So earlier I mentioned that I'm going to start trying to save more money. I've been meaning to do this post for awhile, but hadn't needed to restock (hurrr) my chicken stock for awhile. So now I'm finally getting around to writing this.
I like to use broth or stock when I'm making brown rice or quinoa, it adds a really nice flavor to them both. But I'm also really sensitive to MSG and all of the alternate names that shit has. There are certain name brand broths that claim to "not add MSG", but when you're me, you have to really investigate all of the ingredients on the label to see what other names that could be hiding in. (I don't fall into the camp of "Food manufacturers are the devil grrrrr", but c'mon, autolyzed yeast extract is the same fucking thing as MSG.) There are organic brands that don't use MSG (again, a lot of research to figure out which ones those are) but those can run upwards of $5 for a carton. Um, no. So, crafter's motto: "If you can't find what you want, make it."
I've been making my own for awhile now, so I've managed to figure out the science. A few notes: The way that I did it this time didn't really save money. Like, at all. But that's because I was in a rush when purchasing the chicken and I wasn't really paying attention. Normally I buy 3# rotisserie chickens for around $6-7, but alas, my grocery store was out. I had to run down the road to another grocery store, praying they had some in stock because I was running low on time. Luckily they did, and even though it was a little pricier than I'm used to, I still bought it. It wasn't until later when I realized it was a measly 2# chicken, and it was kind of dry too. So, I didn't get nearly as much stock out of this batch, let alone much meat off the actual chicken. Also, buying a whole raw chicken on sale for 99 cents a pound and roasting it yourself is going to be the cheapest way to do this. I just have a major problem dealing with whole birds before they've been cooked. I did try it once, but the chicken turned out super dry and kinda gross. So, I pay a bit extra and let the store do it for me.
So, rant done, let's do this. You will need:
Leftover chicken carcass
2-3 tbsp or cloves of garlic
2-3 bay leaves
Various vegetables and scraps
You will also need a large stock pot, several Pyrex measuring cups (or one that you can pour into several bowls) and a large mesh strainer that fits over the Pyrex measuring cup, as well as Ziploc bags if you plan to freeze the stock.
The thing I love about making stock is you don't use much in the way of new ingredients. It's mostly stuff you would have thrown away anyways. So grab that onion that has a bit of green starting to poke out on top, those potatoes that are giving you a wayward glance, that celery that has gotten old and is never going to be as firm as it once was, and toss it all in here. I keep a bag in the freezer for various scraps from the ends of veggies that are typically a little rough but still have tons of flavor. This time around I had a bunch of leek tops from a potato leek soup I had made previously, plus a couple carrots too. Next time there is a stalk of broccoli that will make its way into the batch.
If you haven't pulled all of the meat off the carcass yet, do so now. We usually eat one meal off the chicken, me taking a drumstick and my hubs eating a breast (heheh), and then I pull the rest of the meat off and use it for various things the next few days. That's why this chicken seems a bit lopsided.
Personally, I keep the skin to go in the pot when I make broth. If you don't eat it all, I suggest you do as well, it has a lot of flavor packed into it. If you're concerned about the fat in the skin, then you should really do the next (optional) step: roasting the bones and skin. Spread the remains of the carcass out on a baking sheet and roast for 30-40 mins at 375 degrees. This adds a nice depth of flavor to the bones themselves, and also draws a lot of fat out of the bones and skin.
Once your bones are ready, toss them in a large stock pot. Roughly chop up the veggies and toss them in there too. (They really don't need to be any smaller that 1" chunks.) Add peppercorns, bay leaf and garlic, and salt to taste.
Next you'll add your water. There is a bit of science as to how much you add. This was a smaller carcass than I'm used to. Typically I do 5-6 cups of water per pound of chicken. If you don't have a lot of time to cook it, use less water for a more concentrated flavor. After about 3 hours, half of your water will most likely have cooked out of the stock.
Once everything is in the pot, turn on the burner to medium heat and bring to a boil, then turn down a bit and let the whole thing simmer for 2-3 hours. The longer you go, the more concentrated the flavor will be because more and more water will evaporate out. Also, the more concentrated the stock is, the more likely it will become gelatin once it's cooled. I wouldn't suggest going longer than 4 hours unless you want chicken Jello (least appetizing dish at the church potluck).
When the stock has reached a color that you like, take the pot off the burner and allow it to cool for 10-15 mins. Meanwhile, set up your straining station in the sink. I have a nice large mesh strainer that has a base that fits into my Pyrex measuring cup.
Slowly and carefully pour the stock into the strainer, aiming for the measuring cup. Inevitably, you will end up with some outside of the cup (which is why you should do this in the sink) but do your best to get it all in there.
Switch out your measuring cups and other containers as needed, and once you get to the bottom of the pot, pour out everything into the strainer and let all of the liquid drain off the bones and veggies.
Put the stock in the fridge for at least 2-3 hours, or overnight to let it cool.
Magic lighting change!
Using a spoon, skim the fat off the top of the stock, and then store.
Typically I freeze the stock in 1 cup quantities because it's easy to thaw that way. Prep 1 quart Ziploc bags by labeling them with the date and quantity of each bag.
I'm slightly OCD because all of the bags in my freezer are labeled the same way.
Grab a coffee mug with a wide top to prop the bags open by folding the bags over the top of the mug. I use my delightfully classy "Hangover Helper" mug for this purpose.
Using the measuring cups, pour 1 cup of stock into each bag.
Pull the bag out of the cup and lay it on a flat surface, making sure the zipper is slightly higher than the rest of the bag so that the stock doesn't spill everywhere. Gently zip the bag up, pressing out as many air bubbles possible as you go.
Stack the bags on top of each other in the freezer, laying flat.
Once they are frozen, you can slip them into any crevices in your freezer, they fit nicely. To thaw, simply run the bag under warm water for about 5 mins.