Once you taste homemade chicken stock - and see how easy it is to make for almost free and store in the freezer - you'll wonder why you ever bought it in the first place. This is a traditional, no special equipment needed technique. If you have a pot and stove, you can make stock.
Homemade chicken stock (also called bone broth) expresses that cottage mentality I've spoken of almost perfectly. It consists of using what you have and what you might normally throw away, making it something we can actually make almost for FREE that a lot of people only buy.
This is also the concept behind all of AOC's Pantry Basic recipes - things we normally think can only be bought, but are actually easy and inexpensive to make at home. Think mayonnaise, ketchup, bread crumbs, and even chocolate syrup.
So, how can making chicken stock be free?
- Use your freezer to keep neck, back, and wing tips from cutting up a whole chicken and/or bones from a roasted chicken in a large baggie or container.
- Keep a baggie of trimmings from carrots, celery, and onions in the freezer that you cut off as you prep vegetables for salads and other meals (you know, the ends that would otherwise be thrown away).
- When you have enough of both, make broth.
Throwaway items + water + cooking time = free stock (or at most, pennies on the dollar if you count electricity)!
I didn't grow up making any kind of stock or bone broth - and I didn't know anyone who did. In the early years of our marriage with one income and little kids, I looked for all the ways to save money and making soup with stock from leftovers was a no brainer.
Except that I was so frugal that I decided I wasn't going to waste perfectly good vegetables only to throw them out when the stock was cooked (since they're pretty mushy at that point). The only recipes I saw had you throw in whole carrots, onions, and celery stalks.
You know what we discovered? You NEED the vegetables for flavor! The soups I made with stock made with just bones was SO bland compared to the veggie-full stock, it was actually kind of amazing (I've since learned that a lot of nutrients in stock come from the veggies it's simmered with, so one more reason to always add the vegetables).
So my solution was to use the trimmings from the vegetables instead, keeping them in baggies in the freezer until there was enough for a pot. I wash them well and try to use only organic vegetables. I use the peels and ends of carrots, onions, and celery as well as the stems and leaves from parsley if I have any.
Once you've got your bones and trimmings, it's time to make the chicken stock. (By the way, ANY bones can be used to make bone broth - turkey - like I show in the soup here - beef, and pork. Just change out the bones and proceed the same way as I show below.)
Homemade Chicken Stock on the Stove
1. Add bones and vegetable trimmings to a large pot.
Once you have enough bones and trimmings to cook up, throw the frozen bones in a 6-qt (or larger) stock pot with the vegetables - no need to thaw first. Like I mentioned, I always use carrots, onions (including green onion tops), and celery. Sometimes I throw in some whole peppercorns.
Some people add whole garlic cloves and like the flavor, but I prefer my broth to be more flexible, so I keep it simple and straightforward. Other vegetable trimmings you can add, though they might impart a stronger flavor include: broccoli stems, cauliflower cores, cabbage trimmings and cores, other herbs that have wilted like thyme, rosemary, and chervil.
You'll also want to add a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to help draw out the gelatin from the bones. It's not absolutely necessary, but really encouraged.
Note: you can see a whole breast in the pictures here, because I also decided to make a chicken soup at the same time for dinner - I'm going to pour some chicken stock off for the soup, and freeze the rest. Double duty cooking always works!
2. Cook down into stock.
Fill the pot with water just enough to cover the contents. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to keep it at a slow simmer for a couple of hours. Leave a lid on the pot slightly ajar so that it doesn't reduce as much as it cooks.
You can cook it as little as an hour, but you'll really only have a light broth then. The longer you can cook it, the better flavor it will have and the more nutritious it will be - that's what makes it a stock or bone broth. On a stovetop like this, aim for 3-4 hours or even from morning until night if you can.
3. Strain the chicken stock.
When the broth has simmered, strain the broth out INTO A CONTAINER. (Yes, I have dumped the chicken in the colander and watched my broth go down the drain before I realized it...learn from my mistakes!)
Use a large pot if you're going to make soup right away or a large glass or ceramic bowl with a pour spout to make it easy to pour into containers for freezing and storing.
4. Cool and Store.
Let the stock cool slightly and pour into freezer containers. I no longer use the plastic freezer containers shown above - the hot liquid would cause leaching. I now use pint and quart size mason jars, filling 3/4 full. Yes, a few break every now and then, but I'm willing to put up with it.
That's it - can you believe how easy this is? There's hardly any hands-on time and the result is better than anything you can buy - promise.
I made enough from this batch for a pot of chicken noodle soup and 2 quart containers, which is a pretty good amount for about 5 minutes of my time, right? Plus I used up what would have been thrown away, AND I have a better tasting product which is super nourishing, to boot.
In fact, the tasty chicken noodle soup I made with the stock later sure hit the spot when we were all sick recently.
So, have I convinced you to start filling your freezer with bones and vegetable trimmings to make your own "gold" (broth)?