Thursday, August 7, 2014

Homemade Chicken Stock - a.k.a Liquid Gold

Disclaimer: The pictures in this posts aren't exactly pretty, but they do show the steps to make some delicious chicken stock :)

I used to buy boxed chicken broth whenever I needed some for a recipe but it didn't have a whole lot of flavor and I always wondered how many questionable ingredients were in it. I knew that chicken broth could be made at home but I figured it would be some kind of laborious undertaking requiring me to stand over the stove for hours stirring a pot. That changed when I stumbled across a blog post one day that talked about making chicken stock in a crockpot. It looked super simple but it required having some pre-cooked chicken bones to use as the base of the stock. Since we always buy boneless/skinless chicken breasts, I had no bones available. However, after roasting a couple of whole chickens and saving all the bones from each one, I finally had enough to make a batch of chicken stock.

I first made this last summer and have made it a couple times since. In the last year we haven't had to buy boxed chicken broth at all! Quick side note: I just looked up the difference between stock and broth and apparently stock is typically made with bones and cooked a long time to get some of the gelatin out of the bone, giving it a thicker consistency. Broth is made with chicken meat and not cooked as long. Anyway, back to the recipe. Once you've got the chicken bones saved up, it really couldn't be easier to make a whole bunch of broth. It's kind of a "set it and forget it" recipe.

Homemade Chicken Stock
makes about 4 quarts

Tools needed:
- Large crockpot )I think mine is 6 quarts)
- Slotted spoon
- Mesh strainer
- Cheese cloth
- Containers for freezing chicken stock.

- Bones from about 2 whole fryer chickens (probably about a pound of bones). The ones I use typically still have bits of cooked meat and skin on them, but that's fine. Just gives it more flavor!
- 1 carrot
- Small onion, or 1/2 an onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 tsp. whole peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- small sprig of rosemary (optional, we just happened to have some)
- water

You'll notice I don't add any salt. I figured there was some on the chicken from when I seasoned and cooked it originally. Plus not adding salt will keep the sodium of the finished stock lower so that you can just add salt to the dish you're using it in instead.

To start, dump your chicken bones into the crockpot. I freeze the bones until I'm ready to make stock and then just use them right out of the freezer without thawing them. Next, pour approximately 5 quarts of water into the crockpot. You probably want to keep the water level to within an inch or 1/2 inch from the top. I like to use hot water so that the frozen bones will break apart from the big clump they're in.

Then give your vegetables a rough chop. No need to peel the carrot or anything. For the garlic just smash it with the side of the knife.

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Add the vegetables, peppercorns, rosemary, and bay leaf into the crockpot. Give everything a little stir then put the lid on, plug the crockpot in and set it on low.

Let the stock cook on low for a full 24 hours. Just a word of warning, this WILL make your entire house smell like roasted chicken. So if that doesn't sound like something you want, maybe consider setting the crockpot in the garage or something. Although if you're making this on a cold winter day, it might be kind of comforting to have something so tasty smelling cooking all day :) After cooking for 24 hours, turn the crockpot off and either let it sit for a little bit to cool, or you can go ahead and start straining it out.

To get the stock ready for storing, start by using a slotted spoon or "spider" to scoop out all the bones and large chunks of vegetables.

Then set a mesh strainer over a large bowl, or in my case an 8 cup glass measuring cup, and line the strainer with some cheese cloth that has been doubled up a couple times.

Using a ladle, begin scooping the stock from the crockpot and into the strainer. If you see any chunks or things getting through the strainer, you may want to add another layer of cheese cloth. In the end you should have a strainer full of nasty bits, and two big bowls of liquid gold :)

I like to divide the stock up in a few different ways. With this batch I ended up with 3 pint containers, 1 quart container and 24 "pucks". To make the little pucks of broth I use flexible silicon cupcake holders that we found at Walmart. They work amazingly well for this! Once the stock is frozen you just peel each flexible mold off and place the puck into a Ziploc bag. I like having these if I just want to add some stock to a sauce but don't need very much.

This homemade stock is also really nice to drink when you have a cold. I've taken out a couple of the pucks before and heated them in the microwave just to drink. It may sound a little strange but it tastes great and some people swear by the healing properties of this "bone broth". It's worth a shot, right?!

Well, like I said, not the most appetizing pictures today but maybe it got you thinking about making something at home that you'd usually buy at the store. Also, if you're thinking you'd like to roast a couple chickens at home in order to get the bones for the stock, there are tons of good tips and recipes online. Just do a quick Google search. In the next couple days I'll share a recipe that I've been making a lot recently and that will use some of this stock. Thanks for reading and have a great night!

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