Making homemade stock

My favorite part of the holidays always revolves around the aspect of food – making and decorating gingerbread houses, baking cookies to fatten the coworkers, preparing appetizers for holiday gatherings, collecting festive recipes and wishing I had time to make them all.

So my absolute giddiness should be no surprise even in the days following Thanksgiving and Christmas when Boy Toy bestows upon me his beautiful turkey carcasses. My kitchen becomes much like the setting for a production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth…

Scene: A dark Cave. In the middle, a Caldron boiling. Thunder.

Enter the three Witches:

“Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and owlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.”

Exit stage left.

My slow cookers are loaded with the bird leftovers and aromatics and simmer for a couple of days to produce the liquid gold that keeps my freezer stocked for most of the upcoming year. I use turkey stock interchangeably with chicken stock because there is no taste difference in my opinion. Bird is bird. And I use every leftover part of the bird for stock – bones, skin, scraps, cartilage, fat - all those pieces and parts that you wouldn’t eat for dinner and would normally throw out.

Homemade stock is a beautiful thing. Not only is it more flavorful, heartier and healthier than store-bought stock, it also makes use of something that would otherwise go in the trash. A 32-ounce carton of chicken broth can cost anywhere from $3 to $4, so making your own stock allows for extra money in the food budget over time. Soups are a huge part of my menu rotation, so it doesn’t take long for me to see the savings.

Making homemade stock is easy and not very time consuming and can be made on the stove top using a large stock pot if you don’t have a slow cooker. The biggest challenge for me is having enough vessels to store it in.  I'm usually scrounging up every empty jar or tub I can find.  I purchase whole chickens from Windy Hill Farms throughout the year but other times when I’m only cooking a few legs, thighs or bone-in breasts and don’t necessarily have enough bones at once, I’ll collect them in the freezer until I have enough for a batch (sometimes the contents of my freezer could be the makings of a good horror flick!) If you catch legs and thighs on sale for a really low price, pick up a couple of packs and use them for stock.

The beautiful thing about the recipe for homemade stock is that there is no set recipe. It can be modified to use whatever aromatics you have on hand, so don’t stress if you don’t have these exact ingredients on hand. I personally never season my stock with salt while preparing – I wait until it goes into whatever recipe I’m using it in so I can control the seasonings.

I also try to maximize my savings by using the same set of bones for two rounds of stock. After I strain the first time, everything goes right back into the pot for Round 2. The first round of stock is best used for soups and dishes where the broth is the main component of flavor and the second round is best used for flavoring things like rice or sauces.

Homemade Chicken Stock
servings = varies

1 onion, quartered
2 stalks celery
2 whole carrots
2 to 3 cloves of garlic
1 bay leaf
1 bunch fresh herbs of your choice (I like parsley, thyme or oregano or a combination of all)
2 Tablespoons whole peppercorns

Place all ingredients in the slow cooker along with your bones and meat scraps. Add enough water to fill the cooker, leaving about 1 inch of space. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-6 hours. If using stove top method, simmer in a pot over medium-low heat for 4 hours.

Strain contents of the pot through a sieve or colander and discard the solids (or use for a 2nd round of stock.) Cool stock overnight. When completely chilled, skim accumulated fat from the surface. Use immediately or store in containers in the freezer.

When you date a food nerd, sometimes you just don't know which way a conversation is going to turn.


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