I’ll admit it: I didn’t think making your own stock was worth it. You can buy chicken broth on the cheap, it’s convenient, what’s the big deal?
And then I started making it. And found out that making your own stock is incredibly worth it.
The process has a lot of inactive cooking. It takes some heavy lifting. But the flavor your own stock adds to food is a heavy lure even before you start realize that you can control the ingredients and sodium content.
I’m still tweaking. I’ve started experimenting with browning my components for richer flavor. I won’t claim to have mastered this yet, but I’m in great shape where I am. I have a system, I’m just slowly modifying.
I have a few gadgety things that make this process more convenient for me. I use a 12 quart stock pot. I only end up yielding 7-8 quarts of stock, so it’s important that I use the biggest vessel I have. I also use an electric burner to maintain the same low temperature overnight, with lower risk than an open flame. And I bought one of those bag holders to make the filling process easier. I make stock about 8-9 times a year, so it’s worth it. I also have a small skimmer and a few larger mesh strainers to remove solids.
I usually buy chicken wings to use for the stock. Yes, I know, there’s been a shortage of wings lately. If I get out to a better grocery store or butcher, I’ll pick up necks and backs.
- 1-2lbs chicken parts with high levels of connective tissue (backs, wings preferred)
- 2 heads of garlic
- 1/2 head of celery, roughly chopped
- 1 medium brown onion, roughly chopped
- 4-5 handfuls of baby carrots or 4-5 carrots, roughly chopped
- 1/2 bunch of flat leaf parsley
- 4-5 bay leaves
- 1 T whole black peppercorns
- cold filtered water (my husband installed an under the sink filter, he’s the best.)
- 1 can of tomato paste
The browning process has certainly added time to my stock making. Estimate about 45 minutes to an hour for each pan (one for the chicken and one for the vegetables). This takes patience. Make sure you have something else to do, this is truly a background activity. Brown your chicken first. Toss the wings with canola oil, and use a half sheet pan. Any time you roast (fancy word for “baking!”), spread your ingredients evenly in one layer. I roast at around 425, flipping and tossing every 10-15 minutes. I almost never remember to buy tomato paste (I just bought a few cans so I wouldn’t run into this again), my last few batches haven’t had it. Tomato paste, according to “the books” and “the internet” and “the experts” improves browning. Split the paste between the vegetables and the chicken. I don’t brown the garlic or the parsley.
When the chicken is browned (I don’t usually get a good deep brown, more of a gold on the chicken), put it in the bottom of the stock pot and start browning the vegetables. Fill the pot up with water really high up close to the top and bring it up to an ALMOST boil. Don’t boil, just almost boil. Occasional tiny bubbles.
This is your time to skim. Get rid of anything bad happening. Foam, weirdness, whatever. When you’ve skimmed the foam, dump in the herbs, spices and browned vegetables. bring it back up to the occasional-tiny-bubbles point, pull a Ron Popeil and walk away. Keep the lid off like Lucas.
I go so far as to mark my electric burner with where the “occasional bubbles” temperature is for my stock. I do that, because this is a long process. I am talking like 12-15 hours of simmering. I have never made this stock and not had to leave it to cook overnight. There’s a risk of the temperature slowly rising if you’re not paying attention and increasing the stock to a perilous boil.
Check the stock, pull out some chicken solids. No bones should be connected to anything, everything should have fallen apart.
You should read internet or book articles on cooling your stock down. You want to cool it down enough that you can strain it. I find that if I lift out bigger solids before dealing with an unwieldy 12 quart pot of liquid, it’s way easier to handle. Then I pour the stock into an 8 quart stock pot (because that fits into my fridge) and any overflow goes into a smaller pan. I’m careful to strain the stock through a mesh strainer lined with a few layers of cheese cloth. I cover the new stock pots and refrigerate overnight to separate out the fat into schmaltz. I like saying schmaltz.
Next day (yeah, we’re like two days in to this process already, I get it), skim the schmaltz off the top and discard it (unless you cook with that? I do not). I set up plastic freezer quart sized bags to fill, and I use a measuring cup for its spout. It’s easier than using a ladle. I used to do that.
Don’t overfill the bags. I did that last time. It made a mess. What a pain.
When it’s time to freeze, you’ll need a moderate amount of flat freezer space. That’s not an issue for me, because our fridge is moderately awesome. We have a bottom drawer type freezer. Be sure to rinse and dry the bags. I line the freezer with a layer of paper towels, and then stack the bags (no more than three high) with paper towels between them. This handles any freezing together that might happen.
After that, your stock is ready to use. Just slice the bags open and heat over high until the stock melts and its at your desired, non boiling temperature.