September 18, 2008

Jen's Homemade Chicken Stock

I love homemade chicken stock. It is very inexpensive and easy to make, and you get a lot in return (i.e. stock) for minimal effort. You can do it with any leftover whole chicken; even a store bought rotisserie chicken. I actually calculated out how much money I save when I make my own stock vs. buying boxed chicken broth/stock. I typically save anywhere from $12-15 per batch. I love that! It makes me feel very Suzy-Homemaker!!!! I always make it with leftover chicken parts, so I don't have any extra stock expense. It is literally made with stuff that you would normally just discard. Talk about re-purposing...stock is a great way to make sure you use every part of your chicken, without a lot of waste.

Also, the flavor difference is amazing! First, let me explain the difference between stock and broth. Any type of stock is made with meat, aromatics (veggies such as onions, carrots, celery, garlic, etc.), and bones. The bones are an important flavor component because when cooked long and slow in the stock preparation process, they release gelatin and other compounds to make the stock rich and delicious. The flavor is more intense (in a good way) and the texture is more velvety because of the bones. Broth is most of the same ingredients, except for the bones. Broth will never be as flavorful or as complex as stock. Therefore, there is no technical difference between vegetable stock and vegetable broth...because vegetables don't have bones....FYI.
So, stuff that you buy in the box will always have a ton more sodium than normal try and make up the difference. Even the boxed broth that is labeled low sodium is still way more salty than homemade stock. Seriously, many chefs will use plain old water if given the choice between canned/boxed broth (or stock for that matter) and tap water. You don't really notice the difference until you have had good, homemade stock. Trust me on this one.

I still buy the boxed stuff once in a while, just for convenience sake. The caveat is that I will make homemade whenever possible. Seriously, you get totally spoiled once you have good homemade stock. Chicken stock is the easiest. I have made veal stock before, and that is a whole different ball game (same principle, but it takes two days longer and you have to roast the veal bones).

Normally, I do this in a big pot. This time, I tried it in my slow cooker and it worked out just fine. I will post the directions for both methods. One other note, you don't have to chop or clean any of the aromatics...just throw them in roughly chopped, in big chunks or halved, with skins and all. It is okay, the liquid is what we are after and all the solids will be strained out anyway.

Jen's Homemade Chicken Stock

1 whole chicken carcass, including skin & bones
1 whole onion, halved & unpeeled
4 whole garlic cloves, halved and unpeeled
4 whole carrots, cut into large chunks & unpeeled
4 whole ribs of celery, including leaves & cut into large chunks
1-2 Tablespoons of poultry seasoning
1 Tablespoons of dried parsley
1 Tablespoons of dried thyme
1/4 cup of kosher or sea salt (I use sea salt, since there is less sodium in it)
1/4 cup of pepper or peppercorns
Water to cover ingredients; usually 6-8 quarts or more
***Big Stock Pot***


Stove Top:
1) Place all ingredients in large stock pot and cover with water. Place on stove top over high heat to bring water to boil. Once boiling, turn down heat to medium low so ingredients may simmer. Cover (with lid cracked a little) and simmer on medium-low heat for minimum 3-4 hours.

2) Once cooking is completed,strain out all solids, reserving liquid. Discard solids. Place stock in plastic containers and let cool on counter for 1/2 hour. Move stock container to refrigerator and let rest overnight or for an additional 3-4 hours.

3) After rest period, take containers out of fridge for skimming. All fat should have risen to the top of the containers. Use spoon to skim fat off top of the stock and discard. Once all fat has been skimmed, stock can be stored in fridge, in an airtight container, for maximum 1 week. ****Freeze stock and store for 6-12 months***. I recommend portioning out your stock in 2 cup increments and freezing.

Slow Cooker:
1) Place all ingredients in large capacity slow cooker and cover with water. Cover completely with lid & cook on high setting for 4 hours. Reduce heat to low setting and let simmer for an additional 4 hours.

2) Follow step 2 above

3) Follow step 3 above

Jen's Notes:
All measurements are approximate. Also, the most important ingredient for good tasting stock is a sufficient amount of salt, so don't be shy. Under-seasoned stock is very bland, so make sure it is salted properly.

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