Between the snow and being unemployed for a few weeks (new gig starts this week!), I’ve had a lot of time on my hands. I could’ve spent that time sitting on the couch watching tv, exercising, or rearranging the furniture in my house for no reason but I decided to spend it cooking. More specifically, I decided to try cooking things that I usually buy already made. To me, successfully making something that you usually pick up at the store is a huge accomplishment. You know, the staples: condiments, breads, stock, and I think I mentioned this when I made pickles. I was hoping to try canning, but as it turns out canning in the wintertime kinda defeats the purpose.
I decided to try a few different things, but my biggest accomplishment BY FAR was chicken stock.
I starting reading through some “recipes” and some other blog posts on making stock and decided that there is no one way to do it. Depending on how you look at it, there are either a million recipes or zero recipes out there because it isn’t something that really requires a recipe (perfect for me!). Some people say stock should be just raw chicken carcasses and water; some say add vegetables and other flavors. However you decide to do it, making stock is really just putting stuff in a pot with some water and letting it simmer for a few hours. Why had I not tried this sooner?
- 2 chicken carcasses (I had one raw and one from a roasted chicken — whatever you have is fine)
- celery (I cut the stalks off and saved the good parts for a snack. In went the bottom, the leaves, and the inside skins pieces)
- a few carrots
- fennel fronds (I had fennel, so I decided to use the fronds rather than tossing them)
- a few peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 crushed garlic cloves
Put your chicken carcasses and bones in the pot (don’t use the organs — just the bones). Cover with water by a couple inches. Simmer for about 2 hours.
Then add the veggies, garlic, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Simmer for at least another hour. You can definitely simmer it longer for a stronger flavor if you would like, but this seemed to be just right for me.
What I Learned While Making Chicken Stock:
1. If you have a big pot with a pasta insert, use it. Put all the ingredients in the insert and into the pot, and then fill with water. It makes separating everything later MUCH easier.
2. Don’t use salt. You will likely add salt to whatever dish you decide to use the stock in, so don’t salt it now. In fact, don’t overly season your stock at all now. Less is more.
3. Roasting your veggies and chicken bones makes your stock more rich; using them raw makes it more simple. There are pros and cons to both, so think about what you want. The most important point to consider is what types of dishes you will be using the stock in — if it is a wide range, you’ll probably want to go more simple. If you know that you want the stock for something specific, then you can make a more specific tasting stock. Most importantly, just use what you have on hand. I wasn’t going to NOT use the bones from my roasted chicken.
If you see fat and foam floating on the top, skim it off. You don’t need to go nuts trying to get it all off just yet. After the stock is done, remove the solids (the chicken bones, veggies, etc) and let it cool. Then put the whole pot in the fridge overnight. Any fat will solidify on the top making it easier to remove.
Then strain the stock into your containers. I decided to put it in a few different sized jars (2 quart, 2 pint, 3 eight ounce, and one ice cube tray). Sometimes you need a lot and sometimes you need a little; I didn’t want to be committed to giant jars of stock. I also put some in ice cube trays. I thought this would be handy for when you just need a little to deglaze a pan.
As I’m lining up my jars, my husband came in and laughed and my little arrangement. I thought it was quite nice, but he found it amusing. He deemed them Grandma and Grandpa jars, Mommy and Daddy jars, Boy and Girl jars, and baby cubes. Soon, I’ll deem them DINNER.