It is said that smells are very much intertwined with memory. A smell can bring back nostalgic warm and fuzzy associations, or it can have the opposite effect and bring back pain and trauma. There is one smell in particular that makes me think of peace, comfort, family time, delightful memories, and excitement for Shabbos: the smell of my mother’s turkey-neck soup. Every time I smell that delicious aroma I reminisce about those Friday afternoons when I would come running off the bus from school to be greeted by the smell of Shabbos – the scent of my mother’s turkey-neck soup. My mother would make a huge 16-quart pot every Thursday night and we would eat it every night throughout the entire week in addition to our dinner. As soon as it was finished she would make another batch; I do not remember ever having a week go by without that soup on the stovetop.
When I was in seminary I would dream of my mother’s soup; just to have one bowl would have meant the world to me. Don’t get me wrong; I had plenty of incredible chicken soups at all the different homes of the families I stayed by for Shabbosim, but nothing compared to my mother’s soup. It’s well-known that chicken soup is the “Jewish penicillin” – it cures everything! But my mother’s soup was the ultimate drug!
As the years went by I started making the soup for my family because I was cooking for Shabbos anyway. People would always ask me for the recipe and I would not be able to give it because it was just a little bit of this and a little bit of that; my mother used to throw all the ingredients into the pot and voila! It was made. I finally decided that I was going to get it down to a science so I could create a recipe that people could follow. I spent many weeks perfecting it, trying different methods and tactics, until I finally got the soup to taste the same every single time. So, without further ado, I would like to share with you step by step how it’s done, and how it’s basically foolproof. It may seem complicated, but at the end of the day it literally takes five minutes to put together.
Photo credits: Sarah Knieberg
8 turkey necks (you can really use any part of the turkey; I just use turkey necks because it gives more of a deep flavor. If using turkey drum sticks I would use 3, if using turkey thighs I would use 2, or if using turkey gizzards I would use about 2 lbs.)
- 1 zucchini
- 1 onion
- 1 parsnip
- 1 turnip
- 1 kohlrabi
- 1 carrot
- 1 celery root
- 8 oz. whole mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon whole-crystal pink Himalayan salt
- 1 bunch fresh parsley
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 10 black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon dry or fresh thyme
- 2-3 bay leaves
Wash the zucchini and scrub the skin clean to remove any dirt; set aside.
Peel the onion, parsnip, turnip, kohlrabi, carrot, and celery root and set aside.
With a dry paper towel clean the mushrooms of any dirt; it’s not a good idea to wash them because they’ll become waterlogged.
Now that all the vegetables are peeled and prepped, it’s time to cut them. I usually leave the onion whole and the mushrooms whole. I like when the vegetables are large so they don’t disintegrate in the long cooking process.
Cut the turnip, kohlrabi, and celery root into four chunks, about the same size as the other vegetables. (When making a soup you want all your vegetables to be relatively even in size because then they cook at the same pace.)
Set all the cut vegetables aside in a large bowl.
In two small bowls prepare the turmeric and salt; set aside. (This method of preparing all the ingredients and setting them aside is called mise en place [French pronunciation: meez ahn plahs], which means “everything in its place.” It refers to the set-up required before cooking and is often used in professional kitchens to refer to organizing and arranging the ingredients of a recipe before starting the procedure in order to help workflow.)
Now you’re going to make what’s called a bouquet garni, also known as an herb mixture, which is used to flavor stocks and soups. It requires a cheesecloth and some kitchen twine, or an herb bag. If you don’t have either you can cut a clean T-shirt and use a bit of that with some string – basically any fabric that is porous and can be used in a soup.
Wash and check the parsley, then dry and place in bag.
Take the whole cloves of garlic and do the same thing with the back of your knife to release the flavor, but not exactly crush it. Place in bag along with the thyme and bay leaves, and set aside.
Heat a large 8-quart pot until you feel heat coming from the center, add the grapeseed oil and spread around. Add the turmeric and allow it to toast so the aromatics and flavor will be released, but don’t allow it to brown. Add the crushed garlic and stir until dissolved and the mixture is a runny paste.
Raise the heat to high and add the turkey; don’t move it because you want it to get a nice sear. (If you move protein before it releases itself from the pan you lose that golden crust that everyone loves, so never shake the pan or stir protein if it looks like it’s sticking; it will release fat and release itself from the pan.)
Sprinkle the salt evenly over the turkey. (The reason you want to put the salt in now is because you have direct contact with the turkey and this will tenderize it and make it super soft. Another tip in making soup is you want the protein to be properly seasoned with salt – because seasoned protein means flavorful broth and flavorful broth penetrates the vegetables and makes the entire soup more flavorful. So between the layer of turmeric and garlic and the layer of salt, the turkey is properly seasoned.)
Wait 2-3 minutes for the salt to penetrate and then add the vegetables.
Tie the bouquet garni to the handle of the pot so you don’t need to go fishing for it later on. Allow it to submerge under the vegetables.
Once all the vegetables are in, cover them with water and bring the soup to a rapid boil. Allow to boil rapidly for about 10 minutes, then bring the flame to a steady simmer and cook uncovered for 6-8 hours.
The liquid will boil out over time and that’s okay. Keep adding fresh water. This will give the soup that extra depth of flavor.
You can technically eat the soup after four hours or so, but the more the soup cooks the more flavor it gets.
Once the soup is cooked you can remove the bouquet garni and toss it. You can also skim the fat off the top once its cooled.
Bracha Serle works as a private chef specializing in healthy cooking such as gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, nut-free, and other dietary restrictions or allergies. She also does end-product marketing for kosher food companies and supermarkets, teaching consumers how to use new food products on a daily basis. Bracha gives clean-eating healthy cooking classes and demonstrations. You can check out her work on Instagram @shesthechef and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.