I promised to post about making chicken stock. Once you’ve roasted a chicken, don’t for a moment think you’re finished with all the poultry goodness!
Chicken stock is something I use on a regular basis – but I never buy it. Instead, I use the scraps and bits of what I have on hand to produce a delicious (and cheap!) elixir. It’s not a big production: in fact, it’s downright easy.
Overnight chicken stock
- skin, bones, pan juices, and leftovers of a roasted chicken
- 2 stalks celery
- 2 carrots
- 1 onion
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp salt
In the aftermath of a roast chicken dinner, I prepare to make stock overnight. For one chicken carcass, I use an 8 quart stockpot. Naturally, I strip all the meat off the chicken bones. Remove any lemon or herbs from the cavity, then put the carcass into the stockpot: the skin, bones, misc icky bits, and any pan juices. Often I’ll put 2-3 cups of water into the roasting pan, bring it to a boil, and scrape up any baked-on bits. This goes into the stockpot too.
Now add vegetables: these can be scraps and peelings saved during the week. I don’t put cabbage or its cousins in the stockpot, but just about anything else goes. Leek greens are especially good to use. If I have no trimmings, I use celery, carrots, and onion at a minimum. Take 2 stalks celery, leaves and all, hack them into 4-5 inch lengths, and toss them in. Take 2 large carrots, unpeeled of course, and split them lengthwise. Cut them in half and in they go. Cut the root end off a large onion, but do not peel it, unless of course the peel is sandy or dirty. Chop it into quarters and add to the stockpot. Add a bay leaf, and if you have any parsley, the stalks are best used in stock (save the leaves for another use.)
Add 1 tsp salt and fill the pot with water, up to an inch from the top, completely covering the chicken and vegetables. Bring the pot to a rolling boil, and then turn down the heat to the bare minimum possible. The liquid should emit only an occasional bubble and maintain a gentle simmer.
I leave the stockpot to simmer all night long. It looks fairly awful, but the whole house smells wonderful, with the promise of good soup. By the morning, it looks terrible, with various unappetizing floating bits. Don’t worry, this is perfectly normal, and you won’t be eating that stuff anyway – all the goodness has gone into the liquid. Spoon out as much of the debris as you can into a heatproof bowl or pan, and let it cool, before bundling it into the trash.
Strain the stock through a medium-mesh strainer into another pot or storage container – expect about 4 quarts. I don’t aim for perfect clarity in my stock – as I have said before, I’m a rustic cook, not a perfectionist. Let the stock stand at room temperature, uncovered, for an hour, and then cover it and chill thoroughly. Since I live in Michigan, during the winter my garage is my walk in cooler (if not a freezer) and I have a special cold shelf where I will put the covered container. By the next morning, the fat will rise to the top and solidify, making it easy for me to remove it.
In my next post, I’ll discuss the canning process. Meat and poultry stocks require a pressure canner for safe preservation, but if you have the proper equipment, the process is quite straightforward.
If you do not wish to can the stock, then I would suggest that you remove the solidified fat, and then bring the stock to a boil again, and reduce it by about half. If you must freeze stock, why not concentrate it? Reduce to a manageable volume, cool the stock, and package conveniently.