Homemade Chicken Stock

Two out of three of my punks were feeling a little out of sorts this past weekend.  Nothing serious – just your garden variety sniffles, coupled with some moping around, a noticeable lack of energy, and a weeee little bit of whining. In other words, they were great company.  NOT!

Today I’m warding off whatever illness might be coming our way by channeling my inner Jewish Grandma.  I’m not Jewish or a Grandma, but surely you’ve heard of Jewish Penicillin?  I’ve got a batch of homemade chicken stock simmering away on my stove, and this stuff smells heavenly!  I totally get why chicken soup is renowned for its medicinal benefits – just one big whiff of this simmering stock can clear stuffy nasal passages and ward off whatever ails yah’.

For some of you, this post will seem pretty basic, and if it is, I apologize.  But for others, I hope it’s a nifty little lesson in Cooking 101.  I wish that someone had shown me how to make homemade stock back when I was starting out in the kitchen.  It’s really a wonderful item to keep on hand in your freezer, and can add a wonderful richness to soups, stews, and sauces.  It’s a good thing to have in your repertoire, up your sleeve, or wherever else you’d like to stash it.

Also, it’s pretty difficult to mess it up, which is always good news for beginner cooks, right?

So!  Let’s make some stock!

If you’ve perused the sale ad this week, you’ve probably noticed that “soup chickens” are on special at .99 / pound.  I got a GINORMOUS chicken yesterday for about $6.00!  These chickens are older hens, whose egg-laying days have long since passed.  You’d certainly understand the meaning of “tough old bird” if you tried to use this particular chicken in any normal application – for instance, if you fried it up and served it with mashed potatoes and gravy.  The meat would be tough and stringy, and leave you to wonder where you went wrong.  So, although their meat is not ideal for straight up dining, these chickens are packed with flavor, so they’re perfect for making stock.

There’s really not a hard and fast recipe here.   You don’t need to measure anything precisely; as long as you add the basics to your pot, you’ll be good to go.  More good news is that some of these aromatic vegetables (parsnips, carrots, leeks, and celery) are also on sale this week!  You can make as much as you like; all you really need is time.

BASIC HOMEMADE CHICKEN STOCK

Yields:  2 quarts

  • 3 ½ lb. soup chicken (this was half the chicken for me; I froze the other half)
  • 1 very large carrot, trimmed and chunked
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped (leafy tops included)
  • 1 leek, white and pale green parts only, trimmed and sliced down the middle
  • 1 yellow onion, unpeeled (leave the skin on, it adds color to the stock)
  • 1 parsnip, trimmed and chunked
  • ½ bunch fresh parsley
  • 6-8 peppercorns
  • 1 t. salt
  • Enough cold water to cover all of these ingredients once they’re in the pot

Rinse your chicken and place it in a large Dutch oven.  Add in the rest of the ingredients.  Pour enough cold water over the ingredients to cover them (for my batch, this was about 8 cups).  Bring the mixture up to a boil, then immediately reduce the heat so that you maintain a bare simmer (a few little bubbles are popping up here and there).  Use a fine mesh strainer or a spoon to skim off any scum that comes to the surface.  Set your timer for two and a half hours and walk away (two and a half hours is your minimum cook time; you can let it go for up to five hours).  Come back to the stove now and then to be sure your stock isn’t boiling too hard. (*See notes*)  Take notice of how lovely your kitchen smells.

Place a clean soup pot in your sink, and set a large strainer inside the pot.  Line the strainer with a large piece of cheesecloth or a scrupulously clean kitchen towel.  Using tongs, remove the large chicken pieces and toss them out (the meat will be totally spent at this point and isn’t worth saving).  Pour the rest of the contents of the stockpot into the lined strainer, and drain off the stock.  Lift up the strainer and press on the solids to extract as much liquid as you can.  Throw out the contents of the strainer (but not your towel, of course!).  You should have approximately 8 cups of gorgeous, clear chicken stock.  Taste it, and season with salt if desired.  Use it immediately to make soup, or chill it down quickly and freeze it for a rainy day.

**NOTES**

1). This is important:  do not keep your stock at a rolling boil.  Fat particles will separate into tiny bits and become permanently suspended in your stock, resulting in greasy, cloudy (read: unsightly and GROSS) stock that you won’t be able to fix.  And you won’t want to serve it either because it will look fowl foul (chicken humor, haha!).

2). If you’d like a lower fat stock (and if you’re not in a hurry), chill your finished product over night.  The next day, all of the fat will have solidified on top of the stock.  I know, it looks kind of gross, but you’ll be able to scoop it all off and dispose of it quite easily with a big spoon.

Featured, Fresh, Frugal, Fabulous | January 26th, 2010