Homemade Chicken Stock

There’s something so homey to me about the smell of a roasting or boiling chicken. Growing up, my mom always made her own stock; I can only remember a time or two when she bought it. Now, I see why: chicken stock is easy and there’s very little hands-on time involved.The first step to a good soup, stew, casserole, or gravy is quality stock. And it’s so simple, even Bella (who will be three in October) knows the ingredients.

Homemade Chicken Stock

  1  whole chicken
  4  good-sized carrots
 ½ onion
  4  stalks of celery
  4 quarts of water
Cut the onion into two large chunks. Scrub the carrots and celery. Cut the carrots and celery into 2-3 pieces. (Yes, I leave the skin on the carrots. The skins of the carrots contain nutrients, too!) If your chicken won’t fit into the stock pot while whole, cut into several pieces. If you have the chicken legs, include them (if desired). Combine all ingredients in a stock pot.Cover the pot and set the heat just above medium. Bring to a boil, then lower the temperature to allow the water to simmer. Simmer overnight (or 12-24 hours.) The longer you cook your broth (up to 24 hours), the better it will be. With my stove, I can set the heat on “8 o’ clock.” My mom’s stove require even less. If you don’t know what temperature you need, set it just below medium and watch it then adjust the temperature as needed. You want a nice, steady boil without the lid rattling and contents jumping.

When the stock is finished, it will be a beautiful, rich golden color. The carrots, onion, and celery will be flimsy; the meat will be tender. I ALWAYS allow my stock to cook for 24 hours. I get the richest stock when it cooks this long. It’s also fun waking up to a house that smells like chicken.

Remove the vegetables; place into a bowl. I feed mine to the dogs; they love the great chicken flavor. I’ve also given pieces of carrots to Bella. They’re overcooked, but flavorful and easy for a small child to eat. Using two spatulas, remove the chicken and place into a bowl or cake pan. I place the cake pan right beside the (turned off!) burner.

Place a strainer over a wide-mouth jar. Set the jar on a towel. This will contain any stock that splashes, or keep your table clean if you overfill the jar. (Don’t ask me how I know that.)Pour the stock into the strainer. (Careful: it’s VERY hot!) If your strainer gets full, stop pouring and empty it into the cake pan. The strainer isn’t necessary, but I find it keeps my broth clearer; it catches the little pieces of chicken and vegetables.

Refrigerate the broth until the fat has solidified on the top; carefully skim off all of the fat. You can toss it the compost pile, feed it to your animals, or save it to cook with. I’m saving mine for test batches of soaps and candles. (Who knew you could make soap and candles from chicken fat?!)

Remove all of the meat from the chicken and store for later use. I “shred” mine and freeze it on cookie sheets for two hours, then remove it and place it in a container or bag. This gives me shredded chicken that is easily separated. It’s handy for those times when I need a fast lunch for just me and Bella but I don’t want to thaw all of the chicken. I use the shredded chicken for soups, casseroles, sandwiches, and salads.

If you want to get the most broth possible out of one chicken, you can cook the carcass of your chicken. I do this every chance I get. Place the chicken carcass, 2 quarts of water, 3 carrots, 1/2 onion, and 3 stalks of celery in a stock pot. Follow the above directions. The broth won’t be as dark, but it will still be better than store-bought. From the first batch of stock I made, I ended up with three quarts of stock. I had just over one quart for the second batch.

The stock on the left is the first batch; the stock on the right is the second. (Also, notice the difference between the fat in the two jars- the one on the left is solidified.

I freeze my chicken stock in quart sized bags. I am working towards using glass jars rather than plastic bags. This will mean less waste, and there’s less money involved and no nasty things close to my good stock. You could also can your stock. Simply Canning gives a great step-by-step to canning your own chicken broth and stock. (Note: Simply Canning’s recipe for stock/broth requires more water than mine. Using less water while cooking your chicken gives a more concentrated broth that can be “watered” down for later use. Also, I like my broth to be heartier than store-bought broths.)

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