Here we go. Thanks for your patience – I made stock last week, but then some of our family got sick and drank it all up! Plus, we’ve been busily getting ready for Halloween (someone explained all about trick or treating to my three year old – whoops – so we’re holding a non-corn syrup, non-terrifying party here at the house. An excellent exercise in embracing what you don’t like). But here we are now!
This is very, very simple. You’ll do great. I made chicken stock for many years and was frustrated with the results, and now my attitude is more like, Throw some stuff in the pan and check it at the end of the day. The most important things I’ve learned are these:
1. Use a good chicken carcass. If you made a lovely roasted local, free-range chicken, you’re ready to go. If you have chicken feet, giblets, and neck to add, so much the better.
2. Don’t try to make a gallon of stock out of one little carcass (or a pound or two of bones, if you’re buying them as bones). This is crucial! Also, I think this is where most recipes go wrong – they call for you to add way too much water, which gets you watery, chicken-scented broth. We want stock, also called bone broth. Hearty, nourishing, gelatinous stock.
1 chicken carcass (or about 2 pounds chicken bones), plus any drippings from your roasting pan
3-6 carrots, depending on their size
2-4 onions, depending on their size
2-4 celery stalks (or a handful of celery leaves), depending on their size
2-4 leek tops, if you have them
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs dried thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried thyme)
A quick note on this ingredient list: this is not set in stone. The most important thing is that you have your chicken bones and some of the above veggies. Use what you have. I often don’t have celery, so I make it without. When I cook with leeks, I cut off their tops and pop them into the freezer to save them for stock, but if I don’t have any, no big deal. Also, you can scale this recipe up very easily. If you want, save chicken bones in the freezer as you get them, then make a huge batch. Chicken stock does not have to be perfect to be amazing.
* Place your carcass in a small stock pot (it should fill most of the pot – mine shown here is a 3 quart. )
* Scrub your carrots, cut off their tops, and cut them in half if they’re huge. Add to pot.
* Cut off the tops and bottoms of your onions, cut in half, and peel off the skin. Some people add the skin to the stock – I don’t recommend this, as it can add bitterness. Add onions to the pot.
* Rinse celery well (careful of grit), chop if needed, and add to pot. Add leek tops if you have them. Add herbs.
* Now, fill your pot most of the way with water (leave some room at the top so it doesn’t bubble all over your stove when it begins to simmer). If you have to use a larger pot, please just fill it with water to cover your chicken by about an inch, don’t fill it all the way up.
* Bring to a simmer, and simmer gently, uncovered, for at least 3 hours, or as long as you can stand it. Do this on a day you’ll be home most of the day -start it in the morning, and let it go on and on.
* The stock should turn a lovely deep tan color, and will reduce in volume. When refrigerated, it should thicken up and turn gelatinous (like Jell-o). This gelatinous quality means that you have extracted the goodness from the bones - this is health, and you want to make sure you get all you can! If you’re not sure if your stock is done, cool it, put the whole pot into your fridge over night, then check it in the morning. Does it jiggle like Jello? If not, put it back on to simmer more. If it jiggles, congratulations! Let it warm up and then strain through a colander or sieve, and discard the bones and veggies (feed the veggies to your dogs, they’ll love you!). You can strain it through cheesecloth if desired, to get out any small particles – I personally don’t bother with this.
* Now you have endless possibilities! To help sick ones get well, serve this broth hot in a tea mug, with some salt to taste, and lemon juice if desired. You can add chopped carrots, onions, and celery, cooked whole grains, and chicken meat for chicken soup, or use this to cook grains or rice or as a base for any soup.
If you don’t need to use it right away, store this treasure in your freezer so it will be waiting when you need it! (Seriously, this is like gold when you’re sick – nothing worse than trying to make chicken stock while you’re sick.) Freeze it in mason jars (leave about an inch of air so it can expand as it freezes), or you can freeze it in an ice cube tray, pop out the cubes, and put them into a bag or jar in the freezer. If you’re low on freezer space, you can always simmer your stock longer, reducing it further, then use the ice cube freezing technique – just remember to add water when you use it, since it will be very very strong!
And there you have it! May this fill your home and your soul with amazing smells and flavors and health. As always, please feel free to ask if you have any questions. Blessings on your weekend, and your kitchen!