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Chicken Stock for Yummies

February 4, 2012

Let’s start with kitchen basics 101: Chicken Stock. Nectar of the Gods! Gods I say! Why?  Well because you can use it in a million and one recipes from soups and stews to cleaning rust off your car’s bumper. (Just kidding about the bumper) But seriously, you need to have your own “brand” of chicken stock on hand. It’s so much cheaper, better for you and flavorful to boot. So let’s cut out all the sodium and make the flavor decisions to put your best stock forward. I, for instance, have an extreme dislike for celery, and unnatural aversion you might say. Not just the raw stuff either, the seed, celery salt and anything resembling the flavor lingering in my dishes are all cause for a conniption fit in my kitchen. Blech! You may have similar dislikes, though probably not as vehement, so leave out whatever you find cringe-worthy!

What DO you put in? ((Don’t BUY Anything!))

Chicken pieces, veggies and herbs in pot.

Use what you have on hand. Don't buy anything!

Chicken Stock à la Adrienne

  • Chicken Parts* See Ingredient Tip
  • Onion, I use half of one yellow onion
  • Carrots, half a pound
  • Bay Leaves to taste, I use 2
  • Allspice Berries, 10 berries
  • Whole Black Peppercorns, 10-20 peppercorns
  • Crystallized Ginger, 3-5 pieces depending on size
  • Rosemary to taste
  • Thyme to taste
  • Garlic, minced or smashed cloves
  • 12 Cups of water

Put all of this in your biggest stock pot and bring to a boil. Let it boil for 5 minutes and turn down the heat until the stock is at a bare simmer when covered. I simmer mine for 4 hrs when I’m in a hurry and overnight or all day when I’m not. Do not boil the entire time, you’ll make chicken jelly (when it cools) by leaching all the gelatin like compounds from the cartilage and bones – which is also how they used to make glue!

Chicken stock simmering.

Don't Boil the Entire Time, Unless Making Glue is your Intention!

Notice I don’t include salt? That’s because I don’t know what I’m using it for yet. If I’m adding a cup to a dish that is already seasoned I don’t want it to be too salty – you can always add salt to the stock as it’s used in  its final incarnation.

* Ingredient Tip: Save pieces of chicken you aren’t using in your weekly meals in the freezer in a gallon bag. Save the necks and backs, bones & wings. When you have enough to cover the bottom of the stock pot you’re using it’s time to make stock!

Don’t buy anything? Unless you’re just starting out you probably have all the flavors you enjoy in your kitchen already. Use the spices you like, you the veggies you like.  In this particular batch I used baby carrots because I had some in the fridge that were going to go to waste. I used chopped onion because I keep a bag in my freezer to use in dishes throughout the week (I only chop on Sundays) and I dumped in what was left in the bag. I used minced garlic because I have a bottle of squeeze minced garlic in the door of my fridge and didn’t have any whole cloves at the moment.

When it’s not the middle of winter I add even more herbs but use the fresh variety from my garden. Tie them up with a bit of twine – or a bread tie that’s not covered in paper (because really, who the heck has “twine”?).

Now, it’s been 4 hrs, or overnight in my case. What now?  Chill! Quickly stain the stock into a clean container, preferably the one you’re going to stow in the fridge.  Whether it’s one container or five, get your stock into the fridge immediately. If you have a place in your freezer where you won’t thaw things, that’s even better.  Place a trivet or potholder under the stock if it’s going on glass shelves to help limit the shatter risk. Once your stock has cooled down to 40ish degrees F you can package it in its long term storage containers. Measure your stock before pouring into freezer bags. Label the bag with the amounts you included, choose the amounts based on what you find you need the most often. Your stock of stock probably won’t last long since the stuff is so darn useful!

Pro Tip: Get thee to the dollar store! Pick up a set of two ice trays. Fill both trays with stock. Once frozen, pop out the cubes and place in their own freezer bag. You now have individually measured tablespoons (approx) of stock! Use to add a dash of flavor to your dishes.  Plus, all those recipes that call for a tablespoon of water or even worse, wine… use these instead. They can usually be plopped right in frozen!  Hurrah, no more buying bottles of wine for just a quarter of a cup!

Remember that the same rules for freezing and thawing apply to stock like they do everything else. If you freeze your stock, thaw it for a recipe and only use half don’t freeze it again. Use it in something scrumptious instead.  Note: you can freeze the dish you make with the stock though. The problem with refreezing the stock by itself is that two times is the limit for freezing just about anything according to common safe food handling practices. If you refreeze the stock, how will you tell it apart from stock frozen a single time?  Not only that but a special circumstance with chicken stock… you know those Petri dishes scientists use to grow all manner of disgusting bacteria on?  Well that auger is a broth quite similar to what we’ve just made here today.  Chicken stock is a favorite breeding ground of oogie-boogies that can make you sick. Coincidentally, that is also why I urge you to chill your stock so quickly!

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