Taking Stock of Chicken Stock

stock

For many years I couldn’t bring myself to make my own chicken stock. I relied on cans of low-sodium broth whenever a recipe called for it, sometimes employing a bouillon cube or two mixed with water instead. Due to fear or laziness—or maybe a bit of both—there was something about saving chicken bones in the freezer and having to “skim the scum” off a simmering pot of stock that made this project intimidating to me. I thought I’d try it someday, but in reality I found any reason I could to delay the project.

Then a year ago I read this post by the author Michael Ruhlman, and felt my cheeks grow hot with shame as he railed against the use of canned broth. I hung my head and vowed to change my ways. Well, in retrospect I must not have felt so badly, because it took me a full year to finally attempt my own stock.

After Jim and I roasted and feasted upon that grass-fed chicken from Grazin’ Angus Acres a few weeks ago, I threw the bones in the freezer and waited for a free afternoon to devote to stock-making. This past windy and rainy Sunday gave me the perfect opportunity to stay indoors and cook. I threw the chicken bones in my Dutch oven with a couple of chopped carrots, celery stalks, half an onion, a bay leaf, parsley, some fennel fronds, salt and pepper, and then covered it all with water. I used a recipe from Claudia Roden’s New Book of Middle Eastern Food as my reference, but stocks can be made with all sorts of leftover vegetables; there aren’t many rules. I brought the contents of my pot to a boil, quickly lowered them to a simmer, and kept my eye on the broth for the next two hours.

Other bloggers besides me have stated the truth: Making stock from scratch is easy. After lowering the soup to a simmer, there’s simply not much to do while it cooks. And although I diligently looked for the fatty scum to rise to the top, it never arrived. My broth simmered peacefully, filling my apartment with the comforting perfume of chicken and vegetables. After a couple of hours I carefully strained it from the vegetables and bones and figured out what to do next.

soup

I wound up using most of the stock that day, substituting it for water in a soup of kale, white beans, and crumbled chicken sausage. As I raised spoonful after spoonful of the hearty soup to my mouth, I focused on the broth, trying to see if I could tell the difference between it and the canned stuff. My homemade version was definitely a creamier, richer broth than I was used to; Jim and I both declared it a success. I was proud that I had finally put the effort into making my own stock and conquering my fear of the unknown. But I was also pleased that I knew exactly what ingredients went into my broth. There were no suspicious flecks of unknown herbs, and I was able to control how much salt went into it.

After I made the soup, I was left with about 2 cups of broth. I promptly stored my stock in the freezer, where it will wait for a future risotto or perhaps a pasta dish. I’d love to say that I’ll never use canned broth again, but I imagine I might break that vow one day when I’m in a rush. Just don’t tell Michael Ruhlman. 

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5 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Michele said,

    Great job! Hopefully reading this will finally push me to try this myself!

  2. 2

    That looks amazing! I love Grazin’ Angus – I get their sausage and ground beef all the time at my local farmer’s market! I too have stayed away from homemade stock – I think this weekend I’ll put an end to that as you’ve inspired me! Thanks!

  3. 3

    Christina said,

    Michele-Thanks! I say, go for it!

    EIB: Thanks, and good luck with your stock! I haven’t yet tried the ground beef from Grazin’ Acres; it will have to be next on my list!

  4. 4

    Mary L.Sullivan said,

    Your making stock is wonderful, I have been doing so for years,but to be real healthy,one should skim off all that fat loaded with cholesterol before putting it in containers and freezing it.
    Some times my lunch consists of only of a nice cup of broth with all those added nutrients,how can one go wrong.

    “Bon Appetit”
    Mary~

  5. 5

    Christina said,

    Hi Mary! I am now wondering if I over-simmered/boiled my stock when I made it, as I did not see any fat to skim when it was cooking. I was obsessed with this aspect of the process, actually, and observed the stock very closely while it simmered. I am saving a new batch of chicken bones to try this again.

    Thank you for your comment!


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