Old-Fashioned Turkey-Frame Soup

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People have been creating rich, brothy soups with the remains of their holiday turkeys as long as thrift has thrived in America. Turkey soups are more flavorful than more-familiar chicken versions. Since a lot of us don’t have moms and grandmoms nearby to remind of the best proportions of ingredients, here’s the basic recipe.  Bonus? More Thanksgiving-leftover ideas for turkey and cranberries: Cranberry Bars, Turkey Tetrazzini, and Turkey Pie with Cheesy Potato Crust

Makes 5 quarts


  • 1 turkey frame, broken up to fit into a very large soup pot
  • Water to cover frame–at least 4 quarts
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • 4 large carrots, divided; 2 rough chopped; two peeled and chopped in bite-sized pieces
  • 3 celery ribs, divided; 2 rough chopped; one chopped in bite-sized pieces
  • 2 large onions, divided; one rough chopped; one cut in fine dice
  • 3 small potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 to 2 cups rough-chopped cabbage
  • 1 can tomatoes, drained and chopped (optional)
  • 1 cup uncooked pearled barley
  • 1 Tbsp fresh snipped parsley, chopped fine
  • 3 to 4 fresh basil leaves, snipped fine
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp poultry seasoning
  • salt & pepper to taste


  1. Cover carcass with water. Add rough cut carrot, celery, onion, bay leaf and thyme sprig and heat water just until boiling. Cover; immediately reduce heat to very low and simmer for 2 hours.
  2. Lift turkey bones out of pot, cool, and pick off any meat. Chop the meat and reserve. Throw away the bones. Discard the chunky cooked vegetables, bay leaf and thyme sprig.
  3. Strain broth through a fine sieve. Clean soup pot. Pour broth back into pot and add turkey meat and remaining raw chopped vegetables (carrot, onion, celery, potato, cabbage) parsley and basil, barley, and tomatoes. Simmer for another hour until vegetables are tender.  Add poultry seasoning. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, if using.
  4. Serve hot soup with crusty bread, and cheese. OR it goes really well with a Monte Cristo sandwich!

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