I like making stock for another reason, too: it eases any residual omnivore guilt I harbor about eating animals. I feel proud that instead of going in the trash, the bones and cartilage from a chicken dinner are put to good use long after the meat has filled my family's bellies. (And whatever gets filtered out of the stock ends up in the compost, so nothing goes to waste!)
Now I have to admit that while I have made chicken stock many times, Jaymz is the Executive Chef in charge of broth in our kitchen, and I am his Sous-Chef. I am glad that he enjoys the stock-making process, as what I most enjoy about making stock is being able to quickly retrieve it from the freezer later and then cook with it.
Quick note: Stock can be made with bones from any animal, and the process is essentially the same. For the sake of simplicity (and the fact that I photographed stock made with chicken bones) I'll refer to chicken stock from here on out.
Here's all you need to make fabulous bone broth:
- Leftover chicken bones (meat removed)
- Celery (a handful, or 4-6 stalks)
- Carrots (a handful, or 3-5 medium carrots)
- Onion (medium-large)
- Leek (medium)
- Garlic (a handful, 4-6 cloves)
- Fresh Herbs: (any/all of) parsley, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage
- Bay leaf (1)
- Peppercorns (about 20)
- White Vinegar (just a splash; other kinds of vinegar would work fine, too)
If you're following along with Lauren and me for the Six Ingredient Challenge, this is a fabulous staple to add to your whole foods freezer stash. Bonus: going by Challenge rules, chicken stock only has two ingredients—vinegar and chicken bones (and you can even skip the vinegar if you want to)!
Speaking of bones, you have to collect and save the bones after their initial use and before you make stock. There are a couple of ways to safely store bones for stock-making, and which method you choose depends on your personal preference (and how often you use up your stock stash and/or how much meat your family eats). Either:
- Keep the chicken carcass (or whatever bones you accumulate—perhaps you're serving chicken wings this week instead of a whole bird!) in the refrigerator and use it within the week, or
- Keep a large (gallon sized) freezer bag in the freezer and contribute bones to it as you use them. When the bag is full (whenever you run out of stock; whenever you want!) take the whole lot out of the freezer and carry on. This is the method we use.
Back to making the stock!
Some additional supplies you'll need to gather:
- Cotton Butcher's String
- Colander (strainer, kitchen sieve)
- Stock Pot (the largest pot you have; thrift stores are great places to find quality workhorse stock pots and other kitchen items)
- Another large pot or bowl for later
- Optional: freezer bags or Mason jars for storing the stock for later
- Start in the morning!
- Prepare the bones (this step is optional): Lay them out in a single layer (not stacked on top of each other, as much as you can help it) on a baking sheet. Bake the bones at 350°F for about 30 minutes, then turn them over and cook them for another 30 minutes, until they are browned. (The bones can be going in the oven while you're preparing the rest of the ingredients.)
- Prepare the vegetables: peel and quarter the onion; chop the stem ends off the carrots, then halve them lengthwise; cut the root end off the celery (optionally half them if they're too long to comfortably fit in the stock pot); cut the leafy end off the leek, then cut in half (be sure to rinse the leek well, because they're usually pretty gritty inside).
- Put all of the vegetables into the stock pot.
- Fill the stock pot about halfway up with cold water. The amount of water is not that important, but you want the water to cover the bones and vegetables by about an inch after everything is in the pot. The idea of a stock is that you're reducing (concentrating) the liquid over a long period of time, so as long as the ingredients are submerged, it should turn out great. Don't hesitate to add more water later if the stock is cooking down too quickly (but not concentrating like you'd like) the vegetables or bones start poking up over the surface of the water
- Prepare the herb sachet (this may not be the technical term): lay out a piece of cheesecloth and place on top the garlic (smashed), bay leaf, peppercorns, and herbs. (Like I mentioned above, you don't need to have all of the different kinds of herbs listed—though that would be delicious—we usually just use whatever is in abundance in the garden or whatever we have on hand in the refrigerator.) Wrap everything up like a burrito and tie with butcher's string:
- When the bones are finished (or, if you didn't bake them, whenever you're done prepping the veggies and herbs) put the bones in the stock pot with the vegetables and water, then check the water level to make sure it covers everything. Place the herbs on top.
- If you're using a soup sock: Skip the herb sachet step and put the herbs, veggies, and bones inside the sock; tie it up and plunk it in the water (OK, don't be too rough with it or you might get messy.)
- Add a splash of vinegar to the stock mixture.
- Put the pot on the stove on high and bring to a boil.
- Once the water reaches a boil, turn the heat down to simmer; leave it there for 6-12 hours. (If you need it faster, simply cook it at a higher temperature for a shorter time! The longer the bones cook on low, the more nutrients are extracted, but I've made delicious stock in short amounts of time, too.)
- When the stock is reduced, it should look something like this:
- When it looks like that, it's done. Remove it from the heat.
- Carefully strain the stock by pouring it through a colander into another large pot or bowl. Take care not to accidentally dump all of the ingredients out of the pot at once, as you could get splashed with hot stock. (If you used a soup sock, just pull that sucker out of the pot, chuck it in the compost, and you're done!) Whatever is left in the colander and in the bottom of the pot after all the liquid has drained through can be discarded into the compost.
- If you plan on refrigerating or freezing a portion of the stock (and you're not using the whole lot right away) place the pot or bowl into an ice bath to cool it off quickly: Plug up your sink and fill it with very cold water and ice (a great way to use up those forgotten ice cubes) and place the pot in the icy sink. The water should not be high enough to spill into the pot or bowl, only to surround the bottom of it so it will cool off quickly. Stir the stock to speed up the cooling process.
- Store the stock in the refrigerator to cool off completely overnight.
- In the morning, a fatty layer will have formed on the top of the freshly made chicken stock:
- Skim off the fatty layer with a spoon and discard.
- Congratulations, you just made chicken stock! If you reduced the stock enough (or you had bones with lots of cartilage) the stock will be very gelatinous, like this:
Tips for Freezing Stock
We use plastic freezer bags (usually quart size, as it's the quantity I use in a recipe most often) for storing our homemade stock. If you prefer to avoid plastic, Mason jars can be used in the freezer. If you use glass jars in the freezer, make sure that when you fill them you leave room at the top for the liquid to expand when freezing. Otherwise, you could end up with a big mess in your freezer and a lot of wasted stock. I prefer not to risk it with glass in the freezer, and the plastic bags stack better for storage.
When using freezer bags, try to remove as much air as possible from each bag before sealing. A vacuum-sealer would be useful for this job, but I don't find that stock gets freezer burned in the same way that meats and vegetables can.
Make sure when freezing the stock initially that you place bags in a single layer in the freezer so that they all freeze as quickly and evenly as possible.
Label your bags with the date you made your stock so you know how old it is! I've read varying recommendations on the safe freezer life of homemade stock, but 3 months is the low end. We go through ours pretty quickly, so it's never in there for longer than a couple of months, but I would be comfortable leaving it in our chest freezer for a year since the temperature is more constant (and the door isn't opened as often as a refrigerator freezer would be).
|Here's some yummy chicken stock we made together a few months ago.|
That's it—now simply remove from the freezer and thaw to add to your favorite recipes!
Join the Six Ingredient Challenge hosted by Hobo Mama and Anktangle!
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