12 February 2011

Chicken Stock

We've been eating soup around here, and it's a good thing, because nothing warms you up when it's -2˚F like good, homemade, hearty, warm, soul-inspiring soup. Honestly, we don't really care what type of soup it is that's warming us, but since we've lately been trying to keep our waistlines under control while hibernating, hearty broth soups have been the norm. Now, I've always love a good brothy soup, but there's one thing that will elevate broth soup to a tastier, richer, more exquisite plain than you thought possible, and that one thing is homemade stock.

Homemade stock seemed an unnecessary task and expense for the longest time. I mean, who has hours to sit, stirring, pot watching, straining, cooling, and packaging? I quickly learned that I have time to do that, because most of it is done without your supervision—10 minutes to chop and throw together, then a few minutes every now and again to finish up the process. THe biggest bonus for us, of course, is the cost. We buy our chickens for under $1/pound (get several when they're on sale and freeze them—you can put them right in the pot without thawing!) and the rest is mostly just cheap veggies. Here's the cost breakdown:
  • 3-5 pound chickens=$15 or less
  • Vegetables=$5
  • Fresh herbs=$5 (or dried herbs you already have in pantry)
  • Water=free
So, for $18-$25, you get the meat of 3 chickens, plus 2+ gallons of stock, which, when purchased separately, look like this:
  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast=$8
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs=$4
  • 8 quarts low sodium, full-flavoured chicken stock=$24 minimum
$23 or $36? I know what I like better. And the best part is that I know what's in my stock, it's fresh, and much higher quality than that from the grocery store. You know how homemade chicken soup turns into jello in the refrigerator? That's because of the collagen and gelatin from the bones of the chicken. Store-bought stock doesn't do that, and even worse, you lose many of the great things about it because of that.

We've taken to making it each week in our giant canning pot with three chickens and plenty of water, but if you're not going to be soup crazy like us, you can make it in smaller batches (in a smaller pan!) and enjoy it in smaller quantities. The other option, of course, is to make just as much and freeze it for later use so you'll never have to buy stock again (or use bouillon, which is mostly just salt, anyway.) This is the recipe I've been using, followed by the ingredients scaled to a single chicken size for those that want less stock or have smaller pots.

Rich, Elegant, Delicious Chicken Stock

3 5-pound whole chickens
3 large onions, unpeeled and quartered
10 large carrots and/or parsnips, unpeeled and chopped in half*
4 stalks celery with leaves, cut in half
1 head garlic, unpeeled & cut in half (to expose all the cloves)
20 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 Tbsp dried)
15 sprigs fresh parsley (or 1 Tbsp dried)
1 Tbsp dill seeds (or 20 sprigs fresh dill)
2 tsp whole peppercorns
2 Tbsp kosher salt
7 quarts water

Place all vegetables, herbs, and seasonings in pot, then place chickens, including giblets, if any, on top. Fill with water. Bring to a hesitant (not rolling!) boil, and cook for 1 hour. Remove chickens from pot, and cut away the breast meat, which should be fully cooked (let cook longer if birds are frozen.) At this point I break a few bones with a knife or kitchen shears to let the marrow circulate in the broth. Return carcass and all non-breast meat to the pot and cook three more hours, uncovered. Remove chicken carcasses, let cool, and harvest the meat—it'll make amazing chicken noodle soup. Let broth cool, then strain through a fine sieve into storage containers. If you're going to freeze it, I would put it in the refrigerator first so you can skim the solidified fat before freezing.

*I generally use only carrots, but today I'm trying parsnips. I plan for it to be incredible.

Rich, Elegant, Delicious Chicken Stock
(scaled down for 1 chicken)

1 5-pound whole chicken
1 large onions, unpeeled and quartered
4 large carrots and/or parsnips, unpeeled and chopped in half*
2 stalks celery with leaves, cut in half
4-6 cloves garlic, unpeeled & cut in half
7 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
5 sprigs fresh parsley (or 1 tsp dried)
1 tsp dill seeds (or 7 sprigs fresh dill)
1 tsp whole peppercorns
2 tsp kosher salt
2.5 quarts water

1 comment:

Mom said...

Thanks for publishing this James! It's supposed to be warmer here this week, almost in the 60's, but I think we'll have soup anyway. You know, my house will probably still be in the 40's so this will be magnificent to warm the nose the fingers, and the toes and everything in between!