the broth, either in a blender of with an immersion blender. This helps thicken the final gravy as well as adding flavor. Pull the meat from the neck, chop the heart and gizzard and add them. (I omit the liver in this step) This can be done a day ahead and refrigerated.

Roast the turkey. Remove from the roasting pan and cover with foil. I put several tea towels on over the foil to keep the heat in while the turkey rests and reabsorbs the juices.

Whisk together until smooth ½ cup of flour and 1 cup of water. Reserve.

Pour the drippings into a bowl letting the fat rise to the top. Deglaze the pan with a couple of cups of chicken stock scraping up all the brown bits in the bottom of the pan. (I use my rich turkey stock here instead of chicken stock) Spoon most of the fat off the drippings and discard. Pour the drippings back into the roasting pan. Add the reserved puree/stock made from the giblets. Heat until bubbling. Add salt and pepper to taste. If it looks like it isn’t enough gravy, add more chicken stock and simmer a few minutes to meld the flavors.

Stirring constantly, slowly pour the flour/water mixture into the gravy until it is the desired consistency.
Serve hot!