Archive for September, 2010

Homemade Stock

Chicken Stock, ready to go!

Fall has arrived, and with it big changes for me…I haven’t been posting since I haven’t been cooking much.  A job promotion and two moves later, I am ready to get back to the stove.  In honor of comforting fall and in preparation of soup season, I give you:  Chicken Stock!  My freezer always has a stash of vegetable and meat scraps for stock.  Since you can pretty much use things to make stock that you would otherwise throw away, it is definitely much more cost effective (basically free!) to make your own and portion it into sizes that fit your needs than buying it from the grocery store.  Much better tasting and healthy for you too!  I either use plastic containers or mason jars for stock in the freezer – just remember liquids expand when frozen, so leave an inch or so at the top for expansion, otherwise you may break the container.  Chicken stock is a good universal stock – lots of nice flavor and not too rich.   Don’t eat meat?  Follow the directions below, omitting meat and cooking only for 30 minutes to 1 hour for a delicious vegetable stock.

Guidelines for Chicken Stock

The goal of making your own stock is to create a flavorful liquid for cooking – an easy way to add flavor.   No need to worry over it – think of it more as a thrifty way to use what you have on hand than a specific formula!

  • Raw  chicken pieces, raw bones or leftover bones from a roasted chicken may all be used for stock.  To make an amount worth the effort, 2-3 carcasses should be used.  Carcasses can be kept in the freezer until you have enough to make a batch.
  • Giblets, gizzards, wingtips and hearts may be used, but DO NOT use the liver.
  • Chop bones for best flavor – the smaller the pieces the more flavor they release
  • You can use whole cleaned chickens to make stock and use the meat for another purpose ( sandwiches, etc)
  • Most vegetables do well in stock – just keep in mind that strong flavored ones may overpower the rest!  Cabbage and other  brassicas  (broccoli, etc) do not take well to long cooking and make the stock taste a little funky.  The only exception is turnip, a very little is ok.  Potatoes will make the stock cloudy and bland.  Beets will make the stock red and too earthy.  Tomatoes should be used sparingly.
  • Veggie scraps, herb stems and clean peels (such as carrot or parsnip) work just as well as whole vegetables, just make sure no spoiled or rotting bits get into the pot and all dirt is cleaned off
  • A little onion skin will help the stock have nice color, but too much will make it bitter. 1-2 onion skins are enough.
  • Strong herbs, such as rosemary, fennel or dill will limit the use of your stock.  Fresh parsley and thyme are best.
  • A few whole peppercorns add flavor without overwhelming the stock, but Do Not salt or finished dishes may end up too salty!
  • Mushrooms or mushroom stems can be used, but only use a few if you don’t want it too mushroomy tasting
  • Scraps and veggie pieces can be kept in the freezer in bags until enough accumulate for  a stockpot-full of stock
  • Always use raw vegetables and herbs

To Make Stock:  Place 2-6 chicken carcasses in a large stockpot with 1-2 pounds mixed vegetables (usually carrots, leek tops, sliced onion, celery), a couple peppercorns and a few sprigs of herbs.  Cover with COLD water and a lid (the lid is to help keep your house from smelling like stock.  If you have a good hood exhaust a lid is not necessary); bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat and simmer 3-5 hours, skimming any foam off the top.  Strain stock and either portion into 2-3 cup portions or place in a shallow pan to cool.  (For food safety reasons, this stock must cool to 40F within 2 hours – small portions or a large shallow pan help with this – an ice bath for the pan can also help.  Putting a large amount of stock to cool in  the refrigerator will raise the temperature of the fridge too much, so the above methods are best )  If stock is not strong enough , replace stock in stockpot after straining and boil off the water until desired strength is reached.  Once cooled, fat should have risen to the surface and created a solid mass.  Skim this fat off  before using so stock isn’t too greasy when hot.  Stock keeps 4-5 days refrigerated, or 6 months frozen.

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