How to Freeze Your Thanksgiving Turkey Leftovers

How to Freeze Your Thanksgiving Turkey Leftovers // savvyeat.com

For the first time in five years, I’m not going to be the one making the Thanksgiving turkey this year.  I know I’ve gone on and on about how much I love coming up with the Thanksgiving menu and cooking for my family and friends in years past, but this year, I’m not going to have access to the majority of my pots and pans. Or my dishes. Or a fridge/freezer in which to store leftovers.

Why? Because we’re moving back to Minnesota at the very start of December. Apparently, I am completely incapable of just making one major life change at once, so we are taking on a cross-country move while I’m 6 months pregnant. For more evidence of my craziness, see May 2010, in which I graduated college, got married and moved from Wisconsin to New York. Most people would just do those things one at a time, but not us.

So my Thanksgiving serving dishes are already packed up and stashed in the basement, ready for the movers. I’ve pared down to just my most essential pots and pans, and boxed up the rest. And I’m now on a mission to use up everything in my pantry in the next two (!!) weeks so it doesn’t go to waste.

BUT I didn’t want to miss out on the holiday cooking fun. So I may or may not have cooked up some Thanksgiving turkey anyways…in early October. Yep.

Here’s the thing: I know a lot of you are going to have a TON of turkey left over after your big feast. We’ve already talked about what to do with the bones (hint: make turkey stock!), but what about all the extra meat? Unless you have a giant family that goes crazy for leftover sandwiches and wants to eat them day in and day out for the rest of November, you’re going to want to freeze some of that leftover Thanksgiving turkey. And good news: it is super easy to do. Here’s how.

Three Ways to Freeze Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey

For all three of these methods, make sure the turkey is cooled completely before you pack it up for freezing.

1. Diced.

Remove all the meat from the bones, and dice the turkey. Place in a freezer-safe container or bag, and squeeze out as much air as possible as you seal the container. You’ll only want to keep a quarter inch or so of free space at the top, as the poultry won’t expand much. Freeze. Diced turkey will do well in soups and chills later.

2. Shredded.

 Same as above, but shred the meat instead. Shredded turkey will lend itself well to tacos and pasta dishes.

3. In Gravy.

Shred your turkey, and pack into a freezer-safe container or bag. Pour gravy over the top of the poultry, and make sure you leave at least 1/2” empty space at the top to allow the gravy to expand as it freezes. Seal and freeze.

To use, defrost the sealed containers in the refrigerator overnight before using. If you are making a sauce or soup in the slow cooker, you can just toss the still-frozen turkey in the slow cooker as well.

Compound Butter for Freezing

Compound-Butter

Making compound butter is an easy way to preserve fresh garden herbs. Try making butter with a single herb or a mix of several. I like to use combinations of sage, thyme, oregano, rosemary and basil. This post was updated on October 7, 2014.

Stalwart rosemary, buttoned-up thyme, flirty sage, cheerful oregano: I can’t pull off Thanksgiving without them. Frustratingly, I know that they will go into hibernation mode, turning dark and shriveled for the winter, about a month before the holiday feast. It is their time to truly shine, and I’m going to be stuck buying them from the grocery store instead of using them fresh out of the garden? A tragedy. And that’s why I’m making herby compound butter now, and freezing it until November. I’m making two batches with oregano, thyme and rosemary, and another with just sage.  Later, I’ll slice them to stuff under the skin of our turkey, to brown and simmer with winter squash and to blend into mashed potatoes.

Thyme

Making your own herb compound butter is incredibly easy. Here’s all you need:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh herb leaves

To make your herb butter:

  1. Blend the butter with the herbs until completely mixed.
  2. Press the butter onto a sheet of plastic wrap into a long, narrow log. It doesn’t need to look pretty; it will get smoothed out later!
  3. Fold the short ends of the plastic wrap in, then tightly roll up the butter in the plastic wrap lengthwise, just like the way you roll a burrito. Roll the wrapped butter back and forth on the counter to create a smooth, round log.
  4. Wrap the butter log in a piece of aluminum foil. Label and freeze.

To freeze your herb butter:

Wrap the compound butter tightly in plastic wrap, then in foil. Butter picks up odors easily, so the foil will protect it from developing off-flavors from the other foods in your freezer. The butter should be used within 2-3 months.