Monday 10 December 2012

Chicken Stock From Scratch

I've been beating you all upside the head with chicken recipes and techniques lately including three versions of whole roasted chickens. What do you end up with when you've finished eating a whole chicken? Bones. What can you do with bones? Stock of course. We live in a day and age where it's not hard to find tasty, good quality stocks and broths. Nothing quite compares to stock which you've made yourself from scratch. Stock makes a phenomenal base for soups, sauces, stews and many other applications. Not to mention it's as easy as falling off a log. 

Before we begin, let's examine a common misconception... broth vs. stock. What's the difference? In short form, stock is made by simmering vegetables and bones (sometimes meat) for a length of time. It doesn't particularly taste great but has stupendous potential. Stock becomes broth after seasoning. Broth is the stuff that you can eat on its own because it's so good. I'm about to show you how to make your own stock/broth that's flavourful, rich, and impossible to find on a grocery shelf. Let's get right on with it.

Depending on how much stock you're aiming to make, you could use a whole, single chicken as your base. If you want to make a smaller amount of stock, you could even use just the bones of one chicken. I had three chickens worth of bones saved in my freezer from my recent posts. This made a great base for a good amount of stock. You can still make stock with the bones from just one chicken. I just got greedy.

You're also going to need vegetables and some basic aromatics. I used the classic mirepoix (onion, carrot and celery) but you can use any vegetables you want. Peppers, parsnips and crushed garlic are also great aromatic vegetables for stock. I also used a bunch of parsley stems, two bay leaves, some whole peppercorns and three whole allspice berries. I also had some fresh rosemary leftover from my last whole chicken so I chose to use that too. Salt is an integral ingredient to a broth, but that isn't added until the end.

Start by taking a large pot and filling it with your chicken bones, vegetables and spices. Then you want to fill the pot with cold water until everything is covered and submerged. Place the pot on your stove and heat up to a simmer.

Once your water has come to a simmer, turn the heat down to low. You don't want to let your stock boil. Keeping it at a simmer is perfect. As it cooks, skim away any fat or foam that surfaces at the top. From time to time you'll want to add more water here and there as it will slowly evaporate. All you need to be concerned about is keeping everything covered in water. Do this for a minimum of two hours. You don't have to laboriously babysit it. Just check in on it every now and then. The longer it stews like this, the better it will be. I let mine take its course for about 6.5 hours but if you can afford to let it run its course all day, even better!

Once you are satisfied with your stock you can turn off the heat. I recommend letting it sit for about another hour or so. It's just a safety precaution as not to burn yourself (which neither you or me want). At this point it's not going to look very charming, but don't sweat it. The best part is coming right up.

Place a strainer into another large pot and line it with cheesecloth. Carefully pour the contents of  your original pot into the strainer so that the solids are trapped but that gorgeous stock runs into the other pot. 

At this point it resembles something like Freddy Kruger's face but you can discard all of the solids. They've done their job. If you have a compost or "green bin" that is the perfect new home for them. Just allow as much of the liquid as possible to strain into the other pot.

Once you have your stock, now is the time to either keep it as is, or anoint it into broth status by adding your own seasonings, particularly salt. Kosher or sea salt is best because the saltiness is not as intense as iodized table salt so it will be easier not to overseason it. I'm not going to tell you how much salt to add because that depends entirely on your taste. You're the boss of your diet. 

I hope this has inspired you to try this for yourself. It's easy and very resourceful. I promise that you won't find anything at a grocery store like something you can make from scratch yourself. It requires some patience but very little effort and the rewards you reap are so worth it.

There are endless things you can make with stock or broth. Tomorrow I'll show you one delicious version of chicken and dumplings using this broth in honour of Hanukkah. Stay tuned.


*Important Scientific Note: Any unused stock can be kept in your fridge or frozen. When stock becomes cold it will turn to jelly. This is perfectly natural and no cause to throw it out. In fact, if your stock didn't turn to jelly when cold it would be a sign of an inferior product. The reason is because animal stock is used with bones which are rich in gelatin, a protein derived from marrow. The jelly consistency is just a normal reaction to the cold. When reheated it will melt back into the sensational stock you remembered. 

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