April 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Turkey Gumbo

Last month I defrosted all the chicken bones I'd been saving and made chicken stock to can. The other day, I defrosted the leftover bones from our Thanksgiving turkey, because I really had a hankering for a big bowl of turkey/sausage gumbo.


I lived in Louisiana for quite a few years. Long enough to develop a definite taste for Cajun cuisine: gumbo, étouffée, jambalaya, red beans & rice, boiled shrimp, boiled crabs, boiled crawfish, boudin, dirty rice, bisque.... Mmm-mm, yum! Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Gumbo is something I make every year from the Thanksgiving turkey. Most of the meat and leftover gravy goes in to a pot pie, but the bones are saved to make gumbo.

I usually cook the meat off the carcass the day before. This way it's cool enough to handle so that I can get all the meat off the bones. Dan knows not to carve the bird too clean, just for this purpose. The broth is also saved for the gumbo.

Once that was ready I set it aside and made the roux. I use 2 parts flour to 1 part oil.


Most of you are probably familiar with roux, a cooked flour and oil mixture. White roux is used as a base for gravies and creamed soups. For gumbo, the flour is browned to a nice chocolate color. The trick is to do this slowly so as to not burn the flour.


When it's done though, it's done. To keep it from over browning, I had my vegetables chopped and ready to add. I took the pan off the heat and quickly stirred in the veggies to help cool it off. Gumbo calls for onion, celery, and green pepper. These three are signature to Cajun cookin'. Just chop up a bunch.

The roux is allowed to cool somewhat, as this makes it easier to stir into the broth. I add about a quarter cup of roux per quart broth. That can be adjusted according to taste.

While waiting for the roux to finish cooling, I browned the sausage.


I use smoked sausage because that's what I have available. Authentic Cajun gumbo would likely use andouille, a spicy pork sausage.

The one ingredient that I can't not use, is filé (fee' lay). This is a seasoning made from sassafras leaves. It not only flavors, but thickens as well. For 8 quarts of gumbo, I added about 1/4 cup.


Filé is something I cannot find in this part of the country. I didn't make gumbo for years because I couldn't get it. Dan finally brought some home when he had a trip to southeast Texas. He stopped in Louisiana and bought me some! I confess this isn't the brand I would buy myself. My usual brand is Paul Prudhomme's, but the ingredient is the same either way, so I wasn't going to complain! I'd like to mention though, that I found several young sassafras trees on the place, and you can bet that these are earmarked for future use to make my own filé.

Salt I added to taste, but the one thing I didn't add a lot of was cayenne pepper. Cajun food is traditionally very hot! In fact, Tabasco sauce graces the table of many a Cajun home, right along side the salt shaker and sugar bowl. My family never cared for too hot, but I add a small amount of cayenne for flavoring.

I had a huge bowl for lunch (served with a big scoop of rice) and canned the rest.


The only other comment I can make, is that gumbo is really better with white rice than brown. It's just one of those things, like French bread and pizza crust taste better made with white flour. I'm usually gungho for whole grains, but these are just a couple of rare exceptions.

It's fun to do some canning when the weather is cooler. And one thing I need to can more of, are canned soups, stews, and other "convenience" foods. So nice to still be able to have a home cooked meal in a pinch.

23 comments:

Lynda said...

Yum! Yum! I have 2 granddaughters and a new great grandson in Ponchatoula, LA....love the Gumbo, Etouffee and the awesome bread pudding! Darn...now I'm going to go try and find a snack!

Mama Pea said...

Isn't it funny what we "home cookers" call "convenience" foods!? But I'm right there with you in spending a few hours making lots of soups/stews to have on hand. I'm going to make a huge double batch of Wild Rice and Chicken Soup tomorrow. I know we could subsist on my homemade soups forever probably but when I think of doing the same on commercial canned soups . . . yuck. We'd probably wither away and die! :o\

BrokenRoadFarm said...

Mmmmm...making me hungry!!

Jane said...

I have to laugh that you have Thanksgiving in your title. It has felt more like November around here than April. I was ready to get the Christmas decorations out again.

Mama Pea said...

OMG, Jane! You hit it right on the head! It totally feels like November around here. Looks the same, feels the same. If it weren't for the birds outside singing their little heads off, I would be convinced we had been thrown 6 months back in time!

Leigh said...

Lynda, bread pudding! I had forgotten about that. Oh, now I need to go find a good authentic recipe. :)

Mama Pea, I hadn't thought of it that way, but it's true! The more I read about commercially processed foods and artificial ingredients, the farther away from them I want to get.

BRF, I'm glad it looks tasty! (And it was as tasty as it looks)

Jane & Mama Pea, the weather is strange isn't it? And it's not just the temperature either, it's the "feel" to the air. Are we coming or going???

Renee's Reality said...

YUM! I would love to start canning soups and stews also :)

Grace said...

That looks great, Leigh! Cajun cooking is perhaps the one American style I haven't really tried, yet. That looks so good I know I'll be making it soon. I'm always looking for an excuse to can something. I've canned up a bunch of pork in a vinegary stock. It makes for easy and quick weeknight dinners. I agree with you ladies, home canned food is the REAL convenience food.

Theresa said...

It all looks and sounds terribly good. I haven't made a gumbo in a lot of years. We like shrimp and sausage in ours. If I remember correctly, the fil'e is added at the last few minutes...I'd have to check my recipe, assuming I can find it. :) Hot sauce is staple on our table (Cholula) and I like spicy, so I am pretty liberal with the cayenne. I like cajun food but find eating it out it tends to be too salty for me. MUCH better to make your own. Mud bugs anyone?

DebbieB said...

My Cajun grandmere would be proud. :) Here in New Orleans they (not me, I'm not much of a cook, though I love to EAT!) make seafood gumbo more often. My mom used file AND okra for thickening. I love Cajun and Creole foods, but only for the flavor, not for the spice. I always search out the milder versions.

Your roux is GORGEOUS. :)

And to Lynda - my sister lives in Ponchatoula!

And to Theresa - we're having a mudbug (crawfish, for those who don't know) boil at my brother's on Easter Sunday! 'Tis the season, ya'll!

Leigh said...

Renee, it is so handy to have them on hand! I'm hoping to do a lot more this year.

Thanks Grace! Cajun is usually spicy, but oh so tasty. I tend to make mine less spicy, just because I love the flavor. Your canned pork sounds really good.

Theresa, mmmm, I love seafood and sausage gumbo too. Yes, the filé is at the end. I've been meaning to find out what other dishes it's used in. I'll have to do that, 'cuz now I'm curious. And come to think of it, cajun does tend to be pretty salty (something else I adjust).

Debbie, thanks! I love seafood gumbo too, but we just don't have good access to cheap seafood, so turkey will have to do! I've always assumed okra gumbo was more Creole in origin. I'm with you on the spice.

Sarah said...

Oddly it never occured to me to can my own soups. Why? This makes total sense! Thanks for the inspiration! I freeze many of them, but some don't freeze well. Now I'll have to try to can those!

Toni aka irishlas said...

Oh - my - word! That look delicious!! I love cajun but cajun doesn't love me! I'm allergic to peppers... and, it's not the same without them.

Happy weekend!

bspinner said...

Yum!!! Looks and sounds so good! I've never canned soup might have to give it a try.

Kari said...

Yum! I didn't even realize I was hungry until I saw this post!

If you make file powder, I hope you'll document it here. We are covered up in sassafras trees and I love the way they smell when you bruise the leaves.

Bubbles, Madness and Trouble said...

Thanks for your thoughts on our blog about Bubbles. When he was diagnosed,I actually went to Rascals blog and read about your experience with this disease. It was difficult to know what the best course of action was to take. wq
I still have Ode to Rascal stuck on my refrigerator!

Renee said...

you're making me hungry! and I really have to learn how to can...my freezer isn't big enough to just freeze everything. :(

Leigh said...

Sarah, it took me awhile to start canning my own soups too. Great way to use up small amounts of veggies; make soup!

Toni, that's an unusual allergy! Still, I'd make it without them. Still tasty!

Barb, it's no harder than canning anything else and so handy to have on hand!

Kari, lol. Yes, when I make the filé I'll be sure to post it step by step. 1st thing I need to find out is when to harvest the leaves!

BM&T, I hope it was helpful. The hardest part was at the end, when his lungs started filling with fluid. He'd been on prednisone, but eventually even that didn't help. I'm very thankful it didn't happen on the weekend, when the vet wasn't in. We have no regrets about Rascal's treatment, and that's important.

Renee, yes you do need to learn how to can! It's fun, it's easy, and it's a great way to have some extra food items on hand.

Sharon said...

I've never had gumbo and doubt I'll ever be in south to try it. I've found that regional food loses authenticity outside it's region - makes me think of a friend who said the work Mexican food she ever had was in Edinburgh!

I've started making my own broth too but freezing it in one cup portions. I don't know why it took me so long to catch on!

Richard said...

this one sounds good, ill need to try it sometime. Richard from the Amish community of Lebanon,Pa.

DebbieB said...

Happy Easter, Leigh! May you have a peaceful day filled with joy. :)

Leigh said...

Sharon, that is so true, even when locals from one area open up an authentic restaurant in another. Must have something to do with the ingredients. Or use of shortcut pre-prepared ingredients. In fact, I'm guessing I've never even had authentic Mexican cooking (and I eat a lot of Mexican food!)

Richard hello! And thank you for your comment. I have to say that my first attempt at gumbo didn't turn out too well. Because I didn't get my roux dark enough! Fortunately I didn't give up. :)

Thank you Debbie! I wish the same to you!

Leigh said...

Richard, P.S. - I tried to return the blog visit but your profile is set to "not available." :(