Chicken Stock 101
© Mother Linda's
I used to make pathetic
soups. This was all due to the fact that I didn’t know how to make a good
chicken stock. Oh, I tried. I bought the best chickens and organic vegetables
and threw (no, gently placed) them in a pot to simmer. The results were always
the same. After a couple of hours, I would pick the diluted chicken off the
bones, and return the bones to the pot for some more simmering. I could never
really stomach the pale, now tasteless chicken, and never found dishes it worked
well in. And all my great organic vegetables never seemed to do the trick to
create a tasty stock. And only on occasion would my stock, when reduced and
cooled, become gelatinous like it should. I knew that the perfect stock must
past the Jello® test, but mine rarely did.
I improved my stocks when
I learned that adding a small amount of acid to the pot and letting it sit for a
while before heating helps draw the calcium out of the bones. After trying this
method, I felt my stocks were more nourishing, but they still did not always
become firm when cooled.
But I recently had a
revelatory moment when I realized how incredibly easy and double tasking it was
to make homemade soup stock by starting with the leftover carcass from a roast
chicken. Now my chickens have two lives. First, they are roasted to perfection
in the oven and served as a nourishing main dish. Then, their bones are used to
make a perfect stock.
But the bones are not the
only important and part of the carcass, the cartilage is also key. In fact,
during the slow simmering process, it is the chicken cartilage, that flexible
and plastic-like white stuff along the breast bone and in the joints, which
becomes part of the broth. This process is the primary factor in whether the
stock will set up or not. Adding a few chicken feet to the pot will also produce
a more gelatinous stock.
thick chicken stock is full of cartilage-building proteins and amino acids we
all need. Commercial chicken stock, even organic, is just no replacement. For
more information on the health benefits of good stock or broth, see
Beautiful” by Sally Fallon and
Broth is Beautiful—"Essential" Roles for Proline, Glycine and Gelatin” by
Perfect Chicken Stock
It is amazingly easy to make good chicken
stock with almost no effort.
carcass of one roasted chicken
necks, backs, gizzards and other innards
cover all chicken parts, plus 2 finger’s width
apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
onions, peeled and quartered
carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
tops of 2 celery ribs
After serving the meal, I
pick off the remaining meat, as much as possible, and reserve it for sandwiches
or another dish. Next, I break the carcass into pieces and place them in a pot
big enough to hold the carcass plus two finger widths of water. Breaking the
bones does two things: it releases the marrow, which is where a lot of the
flavor hides, and it exposes more of the bone to the calcium-extracting acid. Be
sure to throw the necks, backs, gizzards and other innards into the pot as well.
Wash all the raw parts
well under cold running water. Place everything into a 4-quart or larger pot and
fill with COLD water to cover bones, plus 2 finger widths. Add a couple of tsp.
of vinegar or lemon juice and let the brew sit for at least 30 minutes before
placing on the stove. Do not go overboard on the acid or you will ruin the
After 30 minutes, bring to
boil over high heat. While waiting for the water to boil, prepare the
vegetables. When the water just boils, add the vegetables to the pot and when
the water returns to a boil, quickly reduce the heat and partially cover the
pot. Adjust the heat to allow the stock to slowly simmer. (Sometimes I even move
the pot halfway off the burner.)
If need be, skim off any
foam that begins to form. This will leave you with a much clearer broth. When
the foam is pretty much gone, sprinkle with a teaspoon of seasoned salt, and
reduce heat to medium-low. You want just the barest hint of a simmer while the
pot is covered.
Let simmer very gently,
without stirring, for 3 to 4 hours—or even overnight. Let cool slightly and then
remove the big bones and vegetable parts. Carefully pour the remaining liquid
and small bones through a large, fine-meshed sieve, catching the liquid in
another pot. Discard all bones and vegetables.
Cover and place your clear
stock in the refrigerator 5-6 hours or overnight. In the winter, I put the stock
out on my porch to cool. After several hours, all the fat will rise to the top
and solidify. Chicken fat is rather soft so you should carefully skim it off
with a spoon.
Now it is time to reduce
the stock, which will give it more concentrated flavor and make a firmer gel.
Boil the stock in an uncovered pot. Taste occasionally until you find the
strength of stock you are looking for. I usually reduce mine at least by half.
I wanted to share my success story with you. This fall I found a great source
for chicken feet, a country farm with an elderly husband and wife butcher
chickens and sell them at our farmers market. It dawned on me to ask her about
buying some and she was very willing to save some for me during there next
slaughter. After following your recipe and very very slow cooking I ended up
with the best home made chicken stock jell-o ever!! Thank you for your
encouragement! I love reading your updates and browsing your web page.
God bless and happy cooking!
Amber from Menomonee Falls, WI