I resent paying good money for something I can easily make myself, usually for significantly less than the cost of the commercial product. Chicken stock falls squarely into this category. For many years those convenient tetra packs were always lurking in my pantry. Thanks to some clever marketing I was under the impression that stock was difficult and time consuming to make, and far better left to the experts. Then one day, for some reason, I decided to make my own.
Turns out chicken stock is ridiculously easy to make yourself. Whilst good stock takes time, it does not require constant monitoring. I will make a large pot on a day when I plan to be at home. Chop some vegetables, throw in some chicken carcasses and cover with water. Bring it to just below the boil, turn the heat right down and let it simmer all day. If I have time, I will strain the stock that night. If not, I put the stock in the fridge and strain it the next day. If you never have a day when you will be home long enough to ensure that the house doesn’t go up in flames whilst you are simmering the stock, throw everything in the slow cooker and go out.
When it comes to chicken bones, buy the best you can afford. The best stock I have ever made came from chickens raised by my father. If I am roasting a chicken, or chicken pieces, I will freeze the carcass or bones until I am ready to make stock. Most of the time, however, I buy chicken carcasses from my butcher. Sometimes, if I smile sweetly, they will give them to me for free. Carcasses are cheap, but apparently in high demand in my area because I have at times had to order them. The upside to this is that I am not the only crazy person making stock.
Onions, carrots and celery are the classic stock vegetables. I like to add a few cherry tomatoes to boost the umami flavour. I have also seen recipes that include sweet corn cobs and sweet potatoes. Use any other allium you like in place of the onions. When there are leeks in the garden, these go into my stock pot. Do not, however, use brassicas. The brassica family includes cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale and any other vegetable that smells like wet farts when boiled. Break this rule at your own peril. It will not end well. Unless wet farts are your thing.
Chicken stock is extremely good for you. The long slow cooking of bones and vegetables leaches minerals and gelatine into the liquid, creating a highly nutritious stock that is easily digested. This is why stocks and broths were traditionally prescribed during bouts of illness. Stock should contain nothing more than chicken, vegetables and water. It doesn’t need salt, and it certainly doesn’t need sugar. And if your favourite tetra pack contains yeast extract (which is really just MSG and other flavour enhancers) to boost the flavour, then the flavour wasn’t really there to begin with. So why not break out your largest pot, smile sweetly at your butcher and give stock making a go.
Kitchen Basics: How To Make Homemade Chicken Stock
The white wine in the recipe assists in releasing the minerals from the chicken bones. The alcohol will burn off during the long cooking time and will not be present in the finished stock. However, if you don't want to use wine, you can use vinegar. Personally I find that vinegar taints the finished stock, but some people prefer it. The stock will be fine without either ingredient.
I recommend you make as much stock as you can and freeze it. Stock will keep in the fridge for about five days. You can keep it for longer in the fridge if you bring it back to the boil, it is far easier to freeze it. I freeze stock in various size containers to accommodate different recipe requirements: 1L, 500ml and 250ml
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil or ghee
- 2 onions roughly chopped
- 2 medium carrots roughly chopped
- 2 - 3 stalks celery roughly chopped
- 3 - 4 chicken carcasses
- 6 chicken wings
- Handful parsley stalks
- 2 leaves bay
- 1 teaspoon peppercorns
- 6 cherry tomatoes or 1 tomato
- 1 Tablespoons large glass of white wine or 2 white wine vinegar
- Water to cover
- In a large pot, sauté the onions, carrots and celery over a medium - high heat for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables have started to soften and take on some colour.
- Add the remainder of the ingredients.
- Fill the pot with cold water. I usually fill it to about 2 cm below the brim of the pot.
- Place the pot over a medium - high heat and bring to a gentle simmer.
- Turn the heat to low, partially cover the pot with a lid and allow to blip away for as long as possible. I allow it to simmer for at least 6 - 8 hours.
- When you are ready, strain the stock into another pot through a fine sieve to remove the bones and vegetables.
- Allow the stock to cool, then portion and freeze as required.
I freeze parsley stalks left over from other recipes, then throw these in the stock pot. If you don't have stalks, just use a small bunch of parsley instead.
You can roast the bones prior to making the stock to increase the depth of flavour. I don't usually do this as I find it time consuming, but I do use leftover carcasses and bones from roast chicken dinners. You can also brown the chicken wings in the pot prior to sautéing the vegetables if you are looking to develop a deeper flavour. Again I don't do this due to time constraints.
Some people keep a stock bag in their freezer, and collect vegetable cut offs from other meals that can be used in the stock pot. I don't, as our chickens get all our leftovers, but it is a good idea if you have space.