Today is my day off from my “real” job, so of course, I am very busy–chiropractor in the morning and a friend visiting in the afternoon. I also need to do laundry, make more blueberry muffins, and make a batch of chicken stock.
Chicken stock is another one of my favorite recipes because it helps stretch my budget and uses things that would normally go to waste.
I try to cook from scratch as much as reasonable. It is usually healthier and often cheaper. I will occasionally get whole chickens and cook them, either in the oven or slow cooker. I remove and use the meat (in several different meals), but what happens to the rest of the chicken? I take all of the scraps (bones, skin, neck, & giblets) and put it in a bag in my freezer. This also works well for rotisserie chickens, which aren’t quite as frugal, but are much more convenient.
I also do this with vegetable scraps. Whenever we make something using lots of fresh veggies, I have a bowl to catch all of the clean scraps. These go into a freezer bag too. I especially prefer onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms, green onions, green pepper, and leeks, but most any vegetable will work.
When I get enough saved up, about 2-3 bags, I pull out my big stockpot. I just dump in the bags of scraps and add about twice that much water. Then I boil it for 2-3 hours.
The next step is to strain out the scraps. I just use mesh strainers; if you prefer a clearer stock, you can also use cheesecloth. It works well but takes longer and I am just not that patient with it.
After this, the fat needs to be strained. The easy way is to refrigerate it overnight, let the fat solidify, and strain it off. I had company coming, so I tossed a bunch of ice cubes in and put it in the fridge for a couple hours. This wasn’t enough so I just used a gravy ladle to get off most of the fat.
Next, I taste it and season it to taste. At this point, you can also add water to dilute it if it is too strong or boil it down if it is too weak. Warning: if you taste before straining, make sure you do not actually have a spoonful of chicken fat. It looks very similar, but liquid chicken fat tastes totally different and it is something you cannot un-taste. Just trust me on this–you do not want to try it.
At this point, you have finished chicken stock. From here you can either refrigerate and use it quickly, or can it, or freeze it. Freezing is the easiest option. You can even freeze it in ice cube trays for easier portioning.
Unfortunately, my freezer is not that big, but I do have a big pressure canner and room in my pantry. If you choose to can this, it must be pressure canned as it is a low-acid food.
Follow your canner’s instructions for canning stock. Fill sterilized jars with 1-inch of headspace. The stock should be processed at 11 pounds of pressure for 20 minutes (for pints) or 25 minutes (quarts) for altitudes under 2,000 feet.
This is easier than it looks-I promise. Just throw food at a pot and boil the crud out of it. It can also be changed up to make beef or vegetable stock. Give it a try and let me know how it goes!