Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Homemade Chicken Stock

This is one of those things that is so easy, it just seems silly not to make your own chick stock.  You don't need to buy anything special for this recipe.  Just make use of what would otherwise be waste.

So here we go - make your own chicken stock!
(If you're not a fan of seeing chicken carcasses, you'll want to scroll through the next few photos pretty quick.)

1. Whenever we have a roast chicken or I buy a whole chicken and cut up the pieces myself, I save the carcass in the freezer until I'm ready to make stock. Each one just gets wrapped in plastic wrap then put in a large freezer bag.  I had accumulated 5 chickens so it was definitely time for some stock!

* Some (2) were roasted/cooked and some (3) were raw (the ones I just cut the meat off of to use). I like using at least one that was roasted because it still has lemon, garlic and herbs stuffed inside from roasting.  Not necessary but I love the extra flavors it adds.

2. I take my biggest pots and load up the chickens.

Hello chickens!

3.  Then each pot gets filled with water until the chickens are mostly covered.  Mine aren't covered completely because my pots aren't deep enough, but I get as close to covered as I can.  I'd love to one day have a HUGE stock pot that I can toss all the chickens into at once, but this works just fine.

4. If you're chickens weren't stuffed with anything, you might want to add some flavors. I like garlic cloves and herbs, like a bunch of thyme and sage.  A few bay leaves never hurts.  Whatever you have on hand.  I don't think you could go wrong here.  I also drop in some pepper corns for a little more flavor.

Bring the pots up to a boil and let them simmer for a LONG time (maybe 4-5 hours) with the lid semi-on - leave a little room for steam to escape.  If the liquid reduces too quickly you can always add some more water.  If the chickens were stuffed with things from roasting, it all eventually comes out.  See the lemons and garlic cloves? I think there's some sage floating around in there too.

Mmmm....your house will start to smell REALLY good - like you're making a delicious dinner! My husband's always a little disappointed when he comes in to see this is what I've got going on and not something he can sneak a taste of.

See the thyme? Oh and more sage.

Here it is a while later - nice color developing!
I stir it around a little from time to time.  Flip the chickens over if one side is above the liquid level.  The chickens eventually get really soft and completely break apart.

You might see some gel-like substance form on the surface.  That will get strained out later. 

5. After it's gone long enough that I'm satisfied with the flavor (try it!) and the color, I start removing the chicken pieces and everything else floating in there.  A mesh strainer works really well for this.  Don't worry about getting everything, you're going to strain it again once it's cooled.

Look at that color!  Doesn't it look delicious!

My pots are different colors which is why it looks so different in the two pictures - but both look equally nice!

Gorgeous rich color!

You could leave it in the pots to cool or remove it to measuring cups or bowls. I put some in a glass measuring cup so you can see how the good stuff separates with the gel-ish stuff.

I moved it all into bowls and covered with plastic wrap to cool over night.
 If you want to scrap off some of the top layer, go for it.  I always do but I'm sure it's really worth the effort.

6. When you're ready to strain, grab some cheese cloth, a big rubber band and a glass measuring cup. All the stock then gets strained through the cheese cloth removing all the various particles of stuff and the guck (yes, I'm pretty sure that's what it's called) and leaving you with beautiful stock!


You'll find that you will have to keep moving the cheese cloth to a new area every now and then because of all the stuff that will accumulate on the cheese cloth that you're straining out. Just keep moving it as needed.  

Once I've filled the measure cup with 1 cup of stock, I pour it into a plastic container that will go in the freezer.  I thought 1 cup was a pretty standard amount of stock for the recipes we use it for.  You can always do more or less, depending on how you plan to use it.
Keep straining, pouring and stacking in the freezer.

* I've also frozen it flat in a quart freezer bag before but found it much more difficult to defrost in the microwave that way. I'd rather not microwave anything in plastic and it's pretty hard to get out of a plastic bag when it's frozen.

I quickly ran out of plastic containers and had to resort to using plastic cups.  Turns out the plastic cup shaped frozen stock fit into freezer bags more easily.

Once everything was frozen solid, I turn each container/cup upside down onto my hand and run warm water over it to pop the stock out. Load up some gallon freezer bags with all your stock and you've got amazing, flavorful, organic (if your chickens were organic) chicken stock ready to go whenever you want it!  This batch made us 16 cups of stock!  Should last us a while!

That's a pretty easy use for a chicken carcass that would normally end up in the trash, don't you think?
And why throw that turkey carcass away after Thanksgiving?  Make some turkey stock!

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