Saturday, November 2, 2013

Chicken Stock

I took a walk with my kids this morning in the crisp, windy fall weather in search of pine cones to make a Christmas garland. From our house it is a little distance to get into Allerton Park, and then we usually walk on the entrance road that goes over the rive. While on this road today, I heard a white throated sparrow. This has significance for two reasons. One, it's call is my favorite bird call. Two, it means they are migrating through the area, on their way South for the winter. Yep, it's getting to be that time.

Thus, it is the perfect time to post about making a basic chicken stock. It is soup and casserole season, and having a good stock on hand can be the difference between an OK soup and a great soup. The flavor is in the broth! While I have several times gotten canned broth from the store, I have been making my own just like my Mom since having a kitchen of my own. Part of it is that I love the flavor of it in my cooking. More so, however, it satisfies my need to not waste ANYTHING when it comes to food. It is a serious problem of mine. I'm a clean-plate kind of girl. I finish my plate, and the plate of my kids when they don't finish, because I just can't stand to see good food go to waste.

Anyway...broth is a "kitchen sink" type recipe, where you use the last bit of chicken from a chicken dinner, the odds and ends of vegetables, and even finish off the last teaspoon of thyme you had sitting in the spice cabinet forever. Nothing goes to waste in this house when we roast a chicken. In the next few weeks I'll also post what I do with leftover chicken, and a great soup recipe to use this broth for.

So stock starts with a chicken. An organic chicken, whenever possible. This actually isn't my first choice because it isn't from a local farm, but I didn't have time to get a local one. So I settled for at least organic.

I make my roast chicken as simple as possible. I don't bother with tons of cavity fillings and herbs and spices. Unless I'm feeling crazy and inventive, of course. No, a slather of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper and the bird goes in the oven at 425 for 15 minutes, and then 375 for about another hour. When it registers 160 on my meat thermometer I pull it out and let it rest.

I didn't get any good pictures of the roasted bird, because we were having a party and I was rushing to get it on the table. I did a hack carving job, but it was tasty and satisfying.

Then, I was left with this:

This is what stock is made of. The carcass. The whole thing...bones, skin, any meat I didn't pry off...went into my stock pot.

If you don't have a stock pot like this, just use the biggest soup pot you have. I acquired this one from my Dad.

Along with the chicken, you want to add carrots, celery, and onion. Just chunk them up - no need to peel or carefully cut anything. Use all your carrot stubs from the last time you made carrots, and the 2 that are about to shrivel up because you can't ever use up a whole bag of carrots, or a whole stalk of celery for that matter. Oh throw in some garlic too. Just smash them and throw it all in the pot. I even had some mushrooms and zucchini that I didn't use in a few past recipes, so I threw those in the pot too.

Then dump in some herbs. Fresh are best but all I had was dried, and those are fine too. I added thyme, bay leaves, marjoram, oregano, and basil.

Then you just fill the pot with water. Cover the chicken and all the veggies. I don't know how much water I put in. Maybe a gallon, maybe a gallon and a half. If you want measurements, I'll TRY to give you some in the recipe below...but it seriously does not matter, so long as you have that chicken in there.

Then you put it on the stove over low heat and let it cook. All. Day. Your house will smell amazing. You will want to have a full on turkey dinner with all the fixings for lunch, because that is what is smells like. It smells like home.

So I had mine sit on the stove for about 9 hours. Then it looked like this:

I got out as many large chunks as I could with my tongs, and then strained the rest into a pitcher. What wouldn't fit into the pitcher, I strained into a soup pot for the soup I was making later. You kind of have to find your own way with this. 

This is my straining set up. I use the cheesecloth to get out most of the dried herbs, but it isn't necessary. 

Over the sink. Always, always, over the sink.

Then there it is! Chicken stock! It isn't quite done yet though. I like to take the fat off. See that thin line at the top? I can do without that. So I put this in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, the fat was more solid, and I could remove it easily with a spoon. Then all I had to do was label my quart bags (I got 2 quarts, and this was in addition to the 5 cups or so I had used for my soup the night before) and fill them up. This is where the pitcher part comes in handy.

Fat is hardened and ready to skim

My pouring system

Ready for the freezer. 
This is my stock for the soup. So I will basically get 3 "recipes" out of this. I got a huge pot of soup, I have another quart for more soup, and then another for maybe a casserole or something.

The stock for my soup
If you don't want to roast a chicken, or if your goal is to make chicken noodle soup, just throw a WHOLE chicken into the stockpot with all the veggies and everything. Boil it for a couple hours and remove the chicken. You can shred the meat for soup, tacos, is really tender done this way. Then throw the carcass back in the pot to sit all day, as above, and then you have stock and some lovely shredded chicken.

This is really really superior to anything you'll get at your grocery store in a can. Sometimes, I like to just have stock and noodles for lunch. You can't do that with a can of Swanson's. It just isn't the same.

Chicken Stock

One chicken carcass, from a roasted chicken
3 carrots, chunked
3 ribs of celery, chunked
1 large onion, chunked
3 cloves of garlic, smashed
mushrooms, peppers, squash, cabbage - whatever odds and ends you may have. No lettuce or strong flavors though. I would avoid broccoli.
Herbs: oregano, marjoram, thyme, basil, bay leaves, pepper. Again, whatever you like.
Enough water to cover everything in the pot, or fill your pot.

Throw (OK, maybe place gently) everything into a large pot. Cover and simmer for 8-9 hours. Strain out all the solids and refrigerate the broth overnight. Skim off the layer of fat. Store in freezer bags labeled with the date in your freezer.


  1. I am Beth Albright's mom.
    She posted this blog on her FB. What a nice blog.
    I have copied the stock to use with my turkey carcass which has to be the same thing, right?

    1. I'm glad you are enjoying it! Yes, turkey would be the same thing.