Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Chicken Stock

I need to have homemade chicken stock in the freezer at all times, because it adds a lot of flavor to so many dishes.  It's one of the easiest things to make and requires little effort, so there is no excuse to be caught without some.  After I've roasted a chicken, so long as the seasonings aren't too strong, and have picked the bones clean, I drop the carcass into a freezer bag if I'm not going to use it right away.  This is something I like to do on the weekends early in the morning, because the minimum preparation that goes into making stock can be completed while the coffee brews.  You will need a good stockpot (with an 8qt. capacity or bigger), a fine mesh strainer, a large bowl to strain the stock, some cheesecloth, a ladle & some freezer containers.  The stock can be frozen in 1-2 cup portions or it can be frozen as ice cubes if you prefer to use stock by the tablespoon.   




The Ingredients 
  • 1 large yellow onion (skin intact) quartered
  • 2 large carrots chopped in 1" pieces
  • 3 celery stalks chopped in 1" pieces
  • 1/4 cup celery leaves
  • 4 sprigs of Italian parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 whole chicken carcass (or 2), leftover from Roast Chicken or saved from Cutting up a Chicken
  
Tie the peppercorns & bay leaf in a small square of cheesecloth.  Add all of your ingredients in a large stockpot & cover with cold water.  Set it on your stove & bring to a boil.  As the stock comes to a boil, skim any impure foam that floats to the surface and discard.  Lower your flame as it begins to boil & simmer your stock for one hour or 2 hours for a richer stock.  Remove any impurities along the way and don't let the stock maintain a rolling boil.  A high flame & boiling your chicken stock will cloud it up.  Simmering is best.

Here is the finished stock.  You can either let it cool completely in the pot or you can strain it while it's hot.  Personally I prefer to let it cool in the stockpot, because there is less of a risk getting burned by scalding stock. 


I usually use a chinois for straining my stock, but in a pinch a regular sieve can be substituted.  To get a clear stock, I like to line my strainer with cheesecloth held by clips. 

I'm straining into a large, vintage 12 qt. enamelware bowl that is capacious for the task.  Pour your stock carefully, especially if it's hot.

Note: I always let the stock cool down in the pot before I strain it.
As you strain the last of the stock, be careful that you don't let the chicken bones fall into the bowl.  If those ingredients do fall in the bowl, you risk clouding it up.

Give the strainer a final tap to extract every bit of stock.
This golden color is what you want to see.  Leaving the onion skin, not letting the stock boil and using cheesecloth helps achieve a well-colored, flavorful stock.


Strain your stock carefully into freezer containers.

Containers awaiting the freezer.  As soon as they're cool, refrigerate for several hours or up to overnight.  Remove any fat that has accumulated and freeze the stock for up to one month. 




As you can see, making chicken stock is pretty effortless.  Having some homemade stock like this in your freezer is not only a good thing, it's an essential thing.  If I didn't say so already, there is no salt in this stock whatsoever.  The next time you're at the supermarket, look closely at the sodium levels of the chicken stocks available and think about the prices as well.  My stock uses leftover chicken bones and just a handful of ingredients that you probably already have in the refrigerator or on the kitchen counter.  Save yourself some money by making some homemade chicken stock and do your body some good while you're at it.  Why not try making my chicken stock this weekend?   

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