Empires of Food and Leftover Turkey Soup with Pancetta

There is an ocean of books now about sustainable agriculture and How We Fix the Food Supply. Every author has the answer, their own master plan. Finding authors that look at both sides of the issue is rare. Empires of Food: Feast, Famine, and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations actually explores the current food economy through the lens of history- deep, nuanced, complicated, and thoroughly human history. Fraser and Rimas don’t have all the answers, but their arguments are compelling and the history behind each idea is fascinating.

Reading this book made me feel like I’m on the right path and infinitely deepened my resolve. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the bigger picture surrounding “sustainable agriculture”.

And now on to the soup!

Like everyone else, we had a wonderful turkey carcass lingering in our fridge. We picked up a small free-range turkey on our way home from Thanksgiving weekend and cooked it Sunday. We demolished most of the meat that evening, but there was plenty of meat still there for stock, so we decided to make our annual Thanksgiving leftovers soup. Free-range turkeys are expensive, and we need to get every scrap of food out of them as possible. This year the soup was a little more special with the addition of my home-cured pancetta and fresh herbs from my garden.

This was the perfect dinner for a chilly and dark December evening.

Leftover Turkey Soup

For the stock:

1 turkey carcass
2 cloves garlic
1 tbl. salt
1 tbl whole peppercorns
any limp carrots, onion ends, or celery tops you have laying around

Throw all of these things in a crockpot full of water in the morning and cook on low all day.


3 slices of pancetta or 2 strips of fat bacon, minced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tbl flour (can substitute leftover gravy)
1 c wild rice (6 oz box)
3 carrots, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1 tbl poultry seasoning, or a mix of sage, rosemary, and thyme
1/2 c of cream
a good handful of fresh parsley, minced
salt and pepper

About an hour and a half before you want to serve dinner, pull the carcass out of the crockpot and set it in a bowl to cool. Strain the broth and discard the solids. Measure out 8 cups of stock and freeze the rest.

In a large pot, saute the pancetta or bacon and garlic on medium heat until browned. Add the flour (if you don’t have gravy) and stir until the flour turns golden. Immediately add the rice, vegetables, herbs, and the turkey stock. Bring the pot to a full boil, then cover and turn down to a simmer. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour. While the soup is cooking, strip every shred of meat from the turkey carcass and set aside.

Just before serving, remove the pot from the fire and add the cream, turkey meat, and the turkey gravy if you’re using it, and stir until it’s all incorporated. Then add the parsley and add salt and pepper to taste.

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