A few weeks ago, I decided to make a batch of homemade chicken stock. I had done this a few times before, but I always used it up straight away. I never had the room in the old freezer. Now, I have the room to make a big batch to freeze in small portions.
In the past, I had used whole chickens. But to tell you the truth, it's just too expensive. I generally buy about a 5 pound chicken to make 7 quarts of stock. After cooking the chicken for hours, it's not that great to eat. So you end up tossing the whole bird. This time around I went to the butcher at my local supermarket and asked him if he had any carcasses or gizzards to sell me. He told me that he had just packaged up a few packs of gizzards and necks. For about $3.50 I got 5 pounds of stock worthy chicken. Great!
I used my very tall stockpot to do this job. First I added the following to the pot:
7 carrots, not peeled, chopped
3 onions, quartered
4 head of celery, chopped
1 head of garlic, not peeled, chopped in half
5 pounds chicken (parts or whole chicken chopped up)
3 bay leaves
1 tsp. whole peppercorns
Then I added as much water as I could fit in the pot. For my pot, this was 7 quarts. I then added a ton of fresh herbs from my garden. You can add whatever you like, but I used:
1 1/2 c. flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
4 long stalks of Rosemary
5 stalks of Thyme
1/2 c. of chopped chives
I let the mixture simmer for about 4 hours. Every half hour or so, I would skim off any fat that had risen to the top. After 4 hours, I poured the stock through a strainer into a cheesecloth lined bowl. (You don't have to use the cheesecloth, but I find that it really helps to remove any of the finer particles that may have passed through the strainer.) I then allowed the stock to cool before putting it in the fridge overnight.
The next day, I skimmed off all the fat that had separated from the stock. There will be a lot, don't worry! I then transferred the stock into food storage bags. I put 2 cups of broth in each bag. I then put the bags in the freezer, lying them flat to conserve room. I used 7 quarts of water and ended up with about 6 1/2 quarts of stock. Not bad! Cheap and delicious!
Well, the hubby is feeling a little under the weather this week. Time for soup! I took out 2 bags of broth (4 cups) from the freezer and let them defrost a bit. I then put the stock in a pot over medium low heat to finish defrosting. When the stock was warm, I added a chicken breast that I had cut up into bite sized pieces. I would have normally added carrots as well at this point, but the patient didn't want them in there. I also added 1 cinnamon stick to the pot and a bit of lemon juice to taste. I used about 2 tsp.
I let the soup cook for about 5 minutes before removing the cinnamon and adding a few hand fulls of broken egg noodles. The soup cooked for just another few minutes, until the noodles were done. Soup was delicious!
What I like about making my own stock is that it's easy. Time consuming, but easy. But, I just put the stock on to simmer away while I'm watching TV, cleaning, etc. So, it's not that bad. I also really enjoy getting to control what goes into the broth. It's exactly what I want. And I can alter the ingredients to fit the mood I'm in. Finally, it's really nice having a freezer full of stock! Since I use chicken stock all the time, it's both a cheaper and a healthier option for us. I just pop a bag of broth into the pot and my meal is halfway done! I also use chicken broth to flavor rice and vegetable dishes. I'm getting a ton of use out of $3.50 worth of chicken parts. And when all else fails, a good cup of homemade soup is only 10 minutes away.