Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sara: Homemade Chicken Stock

I was never one to do things like make my own broth.  Honestly, if it could be purchased from a store, I saw no reason to make something myself.  Who has the time?  Who wants to use all that effort?  I work full time and have three kids – why make chicken stock when I can just buy it off the shelf?

As it turns out, there are more than a few reasons.

  1. It’s easier than you think.
  2. I can control what goes into it
  3. It’s not overly processed and/or full of salt/preservatives.
  4. Making your own is a hell of a lot cheaper than buying the good stuff and a lot better for you than buying the cheap stuff.

The first time I made my own broth, I was amazed at how much I wound up with.  Surely it would take me MONTHS to use all this broth, right?  Wrong.  We went through almost all of it in just about 2 weeks.  I’d use it for cooking veggies, making soups, adding flavor to just about anything savory.  You can take leftovers, chop them up and add a few cups of homemade broth and – boom – instant soup. 

I like to use my crockpot for making broth.  I don’t have to watch it as closely, I can leave it on for 24 hours, and I can slow cook some chicken meat in the process.

Here’s how I do it:

You’ll need:
  • 6qt (or bigger) crockpot
  • 1 chicken (free range, if you can afford it!)
  • ½ white or yellow onion, chopped
  • Herbs of your choosing (optional)
  • Other veggies (optional)
  • Lots of water
(Really, even the onion is optional!  I just like the extra flavor it gives.)

I bought a free range bird this time – I figured if I was going to use this broth in everything, I’d go for the gold and get the best I could get.  The smallest bird I could find was over 5lbs!  It wouldn’t even fit in my crockpot.  I removed the breasts (saved for another meal) and cut up what was left until it fit.  I crammed that sucker in!

You can put the onion on the bottom of the crock or down the sides of the bird – wherever there is room.  Season the chicken before putting it in the crockpot.  Fill with water and either turn it on high for 3-4 hours or put it on low for 6-8 hours.

Tight squeeze!

Once the chicken is cooked, pull it out and take all the meat off the bone that you can.  Throw everything else back into the crockpot.  Add more water and turn it on low for another 4-6 hours.  At this point, everything should have fallen off the bones. At this stage, I used a slotted spoon to pull everything out of the liquid.  Any meat I missed before went in one container, cartilage/skin/inedible pieces that weren’t bone went in a bowl (I tossed this stuff) and the bones went back into the pot.  Add more water!

Left to Right: Crock, yucky stuff, meat!

I left the crockpot on low for another 12 hours or so. 

Check out that color! 

The next morning, I turned it off and let it cool for a bit.  Once it was cool enough for me to pick up the crock, I placed a strainer over a large bowl/pitcher and poured the broth in.  I wound up with so much, it didn’t all fit in the bowl I was using!  (Final measurement came to roughly 12 cups of broth.)
Put a cover of some kind over your container and stick it in the fridge for a few hours, letting the fat rise to the top.  Once it has, skim the fat off …and do with it what you will!  (I discard it, but I know others save it for cooking.)

I have no idea why this pic won't rotate for meeee!!!

I’ve heard of people using ice cube trays for freezing their broth. I don’t have any ice cube trays. The first time I made this broth, I had no idea what to do.  That’s when I came up with using a muffin tin.  Each cup on the muffin tin holds just under ½ cup of liquid.  I filled 2 tins and stuck them in the freezer. (The rest I put in a plastic cup and stuck in the freezer as well.)

Once the stock is frozen solid, pop them out of the tin (you may need to dip the cups in warm water to loosen) and place them in a Ziploc bag back in the freezer. 

Frozen flavor pods!


I spent $16 on this free range bird, but from that I was able to get: 2 large breasts (enough to feed all 5 of us a main course for dinner one night), enough meat for 3-4 servings of chicken salad, plus 12 cups of broth.  Not too bad, if you ask me! 

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