UPDATE 2015 – I’ve gathered all my best knowledge of chicken stock into one handy post: The Encyclopedia of Chicken Stock
Chicken stock is one of the quintessential Kitchen Stewardship habits (you can see the other 9 here). I thought I had it down to a science, but still I have made some changes to the way I make chicken stock since I posted on it last year.
- I add a few (or a lot of) cloves of garlic, slicing them in half to let the juices out but otherwise leaving them alone, i.e. in their skins. I don’t know if the slice is scientifically sound, but it seems like a good idea to me.
- I don’t add my vegetables at the beginning. This serves two purposes: first, that getting the stock started is even easier because I only have to throw the meat in. That is a nice perk when I’m starting a big pot at 10:00 at night after a chicken dinner. Second, the vegetables still release their flavor and vitamins into the stock, but they aren’t cooked to mush. I pull the carrots out and throw them into my next batch of chicken noodle soup. I suppose I could save the celery, too, but I don’t like celery all that much.You can add the veggies about an hour from the end, but you may want to bring the stock up to a boil again and back down to simmer. I was surprised tonight as I strained the broth that my carrots, after cooking over an hour and then sitting in the pot for a few more hours as the stock cooled a bit, were still a bit firm. ??!!
- I usually make a “chicken soup fixin’s” jar or bag if I’m not making chicken noodle soup immediately. The cooked carrots get sliced and put in along with 2 cups of chicken, plus anything else I can save (tonight, some seaweed). Just add celery, a jar of broth, and noodles, and voila! Chicken noodle soup.
- I’m tired of mushy chicken. Yes, you can eat the chicken after it’s been cooked in a pot for 24 hours, and I used to just throw the whole chicken(s) in the pot and then use the meat from that, but the texture is often lacking and much of the flavor is gone. Since whole chickens are pretty much all we get nowadays, I finally got sick of tasteless chicken strings in my casseroles. I’m roasting everything now, even the chicken I harvest the breast meat from. The flavor can’t be beat!
- I pick the chicken twice. Because I roast the meat, I pick it after roasting, then make the stock, and then I sort through all the junk again. From two chickens, I got about two cups of meat that I can put in a soup. After my husband’s aunt picked over the Thanksgiving turkey, I got a ridiculous amount of meat from my stock (maybe 8 cups or so?). It’s worth a pick over if you’re stingy like me! The bowl contains chicken obtained with the second pick-over, and those carrots and seaweed will go in my fixin’s jar.
- We eat some organ meats. (Blech!) The chicken’s organs are so mushy on that second pick-through that I just smash them to smithereens between my fingers and toss them in with the chicken soup. Don’t tell anyone, okay! 😉 I absolutely would NOT do this with conventionally (factory) raised, storebought chickens, but when they’re right from the farm, those organs have some vitamins and minerals for us! I don’t really know what they all are. I don’t use all of them. I say a prayer and guess! So clearly…please…don’t take my word on that one.
- I wear my inside shoes. It takes over an hour to strain my broth, because I make so much at a time. Someday I’m going to have two great big glass bowls, and it won’t be so bad. For now, I have to pour through my strainer into my glass bowl, dole that out into jars, then into the bowl again before I can even empty my pot.
- I wear an apron and push my sleeves up. I’ve ruined too many brightly or dark-colored shirts with grease spots. I’m finally learning my lesson.
- This is my organization system in a small kitchen:
I scoop the large things out of the pot, which is in my sink, with a slotted spoon, set it on the lid of that large bowl (no extra dishes, please!), pull out the meat and carrots which go into the large glass bowl, and the junk goes into a garbage bowl, which is whatever was already dirty in my sink, even a pot from lunch. When most of the stuff is out, I can empty the glass bowl and put it into the sink with my metal strainer inside. I pour the broth in until it’s full, put it into glass jars, and repeat as necessary.
- Then I dump it all back into the big pot. Believe it or not. After 15 minutes of just moving broth around tonight, I dumped that glass bowl and all my jars back into the pot, cringing as I did. Time to boil it again. It’s kind of unbelievable even to me, but unless you have ample freezer space with room to spare, it’s a neat trick to condense your own broth. I’ll only have to freeze about 4 jars instead of 8, and then I add water when it’s soup time. Just boil uncovered until it reduces to the amount your freezer can handle!
In case you’re wondering, I chill everything in my garage this time of year. It’s soooo nice to be able to put my big pot, big bowl, or whatever right out there in the cold instead of rearranging my fridge and praying that I’m not diminishing the quality of the other food in there by putting such an amount of hot liquid in.
A note…: Tara at Itty Bitty Bookworms tried this stock last week as part of her challenge to eat healthier in 2010. She’s tackling one item per week and blogging about it. I wanted to share her downloadable goals chart with you if you are interested, and check out her progress and what they’re eating this week.
..and a question: A reader recently asked about using chicken skin in particular in the stock. She has heard that skins are a dangerous part to include because of possible fecal contamination, especially if you don’t have access to or funds for free-range farm chickens. My first thought? Whoops, I forgot to rinse my chickens this weekend. Shoot.
What are your thoughts on that one?
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