February 25, 2012

Making Homemade Chicken Stock - It's Worth it!

As I have mentioned before, I try to make as much as I can at home from scratch.  Another "hang up" of mine is that I also try to not waste anything, and so it seems natural that at times these two things go hand in hand.  There are members of my family, whom will remain nameless, who think I tend to go overboard with not wasting anything.  I can't help it though - throwing things away/wasting is like throwing money in the trash and I just can't do it!!  Although, there was one time where even I think I went too far - we had family over for dinner and we bought 2 very large stuffed salmon fillets (because we were told everyone LOVES salmon), and as it turned out pretty much NO ONE liked salmon, and for those that did they only ate a little piece because stuffed salmon is filling.  Salmon isn't cheap, and we had soooo much left over.....I just couldn't throw it away, so I ate it - every last piece and it took me a week!!  Needless to say, I will never eat stuffed salmon again (a regular piece of salmon is fine, just not stuffed).

Making your own chicken stock is one of those things that just makes sense.  If I buy a whole chicken to roast for dinner, I feel the need to utilize every inch of it or else I don't feel like I got my money's worth. It takes almost no time at all to throw the chicken carcass into a pot with water and veggies.  Some may question whether it's actually worth the time and effort, and is it better than store bought stock?  Here are the benefits of making your own chicken stock:
  1. It tastes better.  Yes, it's true - it tastes better!
  2. You can adjust the seasoning to your preferences (no salt, just a little salt, etc.)
  3. There's no MSG or other artificial ingredients (there are some store bought brands that add artificial coloring, etc.)
  4. You can divide up your batch and freeze it in quantities that best suite your needs (sometimes I'll divide it up into 1 cup containers before freezing so it's easy to take out and use if I just need a little).
  5. There is more calcium and other minerals (and no, I can't remember what they are specifically) in homemade stock verses store bought (it's true - Google it).  Therefore, it's just HEALTHIER!
  6. It makes THE BEST chicken soup....it's true, I wouldn't lie about this!
  7. It's cost efficient - I realize not everyone cares about this, but there are a lot of people out there that do!
So, have I convinced you to make your own chicken stock?  I hope so, but in case you are not quite there yet, here is a simple recipe for making your own chicken stock.  You can also add whatever else you may have on hand (other veggies you could use - turnips, leeks, etc.).  I happen to think the more you add the better it turns out, so below is just a basic guideline to follow.

Homemade Chicken Stock

Chicken carcass, all edible meat removed (if you plan ahead, save the parts included in the cavity of the chicken)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2-4 carrots (depending on how large they are), unpeeled and cut into thirds
2-3 ribs of celery, with leaves and cut into thirds
1 large onion, unpeeled and quartered
1 head of garlic, unpeeled and cut in half lengthwise
2 tsp salt
1 tsp whole peppercorns
6 sprigs fresh parsley (or one tbsp of dried parsley)
5 sprigs fresh thyme (or one tsp dried thyme)
3 sprigs fresh rosemary (or one tsp dried rosemary)
1 large bay leaf

Place chicken carcass (and any other chicken parts that were inside the chicken cavity that you hopefully saved) in large pot and add enough water to cover the chicken by about an inch.  Add all of the remaining ingredients (as mentioned above, you don't need to peel or chop anything).  The vinegar helps to draw out the calcium from the bones, so if you let the pot sit for about an hour at room temp it will draw out even more calcium but it's OK if you skip this step.  In fact, you don't have to add the vinegar at all if you don't want to.

Turn heat on medium-low and bring to a low simmer.  Simmer for as long as possible, 3-24 hours - the longer the better but don't exceed 24 hours as it can become bitter.  I find 3-5 hours to be a good amount of time and it ends up being a nice color.  Let cool, then pour through a strainer.

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