When we first moved into our new house, we wanted to do something that would really make it ours. We thought of “cleansing” it with a sage-burning, and a million other ideas. But what we finally settled on was to make chicken stock. I think the smell of chicken stock on the stove is one of the most comforting smells around. You can smell it from every room. Plus, it really does warm up the house, which was perfect for that mid-winter’s day.
We make chicken stock a few times a year, in big batches, and store it in zip-top, quart-sized bags in the freezer. That seems to be the perfect “portion” size, no matter what we’re making. Of course, this recipe doesn’t need to be exact. Scale it up or down, depending upon the size of your stock pot. And if you want it to be really chicken-y, use less water and more bones. I like mine to be somewhere in the middle. Not too chicken-y, but not too dilute.
For the bones, I usually just go to my local butcher and see what he has. Chicken backs and wings are great because they have lots of collagen in them, making a nice rich, viscous stock. But you could also just buy some bones and one whole chicken. It’s a good idea to get some bones that actually have meat on them too, which is why I favor the wings.
This is what I do…
- 7 pounds chicken bones
- 3 gallons cold water
- 2 cups roughly cut onion (each onion into about 8 pieces)
- 1 cup roughly cut, peeled carrot
- 1 cup roughly cut celery stalks (use the outer, dark green stalks)
- 1-1/2 Tablespoons kosher salt
- 5 black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
Place the bones (and whole chicken, if using) in the bottom of the stockpot. Add the water and salt. Place the stockpot over high heat and bring to a simmer, skimming the scum as it rises with a ladle. Leave as much of the fat as possible when you’re skimming, as the fat itself lends flavor to the stock. Once most of the scum is gone, add the vegetables, peppercorns, and bay leaf, and simmer gently for 6-8 hours. Don’t allow the stock to boil, as that will emulsify any remaining impurities into the stock. Taste the stock, periodically, as it’s cooking to assess the flavor development. When the stock is ready, use a large ladle to pour it through a fine seive, into a large bowl, pot, or other large storage vessel. Allow the stock to cool at room temperature for a few hours before placing in the refrigerator to cool completely. Allow to chill over night. The fat will rise to the top and solidify, making it easy to skim off and discard. Use a ladle or large measuring cup to pour the stock into individual bags. Freeze.