Friday, May 07, 2010

Home made chicken stock/broth

Making chicken soup from scratch (get it? from "scratch"...chicken soup?) is so easy. But it does take a little time. Although it is very easy, there's a lot of explaining to do, so today I'm only going to address the broth issue. Next week - soup. Making the stock takes a good chunk of one day - it takes several hours. Then you refrigerate it over night so you can easily skim off the fat (which rises to the top of the broth). I'm not posting a picture of the broth because...well...chicken broth is not particularily photogenic. (But I have a yummy pic of chicken soup for next week!)

Here's how I do it. You need chicken bones/pieces, water, 6 or 8 peppercorns, a celery rib or two (cut into three or four pieces per rib), an onion (peeled and quartered), and a carrot or two (scrubbed and cut into a couple or three pieces). The veggies are optional - last time I made stock I didn't have any carrots so no carrots in that batch. Also, you could use a couple or three T. of dried minced onion if you wanted to, in place of the whole onion. And, if you wanted to, you could leave the veggies out altogether. I think they add flavor so I always put some in.

Chicken pieces? Last time I made stock here's what I used - the leftover carcass of the whole chicken that I roasted last Friday. I refrigerated it after Friday night's dinner and on Saturday, I removed the leftover chicken meat and returned the meat to the fridge. (I put it in one of those plastic container things with a lid but you could put it in a baggie). I put the carcass into my big stock pot and added the veggies. I also used a package of chicken legs that I had in the freezer (I think there were about 8 legs...). If I had had leftover chicken meat in the freezer, or if there had been lots more chicken meat on the carcass, I wouldn't have used the chicken legs. The amount of chicken meat needed for your soup is variable - depending on your taste and what your family likes, you can use a little or a lot. I usually use around 2 to 3 cups of meat. If you need to cook and use "new" chicken pieces (as I did), the trick is to just leave them in the broth long enough to cook them. When their meat is done, remove them from the broth and when they are cool enough to handle, remove the meat (add it to your cache in the fridge) and return the bones and skin to the stock pot.

Chicken bones and skin and a long simmer are what make for a deep chicken flavor in the broth. When I buy a whole chicken for frying, I save the backs and the wing tips (freeze them) for making stock. Over time and before you know it, you've got enough saved "pieces parts" to make broth. And/or I use a leftover carcass. Any combination works fine. I also cut-off and save chicken meat after we've had fried chicken or other chicken dishes where all the pieces didn't get eaten. (You know...after the leftover chicken has languished for a couple of days in the fridge and it's obvious that no one is going to eat that last thigh... I'll take the meat off the bone, bag it and freeze it and I'll add the bone and skin to the frozen bones/skin I've already got collecting in the freezer.)

As the broth simmers, check it now and again to be sure that your water isn't getting too low. You want the broth to "cook down" so that the chicken flavor gets concentrated, but you don't want to end up with only a couple cups of broth, or *horrors* a burned pot of chicken yuk.

When the broth has simmered at least three or four hours (even longer is OK as long as you're keeping an eye on the liquid). Strain it, cool it and then refrigerate it. I just pour mine through one of my colanders, but you could use a wire mesh strainer if you wanted to. All the chicken sludge left in the strainer? Throw it away.

The next day, after you've skimmed off the fat, you can either use the broth/stock to make soup or as the base for chicken pot pie or anything else your heart desires, or you can freeze it for use later.

Question: Why would anyone go to all the trouble to make broth from scratch instead of buying canned chicken stock at the store? It's cheaper! It's almost free. And it makes your house smell so good!
Knitting... During my long absence from blog-land I knit several pairs of socks. This one is knit from Knit Picks Stroll Sock Yarn in the "Dusk" color, and is my cobbled-together sock pattern. It's a toe-up sock (Judy's Magic Cast-on), knit on two circular needles, with a Priscilla Gibson Roberts heel (in garter stitch) and the lacy pattern on the front is out of one of Barbara Walker's books - it is called Double Herringbone Mesh.

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