Whenever I make things like chicken soup or stew, I always start with a whole chicken, and use the broth made from cooking the chicken as the base for my soup/stew. However, any other time I’ve cooked a recipe that calls for chicken broth or stock, I’ve used store bought.
In an effort to be more economical and more self-reliant, as well as to know what goes on my plate and support local farmers better, I’ve been making my own chicken stock. Not only does it save money, it makes a tastier, healthier and higher quality product than you can get in the store. My wife drinks it by the mug full!
Over the next few months I’ll be sharing some of my favorite soup recipes. This recipe will be a key part of those recipes, so I figured this is a good place to start.
1 chicken back and neck
1-2 carrots, cleaned and peeled
1-2 stalks of celery, ends cut off
1 onion, cut in half
3-5 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp black pepper
3-4 bay leaves
3 quarts of water
Optional: handful of stems from greens, handful of stems from mushrooms
Put everything in a pot. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer. Let simmer for an hour or so. Pour into jars/bowls, using a colander or strainer to keep out the solids. Discard solids. Use stock immediately or keep in refrigerator for a week. Makes 2 quarts (more or less).
Where do I get chicken backs and necks?
That’s the trick, isn’t it? We order a lot of meat from a local farm/CSA type of program, and they actually sell backs and necks for really cheap. We have made a habit of keeping some in our freezer at all times. I imagine if you have a farmer, farmers market or butcher shop you get chicken from, they’ll be able to get you some.
However, another change I’ve made is to buy whole chickens instead of specific parts of chickens and do the butchering myself. It is a better deal that way. As it so happens, every chicken has a back and neck. What I’ll often do is get a chicken out to grill, cut it up myself, and go ahead and use the back to make stock, even if it isn’t going to be used for the meal I’m preparing. Chicken stock is used in a lot of things.
Also, if you have cooked a whole chicken and have eaten it down to the carcass, you can actually use that carcass for your stock.
What’s the deal with the greens and mushroom stalks?
Again, this comes out of a desire to use as many parts as I can and eat healthier. If I’m cooking greens, like collards, mustards, Swiss chard or turnips, I’ll usually remove the stems beforehand. Instead of throwing them away, I’ve started freezing them in a bag and tossing a handful into the pot whenever I make stock. The same is true of mushroom stems (though you’ll want to cut off the bottom part of the stems). This effects the color sometimes (especially the Swiss chard stems) but not really the flavor, and it puts more healthy vitamins and nutrients in the stock.
What’s the difference between stock and broth?
I actually looked this up right before writing out this recipe. Broth is made from more meaty cuts of meat, while stock relies on bonier cuts. So when I make soup using a whole chicken, that’s broth, whereas this recipe using a chicken back is stock. (I’m mostly sure that’s right.) Supposedly stock has a thicker, richer mouthfeel and many swear it is healthier for you. Personally, I can’t tell the difference, and use both interchangeably in my cooking.