Friday, August 5, 2011

Chicken Stock

So, I know I've talked before about being a locavore saving me money.  I can buy less, so I have less, so I waste less.  But a part of wasting less is also using more.  Obvious, right?  But I know for a fact that there are so many people who don't make their own stock.

You certainly don't have to be a locavore to make your on stock.  You don't even need to know how to cook.  In fact, this might be the easiest recipe that I post... except maybe for my recipe for cucumbers and tomatoes.  And, the best part about it is, if done right, it's 100% free.  No dollars, for 13 cups of chicken stock.  Here's a math problem for you:  If a 26 oz container of chicken stock costs about $2.50 at the store, and I made 13 cups for free, that means...

2.5/26 = $.10 per oz.
13 cups = 104 oz
104 * $.10 = $10.40

Not bad for almost zero work.

Like many of my recipes, this one isn't real precise.  Some ingredients are important - chicken parts, carrots, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Others are really whatever you have.  Vegetables can include celery, fennel, leeks.  Not bell peppers.  Trust me.  Herbs can include parsley, cilantro, sage, oregano, tarragon, rosemary, bay leaves.  Extras can include ginger, lemons, limes, hot peppers.

Here's what I do.

When I cook chicken, I save the leftover parts (the back and necks, the tips of wings, and the feet if I can get my hands on them) in a gallon size freezer bag in my freezer.  I do the same thing with vegetables.  I save the ends of carrots, bottoms and leaves of celery and fennel, and the stems of herbs (yes - the stems.  They are full of flavor.  Why are you throwing them out?).  When I get about a bag and a half of reject chicken pieces, and a bag of vegetable garbage, I make chicken stock.  I add an onion (hopefully one that is starting to sprout and that I wouldn't use for cooking anymore), and a clove of garlic (which also could be sprouting little garlic shoots). If it's summer, I will also go out and pick some of whatever herbs are growing in the garden.

Here is what I used in this batch.  Don't feel the need to follow this recipe.  Use what you've got.  All "amounts" are approximates and equivalents.  So, if I say 4 carrots, they probably weren't four full carrots.  They were probably the bottoms of 20 carrots, all of which added up to be about 4 carrots worth.

  • 1 1/2 gallon freezer bags full of reject chicken parts (L)
  • 1 onion (L)
  • 1 head garlic (L)
  • 1 small, or 1/2 large fennel bulb (L)
  • 2 celery stalks (L)
  • 4 carrots (L)
  • 2 oregano sprigs (L*)
  • 2 parsley sprigs (L*)
  • 2 thyme sprigs (L*)
  • 1 rosemary sprig (L*)
  • 1 lime, halved
  • 1 large chunk (about 1/2 inch thick) ginger 
  • 1 Serrano chili (L*)
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/8 cup black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves 
Place the chicken pieces in a large stock pot or, even better, a crock pot.  Quarter the onion (I don't even bother removing the skin), and add it into the pot.  Smash the garlic, again ignoring the skin, and add to the pot.   Chop next three ingredients into large pieces and add to pot.  Add remaining ingredients.  Add cold water to the pot until all the ingredients are covered.  I personally believe in fitting as much stuff into the pot as possible, and then filling it with water as high as I can without it boiling over.  The more "stuff," the more flavor.  The more water, the more stock made in one batch.

Over medium low heat, bring the stock up to a simmer, then reduce to just barely bubbling and allow to cook for 6-8 hours.  Alternately, just turn the crock pot on low for 10 hours.  After it gets simmering, I like to uncover it a little so some of the steam escapes and the flavor increases.

Once done, strain through a large mesh strainer, discarding the solids.  Cover and put stock in the fridge for a few hours, up to overnight, until the fat has hardened on the surface.  Remove fat and discard.  Portion out stock into whatever size you want to keep it in (I do 1 and 2 cup portions) and freeze.

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