Everyone needs a REAL real food mentor.
And bloggers don’t count. I think Katie would honored if you chose her as your mentor, and I’d be honored if you picked me too (although my knowledge base comes with the disclaimer of “I don’t always know what I’m doing” 😉 ). But unless you live in Michigan or California and have met us face to face, you can’t pick us. Computer friends won’t work.
“Everyone” includes me, because if I had a REAL nourishing food mentor, she would have seen me pull out my step-stool and reach for the container of store-bought chicken stock on the top shelf when I was making soup last week… and stopped me from using it.
She also would have scolded me for buying the chicken stock in the first place and taught me how to make my own AGES ago. She would say that bone broth is one of the best foods you can feed your body and that it is hands down the easiest nourishing food to make in your kitchen.
To add injury to insult (in the way loving, caring friends do), she would also ask me if I had been sleeping in class during any of the NINE TIMES Katie has specifically posted about bone broth.
To write about the same thing twice seems to be a blogging faux pas, but exceptions are generally made if the topic is really important or has changed since the first publishing, or even if the readers want more on the topic.
But to post about it nine times is nearly unheard of! My friends, making broth is really so essential, so easy, and so basic to any real food journey that it warrants a tenth post.
Your mission, should you choose to accept, is to make bone broth.
If you need a refresher on the health aspects and nutritional value of homemade chicken broth, the original Food for Thought is here.
After reading Katie’s method, pondering some of her additional tips and reviewing the second Monday Mission, I came to the conclusion that I am neither “greedy” nor “stocking up” when it comes to making my broth. Rather I’m making the absolute best use of my single $13 organic, free-range chicken that I buy each month.
We made a commitment last September to buy only organic, free-range chicken. It didn’t take long – oh, say 2 minutes of browsing the weekly grocery circulars – to realize that paying $6.99/lb for breasts was simply not in my grocery budget. Seeing the $2.49/lb price tag was already a significant change to the 79¢ per pound price that I was accustomed to. The only way to soothe my pocketbook was to maximize the chicken in every way possible. Here are three easy ways to do just that.
1. Buy whole chickens and butcher them yourself. There’s a detailed write up of how to do this here. Not only does it cost less per pound, but you end up with the gizzards and carcass bones – excellent bases for bone broth.
2. Save ALL your bones. This includes the ones from your dinner plate too, not just the raw carcass from your initial butcher. My chicken broth cooks for an entire 24 hours. If there are any germs that can survive a full day’s worth of simmering, we’ve got bigger problems to deal with than family cooties. Those bones contain vitamins and minerals and have much more to offer than taking up space in the trash can. After dinner, store the bones in the freezer in a container labeled “chicken bones.” Add to the container whenever there are chicken bones leftover.
3. Reuse the bones until you can’t. Bones can be reused to make several batches of broth and like number two above, why throw them away if they still have something to offer?
Similar to my yogurt dilemma, I don’t have a gigantic stock pot that allows me to cook more than one chicken at a time. But I guess that doesn’t matter when you only have one bird! My cooking weapon of choice is the crock pot. It does the dirty work while I sleep.
How to Make Frugal Bone Broth: The Steps
Here’s my very basic, yet efficient and effective way of making homemade chicken broth.
Fill the Slow Cooker
After carving a whole chicken into parts, set aside the two breasts and two leg quarters. (You could set aside the wings too, but it would take a few months to accumulate enough wings to warrant a decent appetizer. By the time I had enough, I would have forgotten what they were for in the first place!)
Throw everything else into a large crock pot (mine is 6 quarts) – carcass, skin, fat… leave nothing out. Empty the “chicken bones” container from the freezer into the crock pot as well.
Add 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar and fill the crock pot with cold, filtered water. Turn the crock pot on the highest setting for 2 – 4 hours, or until the water boils. Because it takes some time for a slow cooker to get to a decent cooking temperature, this step covers the initial “let the meat soak in vinegar” phase.
Skim & Cook
When the water boils, skim off whatever gunk has risen to the top. Turn the crock pot on low and cook for an additional 20 – 22 hours so that the total cooking time is 24 hours.
Strain & Pick the Meat
Place a colander into a large pot (the standard sizes normally used for straining pasta and boiling the water are fine). Wearing cooking mitts, dump the entire contents from the crock pot into the colander.
Pick up the colander and shake gently to drain any excess liquid. Place the entire colander, with the chicken still inside, in the crock pot.
Pick off whatever meat you can from the bones. I can usually get about one cup of shredded chicken from one whole carcass and wings.
Repeat for the Second Batch
Dump all the bones back into the crock pot. If your bones fill up the crock pot about half way, repeat steps 2 through 6. If your bones fill up the crock pot anywhere from a quarter to just less than half way, add 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and fill the crock pot 3/4 full with cold, filtered water. Repeat steps 3 through 6.
When the second batch of stock has cooked for 24 hours, repeat steps 5 and 6. Since you’ve already picked off the meat, skip number 7. (Even if you do find meat at this point, it’s probably mushy and not very tasty.)
Repeat for a Third Batch
Dump your bones back into the crock pot again. This time determine whether or not a third batch is feasible with the bones you have. My personal rule of thumb is if the bones about 1/3 of the crock pot, I use 2 tablespoons of vinegar and fill it up 3/4 full with cold, filtered water. If the bones don’t reach the 1/3 mark, I put them in the “chicken bones” container and freeze them for the next batch.
Repeat steps 2 through 6 again, if you have enough bones for a third batch.
Storing the Chicken Stock
When your second batch of stock is underway, strain the stock through a fine sieve as you ladle/pour the stock into clean jars or containers. You should have approximately 4-5 quarts of stock.
Do the same if you have enough bones for a third batch. You should have anywhere from 2-4 quarts of stock (depending on how many bones you had).
Each subsequent batch of broth will be lighter in color, but each is still jam-packed with awesome minerals. This is the process each month we buy a whole chicken and last month I ended up with ten quarts of stock! At $3.72 each (according to Amazon), I’m saving $37 dollars each month by making my own!
Add to this the initial 2 breasts and 2 leg quarters from your butcher, the one cup of shredded chicken from the first cook and for a $13 investment, you’ve walked away with a substantial portion of your meals for the next month! Don’t forget that you can stretch your chicken even more using beans, plus there’s a few more tips here for making your meat go further.
But it gets even better! Now that I’m making chicken stock, we actually eat it! We started making a big batch of soup for dinner every Thursday, which is based solely off of this chicken stock. We often have leftover soup too, so it’s not out of the question to have chicken stock at our meals for two or three days each week.
These soups that we’re making each week contain a large quantity of vegetables. Because of this, I don’t use vegetables when making my broth. Not only does it seem redundant (for my purposes), but it adds time in the straining stage. It may only be a few minutes, but a few minutes multiplied by three (or more) batches and it can be rather cumbersome. Plus when you’re aiming to fit organic produce in the grocery budget, boiling it for a few minutes just to throw it away doesn’t make much sense – we’d rather just eat them!
Note from Katie: A mirepoix (celery, carrots, and onions) is traditional for stock, and I add garlic too. Many folks save their “ends” for this purpose so they’re not actually spending money on veggies. I tend to add them in the last 2 hours and then chop them up for soup anyway. Aimee recently taught me how to get real flavor in my chicken stock, which probably requires the veggies. Just some options!
Stock can be frozen or canned, but it’ll keep in the fridge for at least four weeks. Note from Katie: I’ve read that you should reboil it every 5-7 days to make sure it stays “good.” I haven’t been able to test it firsthand beyond that mark. That’s when the last quart gets used up and I buy another bird to repeat the process all over again!
It may take three days to get 320 ounces of stock, but time spent “working” in the kitchen is really no more than 30 minutes each day (and that’s rounding up) and dirties only seven dishes – six of which are dishwasher safe! One time saver is to rinse out the used dishes and set them aside for the next day. I don’t actually wash them, with soap, until I’m completely done. Sound gross? Katie leaves her oatmeal out on the stove (point 5) and that makes me feel right at home. 😉 You know it! I totally rinse and reuse when I’m making multiple batches of stock.
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Tiffany is a newbie real food eater who is trying to master and incorporate nourishing foods into her kitchen without breaking the bank. She documents her baby-sized strides at DontWastetheCrumbs.