Gratitude Soup

I’ve been meaning to share this creation since around Thanksgiving, since it began with Thanksgiving leftovers…so here goes.

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This Thanksgiving was pretty different for my immediate family in that we usually gather with my parents & brother’s family at my brother’s house.  This year we collectively decided to celebrate pretty separately & our home isn’t large enough to hold a gang.  This was partly because my brother’s oldest daughter had recently married & coordinating events between multiple families was getting more challenging.  Ultimately my husband decided to head Up North early to hunt, so he wasn’t even available for the actual holiday.  Our son Nathaniel’s in-laws were having a gang at their lovely & well-suited to hosting a gang home & we were invited along so we didn’t end up putting on our own spread.

N’s in-laws had been helping a cousin’s family who was re-locating to Michigan & had had them living with them for a while up until the holiday season.  The dad of that clan is a professional chef & he is the one who prepared the Thanksgiving turkey, apparently in a roasting pan, although we didn’t arrive early enough to see it before carving.

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Our daughter Clarissa had to work earlier in the day & after the main meal she & our son Brandon were going to head North for hunting festivities, so we took separate cars so I could bring Josiah home with me while B & C left directly for deer camp.  Nathaniel & his wife Tara were planning to head out the next day for the long weekend for Tara’s first official hunting trip & a new chapter in the multi-generational family hunting saga.  Clarissa had already broken the No Girls in Hunting Camp tradition so Tara was about to tread new ground in being the first Wife to also go hunting!  We waited for C to get home from work before heading to Tara’s family home, which is why we missed the carving.

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Anyway, after a seriously righteous feast, Tara’s mom wanted to pass out leftovers to everyone in attendance & their were only a couple of takers.  No one actually wanted the main bulk of the turkey so I ended up getting what was left in the roaster, both wings, & a drum stick.  These became the foundation for what I would come to call Gratitude Soup…& it took on several iterations as the days passed.

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Gratitude Soup, initial version

Thanksgiving Turkey leavings, carcass, roasting pan juices, & seasonings were all added to a large soup pot & cooked mostly covered for a few hours.  I also had saved up some either pasta water or potato water from previous meals, which enhanced the liquid & flavor aspects of this endeavor.  Using a slotted spoon I removed most of the substantial items in the pot, though seasonings, & small meat “shrapnel” remained in the very hearty looking broth.

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After cooling the removed items I began the laborious process of picking through things to remove bone, gristle, skin, & to reduce the edibles to bite size pieces.  The dog got the gristle, fat, & some of the skin & of course did a happy dance during this process.  Most of the meat went back into the soup pot, as did the veggies & fruit that had been in the original roasting pan.  I also stripped the leaves, I think they were fresh rosemary, from the bunch of twigs that was included & tossed out the twigs.  There were some orange quarters from which I removed the peel & chopped very finely.

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There was a decent amount of grease/fat, in part because the chef had apparently used some bacon in his turkey roaster creation.  Skimming the fat & putting it in a frying pan, I added the bacon, which I’d chopped finely, the saved skin, also chopped into smaller pieces, & some chopped onions, potatoes, & garlic.  This was all returned to the soup pot & the seasonings were adjusted to taste using salt, fresh ground pepper, garlic salt, & various other seasonings, as the mood struck, from our stockpile.  There were many whole peppercorns from the original roaster treatment & I smashed them with the side of the knife before returning to the pot.  I had many taste tests from the initial pot but never ate it in that original version as part of a meal…

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This basic soup then was put into 3 separate containers to chill.  I gave the smaller container to Nathaniel & Tara & they may have eaten it in that “as is” status.  At this point this was a very rich looking, & a very meaty soup.  There were minimal amounts of celery, carrot, orange, bacon, & brussels sprouts from the original chef that were all part of the delicious, suspended items in this bountiful soup, for which I was already filled with gratitude, for most of this delicious concoction was due to other’s efforts & creativity.  I decided to leave the largest, longest bones to continue to enrich the soup divided between the two largest containers as there would be further cooking to come.

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Gratitude Soup, First Iteration

Starting with one of the large containers of the turkey soup “base” I once again skimmed the fat & put it in a pan & used it to cook up more things to add to the pot.  We had some broccoli & that was coarsely chopped & briefly fried, then set aside to add just before serving so as not to overcook it.  I fried up some more onions & garlic & when they were well cooked took some of the excess left-over bread stuffing & fried it up, as a version of something akin to homemade croutons.  This stuffing & broccoli enhanced soup had those items added to bowls to keep them from either overcooking or getting too soggy.

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This version was a big hit with the family & that first large container was mostly used this way.  There wasn’t enough soup to make a meal for “everyone” from the remaining soup so it became a lunch portion that was enhanced with more broccoli & also with some half & half one time.  A second lunch portion had shredded cheese added to the before mentioned treatment & both of these dairy-style enhancements were very tasty!

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Gratitude Soup, Second Iteration

Not wanting to overload people with too much of a good thing I tried to make the second large container of soup rather different from the first one.  Again I skimmed the fat from the chilled soup & used it to cook up what was added to the pot.  By the way, this fat actually was pretty green in color, reflecting the significant amount of seasonings that the original chef had included in the roaster which benefited all of us flavor aficionados!

For round two I looked to what we had on hand, both from leftovers from Thanksgiving itself, & things in our fridge & larder.  There was a decent amount of corn from the Holiday meal so that got thrown in with the fat & fried up.  We had some tomatoes, which I chopped & added to the frying pan, along with more onions, garlic, & a small amount of chopped potatoes.  I pulled all the veggies out & added them to the soup pot that was simmering & then fried up some uncooked rice, just until it picked up a bit of color, & added this to the pot too.  There was a small amount of chicken stock base in the fridge, a thick paste from a small container, so I added that to the pot as well.  The seasonings were adjusted to taste again with salt, pepper, garlic & onion salt, minced onion, & a couple other seasonings.  This was served a couple of times & some people chose to add a little half & half, crackers, &/or cheese to their individual bowls.

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So we were grateful, & heartily fed, from the leavings of another’s feast, to which we were invited near the last minute.  If I hadn’t “rescued” the roaster pan juices, etc. it is highly unlikely that anyone would have used them & all would have been pitched.  We had at least 3 family meals using various iterations of Gratitude (Thanksgiving) Soup & Nathaniel & Tara could have gotten probably 2 meals from what we shared with them.  Thery were also several lunch portions enjoyed by various family members.  All in all we were quite thankful for this blessed stockpot full of Thanksgiving Comfort & Cheer!

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Oops…I am completely operating from a faulty memory (big shocker, hmm?) so I absolutely forgot that at least one of the iterations above also involved kielbasa sausage.  We had a one pound package of kielbasa that someone had opened & used about 1/4 of.  I took the remaining meat & split it lengthwise then cut it into small bite sized pieces.  This meat was added to the skimmed turkey fat & fried up & added to the soup pot.  I think this was done with the First Iteration, but I could be wrong.  I’ll confess that all the fat that had accumulated on the cooled soup was eventually re-introduced to the soup pot along with the various fried up items.  There never was noticeable excess fat in anyone’s bowl so I guess much of it absorbed into the various items during the cooking process…If I hadn’t seen sausage soup while searching Bing.com for various similar images to our creations I would have completely missed this key ingredient that added much to the version in which it was included…

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Some of our Gratitudes from Thanksgiving, in addition to the gratis soup fixings:

  • Being included in a fine, extended family feast
  • Having employment
  • Being healthy & safe
  • Having transportation & freedom to travel
  • Freedom to hunt
  • A storied place to hunt, historically in my family for 4 generations now
  • Women hunters, blazing trails, & having fun & fellowship at Deer Camp
  • Donald Trump being president as opposed to the unthinkable alternative
  • New marriages in the extended family, all Christian couples
  • Living in the greatest, freest nation on God’s green earth
  • The heritage of faith & salvation for nearly all our extended family clans
  • Joyful gatherings of family & friends
  • The historic heritage of faith in our nation reflected in Giving Thanks to God!

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We really all are so blessed in these & many other ways.  Thank the Lord for His Manifold Blessings in Your Life.  He is so good & His mercies are new Every Morning!

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PS  As I reflected on this post I realized that in addition to missing the sausage component there are other steps I forgot (to mention).  As various containers of Thanksgiving leftovers were emptied I’d take a small amount of water to release the food residue & pour it into the soup pot.  Sometimes this meant leaving some of the food to also go in the pot, like mashed potatoes, cheesy potatoes, mac & cheese, stuffing, & of course turkey gravy, also some more brussels sprouts & cranberry sauce.  This meant that virtually every time we had some soup from our supply it was slightly different than the last time we’d dived in.  Making soup is perhaps more art than science…& based on these remembrances of concocting Gratitude Soup, let’s call soup-making Art of the Heart!  Blessings to all…

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