Oh chicken stock, what a journey we have been on. Once a kitchen staple so easily plucked from the grocery store shelves, you are no longer so easily imbibed. Ingredient labels bearing the words ‘starch’, ‘vegetable starch’, or even straight-up ‘potatoes’, you have failed me.
I use chicken stock in EVERYTHING. In soups, stews, risotto, recipes like my Seafood Pasta, a lot of things. This was probably one of the first things I had to admit defeat at the grocery store shelves and start making my own. And do you know what? I would never go back. Not only is it much healthier, it is also way more delicious!
You may notice that I’m using the word ‘stock’ instead of ‘broth’. They are quite similar, but the real difference between broth and stock is that broth is more of a bland base, a blank canvas. You make it almost exactly the same, but just add fewer flavours to it, no spices or aromatic veggies, just boil the bones. I never make chicken broth, honestly. What I do make is chicken stock, and I find that I can use it in all sorts of things. I never back down from flavour!
My recipe for chicken stock is very simple, and very easy. Usually I make it following a Roast Chicken dinner, so I already have a chicken to work with that would otherwise get tossed once I pick it clean. If you don’t roast a chicken, you can collect the bones from wings, legs, etc., and keep them in the freezer in an air-tight container for when you are ready to use them. You can even request to keep bones from eating out at a restaurant; just be ready for the strange look the waiter gives you when you request a doggy bag for your chicken wing bones! Make sure to rinse off any sauces before you freeze them. It is generally safe to use ones that you have chewed off rather than picked off the meat, since you’ll be boiling the bones at high temperatures for a few hours, but this is only really okay for personal use. “Hi, welcome to my house party! Here, eat this soup I made from yesterday’s KFC leftovers!” doesn’t sound that appealing! Stock purists will say that it should really be made from raw bones for maximum flavour, but you do you. I like the convenience and environmental factor of reusing things that would otherwise just get tossed.
Once you have enough bones, find a nice, big pot, and put the bones inside. Chop up some nice, aromatic veggies: carrots, celery, leeks, and onions. If you’re able to get your hands on fresh herbs, those are the best. I add my spice triumvirate: oregano, thyme and rosemary. In this case, I have a couple dishes that I’m going to use the stock for, so in this case I’m just going to add garlic cloves in already.
In a recipe like this, it’s hard to know exactly how much water to use. For my pot and for most standard pots, 12 cups should just about do it. Stock is not an exact science, I’ve found, and I hate to waste a chance to get as much as I can. If I have a lot of bones (in this case an entire chicken) I generally don’t measure very precisely. I just fill my pot with water, stopping about an inch from the top, and adjust the recipe accordingly. Back home, I have an enormous stock pot precisely for this purpose that I like to use.
Put that pot on the stove, and turn up the heat to about med-high. You want it to be boiling.
Once it’s reached a nice rolling boil, turn down the heat to low. You want to keep it at a simmer for 2-3 hours, so turn it down as low as your stove can handle while still simmering. On mine, that’s about a 4-5, but on other stoves I’ve used, it will be a 1. You don’t want anything to burn, but you don’t want to lose the simmer. Cover it so that you don’t lose too much liquid.
At this point the smell of chicken broth should be floating throughout your house, causing many groans and cries of ‘why aren’t we eating that for dinner!’, and ‘I’m hungry, what are you cooking?’
Once your time is up, turn off the heat and let it cool for about fifteen minutes. You want it to be cool enough to handle, but still hot enough that the bacteria don’t come crawling back. The liquid should now be a beautiful golden yellow.
Now comes the tricky part. You’re going to dump everything through a strainer into another pot or large bowl. This is much easier with a helper and oven mitts.
Now if you want, you can put the bowl or pot of lovely chicken stock in the fridge to cool the rest of the way. This is much safer than leaving it on the stove or counter to cool.
After a few hours in the fridge, you’ll notice a layer of fat on top. You can scoop that off before you deal with the rest of it, or choose to leave it. By now the rest should be gelatinous, and very easy to handle. If you’re going to use it immediately, that’s great, and it can stay in the fridge for up to 3 days if you need it to.
If you want to freeze it, I recommend putting it in small baggies (about 3 cups fit in one small baggie), leaving a little bit of air for it to expand, and freezing it, stacking them as flat as they’ll get. It’ll last about 4-6 months, but I always use it up way before then!
Another neat trick is to pour it into ice cube trays to freeze, and then dump all of those little frozen cubes into a large, ziplock bag for longer and more convenient storage.
Chicken stock is absolutely one of the best things that I’ve learned to cook for us over this Nightshade Free journey. It is easy and delicious! And a healthier option than that store bought stuff anyway! Yum!
- 1 chicken carcass or 2 lbs chicken bones
- 1 onion , chopped
- 1 leek , chopped
- 2 carrots , chopped
- 3 stalks celery , chopped
- Optional: 3 garlic cloves
- 1 Tsp each thyme , rosemary and oregano
- dash salt and pepper
- enough water to fill whatever pot you cook it in , leaving at least an inch at the top
Chop onion, leek, carrots and celery
Add all veggies, herbs and chicken carcass to large stock pot, and cover with water
Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer.
Leave to simmer 3-4 hours.
Remove bones and strain stock.
Refrigerate, freeze or use immediately.
Stock will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days, and in the freezer for 4-6 months.