Saturday, March 27, 2021

Wild Turkey Soup: A camp favorite

wild turkey soup

A Camp Chef Recipe Favorite

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 Wild Turkey: The Story

   My Dad and I never hunted wild turkeys while I was growing up. Turkey populations were nearly nonexistent in the 1970’s Adirondack region.  My father and I had no turkey hunting season. Thus, for many years my soup pot was empty. My high peaks camp world had not yet discovered the wonders of Wild Turkey Soup.

  The first time I ever actually encountered a wild turkey in the woods, I was actually on a Thanksgiving hunt with my father, not in the Adirondacks, but on the side hill behind his childhood home in Portville, New York, down near the Pennsylvania border. I’m not sure who was more surprised when that bird flushed from beneath a snow-covered bush.  That remained my only wild turkey encounter for quite some time.

Apparently, the Adirondacks had held wild turkeys in abundance at some point in time.   According to information available on The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation website:

“The last of the original wild turkeys disappeared from New York in the mid-1840s.”

I remember my Dad telling me it was due to some virus that turkeys got from domestic chickens brought over from Europe by early settlers and farmers. But my memory could be wrong. According to the DEC website, those same settlers and farmers hunted wild turkeys year-round for food, and simply hunted them out.

Regardless, beginning sometime in the 1950’s, The DEC undertook numerous reintroduction campaigns. They continued into the ’70’s. I’m pretty sure that during his long DEC career, my Dad played some role in a few of them. Some efforts were more successful than others, but eventually, persistence paid off and they took. After nearly 150 years absent, wild turkey populations were reestablished across upstate New York once again.

Sometime shortly thereafter, wild turkey hunting seasons were re-established throughout the north country. My son & I have hunted wild turkeys together since that time, successfully bagging a pretty fair number.  As a result, our soup pot is now full.

Wild Turkey Soup has firmly established itself as a Monroe Camp Chef favorite.

While I’ve refined my technique through the years, my basic recipe has remained basically the same.  So has the outcome. Everyone loves it. Whether I make it stove top or in camp, folks all flock to the table when I announce that I’m about to make a fresh pot.

WILD TURKEY SOUP

The Recipe

 Chef’s Notes: As with any game bird or meat, I firmly believe proper game meal preparation begins in the field. I breast out my birds, then take the legs and thighs, clean them all good, making sure to get every last bit of feather & shot.

I rinse & pat them all dry, then bag each breast individually, and one leg and thigh each together in packages and get them into the freezer as quickly as possible.

Nothing goes to waste. The carcass goes out back on my lot for the foxes, coyotes, hawks and crows.  Once I even encountered an eagle helping itself to a free wild turkey carcass meal!

I ran smack dab into this eagle one day while out patrolling my back lot. He had claimed one of my turkey carcasses. I got within ten yards of him. He guarded his meal. Apparently eagles like wild turkeys too. That eagle was certainly giving no ground.

One wild turkey breast, along with one leg and one thigh, makes one nice big pot of soup. So, one harvested bird, tom or hen, equals two pots of soup.

The Ingredients

1 wild turkey breast, cleaned & diced (for non- hunters, simply substitute store bought turkey or chicken breast)

1 ea. wild turkey leg & thigh, cleaned, whole

6x 1 quart cartons of cooking stock. (I prefer turkey stock if available, but a mix of chicken & vegetable stock works as well.)

2-3 chicken bouillon cubes (These will amp up the stock’s flavor & also add salt.)

Several bacon strips

1 bag baby carrots

2 big sweet onions

2  big red onions

1 bunch fresh celery

1 can whole kernel corn (or fresh cut equivalent)

1 can cut green beans (or fresh cut equivalent)

About 6-8 good sized mushroom caps (recommended: Baby Bellas)

Several green onions

Liquid smoke

Worcestershire Sauce

Ground Black Pepper

Salt

Montreal Steak Seasoning *Chef’s Choice

Badia Complete Seasoning *Chef’s Choice

1/4 stick butter

Wild Rice (recommended: Uncle Ben’s Long Grain & Wild “Ready Rice “pouches)

YOU WILL NEED

2 Big Soup Kettles (with lids)

Cutting Board

Sharp Knife

Strainer

Big Stirring Spoon

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS

STEP  1– PREPARING THE STOCK: In one of the large kettles, combine 6 quarts of cooking stock, the whole turkey leg & thigh, the bacon slices, butter, bouillon cubes (start with 2), a healthy dose each of Badia Seasoning, Montreal Steak Seasoning, & several shakes of salt & ground black pepper (to taste). Add several generous shakes of liquid smoke, a modest dash of Worcestershire Sauce. Stir.

Whether cooking stovetop or over a fire, heat to a boil, then reduce to simmer for 2-3 hours.

While the stock is coming to a boil, loosely chop one yellow onion, one red onion, a handful of baby carrots & several celery stalks and add them to the stock pot to simmer.

*Adjust seasoning to taste as the stock simmers.  Be cautious in adding more salt. It’s easy to add more later, much harder to get too much out. If liquid reduces too much, just add another partial quart of cooking stock, or water, as needed. Just be careful not to overfill the pot- lots of good stuff is still going in it!

After the stock has come to a boil & simmered a good while, remove from heat. Take out the leg & thigh and set them aside. Pour the remaining liquid contents through the strainer into the other soup kettle & set it back on the stove or fire. Set the strainer contents aside. This is now your wild turkey soup stock.

STEP 2- CREATING THE SOUP:  To the stock add: one whole turkey breast – diced into small bite sized chunks, 1 ea. red & yellow onion, diced, 2cups ea.  diced baby carrots & celery, 1 can (or fresh cut equivalent) ea. whole kernel corn & cut green beans.

*Chef’s Note:  When I use canned corn & green beans (as a time saver) I add most of the juice too. Adds another layer of flavor while replacing some lost liquid at the same time.

Hit it all again with spices to taste. Bring to a quick boil to fully cook the meat & vegetables, but reduce quickly to a low simmer so the vegetables don’t get too soft.

Cook two pouches/boxes of Uncle Ben’s Long Grain & Wild Rice. Add to the pot. Stir.

While everything simmers, rinse & slice the mushroom caps, chop a handful of green onions, and a handful fresh of celery leaves from the bunch. Add all of this to the pot as a top layer garnish- adds more levels of flavor, texture, and color to your finished product.

Continue stirring and seasoning to taste as you go. I find second opinions always help!

Once it’s all simmered and seasoned to taste, reduce heat, cover, and let sit over the fire or stove until ready to serve.

TIME REQUIRED: Not counting the hunt, wild turkey soup is a special commitment. Whether stove top or in camp, proper preparation takes most of the day.

CHEF’S SUGGESTION: Once finished preparing a big pot of soup, I take the leg & thigh that were set aside earlier and pick them clean, remove the carrots & bacon from the remaining strainer contents, & add another pouch of cooked wild rice. I stir it all together and use it as food for my dogs. No part of the bird goes to waste & my dogs love it!

(Why don’t I add the leg & thigh meat to the soup? Because turkey LEG meat can be a bit tough- especially those big spring Gobblers. Plus, not everyone, especially non-game eaters- likes the rich flavor of wild turkey dark meat. So, by using just the breast (white) meat in my soup, it makes it a universally enjoyed pot. That’s why. Plus, my canine companions insist on their fair share.)

RECOMMENDED SIDES: I serve my soup with a nice big fresh salad & rolls, either homemade, or a family favorite- King’s Hawaiian Rolls.

It’s a recipe that can be made in camp, or stovetop, based on season & circumstance.  One big pot of soup serves a big hungry camp crew.

And if you find yourself a little light on wild turkey- this recipe works great for Thanksgiving leftovers too! Just pick the bird clean of good meat & use the rest for the stock.

 

No matter when, where or how I make a pot:

WILD TURKEY SOUP

 It’s Always A Camp Favorite!

Enjoy!

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Richard Monroe

Lifelong NYS resident. Raised in Saranac Lake. Cornell graduate(ROTC). Army veteran, Airborne/Ranger qualified, 10th Mtn Div, stints in Honduras and with JTF VI. 3rd degree Black Belt; 3x cancer survivor; published writer with several featured stories in Adirondack Life Magazine. Residing in Watertown NY with wife Robin & our 3 adult children. Loving Life. Living in the Day I am in.




2 Responses

  1. Blackjack says:

    Cannot wait to try this recipe in May.
    Great story. Hope you hear multiple gobbles this Spring.

  2. Richard Monroe Richard Monroe says:

    Thank you Blackjack! Same back to you. Good luck this spring season. I hope you enjoy a big pot of soup from your hunt. Stay safe out there. Gobble Gobble!

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