Homemade Chicken Stock
Chicken Stock. It’s really a method, as opposed to a recipe. We eat a lot of chicken… a LOT of chicken. Since it is cheaper, we usually buy whole birds or bone-in pieces. And it has a lot more flavor too. We do whole, rotisserie chickens on the grill, or pieces baked in the oven (I like thighs best), or even leg quarters in the crock pot (they go on sale most often!). Whatever way we cook up the bird, we always save the bones when we’re done. An air-tight container works best, but Ziploc bags work just fine. All the scraps go into the container and then into the freezer.
Now that’s not all. If we have roast and potatoes and carrots one night for dinner, I keep the carrot and potato peelings and the ends that are cut off the carrots. If we have asparagus on the grill (my new favorite summer veggie!), I keep the ends of those as well. Corn on the cob? Keep the ends. Fresh green beans? Keep the trimmings. Any veggie that you trim or peel before preparing, save the trimmings! Put them in the same container with your chicken bones!
Then when I’m out of stock, get the container out of the freezer and dump it all in a large stock pot. Cover with water. Add salt and pepper to taste, and just about whatever other herbs you like; fresh or dried. I usually add a couple of fresh rosemary sprigs cut from my bushes out back, and dried sage, about a teaspoon or so. Then turn the heat on high and bring it to a boil. Once it starts to boil, reduce to medium low and simmer for 2 to 5 hours. The longer you simmer, the more it reduces and the more concentrated the flavor. Keep a lid on, but tilt it slightly to let some steam out and to keep it from boiling over. Trust me, I’ve had a few pots boil over.
When you are happy with the color and flavor, turn off the heat and let it cool a bit. Pour the stock through a strainer into a large bowl or another pot. Discard all of the bones and veggie pieces. Return the stock to the pot and line the strainer with cheesecloth. Pour the stock through the cheesecloth lined strainer again. If you’re worried about fat content, place the stock in the fridge and let it cool over night. The next day, remove the stock and skim the fat from the top. Place it back on the stove, just to warm it enough to a liquid state.
To store the stock, I do a couple of things. First, I have four ice cube trays that are reserved specifically for stock. Fill the trays and freeze. This makes for a quick addition of stock to recipes in small quantities. For the rest, I freeze in batches of 1 cup, 2 cups, etc. The best containers are used sour cream containers, butter containers, or you can buy small freezer containers. Measure the desired amount into the container, place on the lid, and then mark the contents and the date with a marker or grease pencil. Stack the containers in the freezer and you’re set!
Next time your recipe calls for a cup of chicken stock, grab a container out of your freezer and microwave for a couple of minutes. Then you have fresh stock ready to go!