Chicken Stock

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I like to make soup, so we use a lot of this and I make a big pot.  My family makes fun of me for it - they joke that I will make stock out of anything that stops moving long enough.

You can cut this recipe in half or less.  Exact measurements are not so important for stock, just the long slow cooking of it.  My recipe for Chicken Corn Noodle Soup contains its own similar recipe for stock but we use all of that immediately for the soup.

I try to make all the ingredients that best I can get.  I grow my own herbs, so I know they are never sprayed.  I look for organic veggies and local pastured chicken.
5 lbs pastured chicken backs*
6-10 quarts cold water (depends on your pot size)
1-2 large onion, halved, skin on
2-3 stalks celery, in big chunks
1-2 carrots, in large pieces
1 tbl Kosher salt
3 bay leaves
Several springs of thyme and/or sage
1 tsp whole peppercorns
1. Put the chicken and the water into a big pot over medium heat. Bring slowly ALMOST to a boil. Skim the foam that will rise - you'll have to do this 3-4 times until it stops forming.  This is the blood and other impurities being heated out of the chicken flesh.
2. Now add the vegetables and seasonings.  If you add them in the beginning, they will get in the way of skimming. Some people add leeks, too, but I find the cleaning of them too tedious. I don't add much salt to stock, since I don't know just what it will be used for later.  Cover and let simmer on low.  Don't let it come to a full boil.  How long should it simmer?  At least 2 hours, if you need it "quickly."  But you could let this go all day and just strain it when you are ready to go to bed.  It perfumes the house nicely.
3. Everything will have fallen apart in the pot by the end.. I use a wire skimmer to remove the big chunks, then pour the rest through a fine-mesh strainer into a smaller pot to cool.  If you need the stock to be even more clear of particles, lay a few layers of cheesecloth across the strainer. 

I cover the stock and allow it to cool for a little while, then refrigerate it overnight.  The fat hardens on the top and is easier to remove.  The stock gels in the fridge  - this normal and my kids call it "Chicken Jello."   If I am leaving it in the fridge for use in the coming week, I don't skim the fat until I use the stock.  If I am freezing it, I remove most of the fat. Then I measure it into labeled storage containers.  I would keep it for a week in the fridge, or 3 months in the freezer - although I make stock at least once a month, so mine doesn't last that long.  Remember to label the containers - frozen chicken stock looks just like pork or fish stock.
*Chicken:  Chicken backs are usually an inexpensive remnant of cutting up chickens at the butcher.  There are several kinds of "organic" or "pasture-fed" chicken - just get the best you can find.  This is also a good use for older stewing chickens.  I have gotten chicken backs as low as .39/pound, but usually pay .79-.99/lb for local organic backs.  If you make turkey stock, Thanksgiving week is the time to buy and freeze turkey backs  - I only paid .15/lb.

Storage:  I pour several quarts into quart-sized freezer bags, and fold over the bag when sealing to get all the air out.  I lay them flat in the freezer as they freeze, to make then easy to stack.  I also pour 1-cup portions into a silicone muffin pan, and then pop them out into a bigger ziplock after they are frozen.  Some folks also make stock ice cubes, but we never seem to use it in amounts that small.


Member since Sep 2007

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