Making chicken stock can seem like such a mysterious process. Many recipes for stock say “add water to cover.” Doesn’t that depend on how big your cookpot is? Or “add 3 carrots” – big carrot, medium carrot, baby carrot? Do you need bones, meat, skin? Raw chicken or roasted chicken?
For chicken stock, this is all you need:
- Mirepoix, a combination of onions, carrots, celery in a ratio of 2 parts onion, 1 part carrot and 1 part celery. Other vegetables can be used also.
- Bouquet garni (bundle of herbs)
This is the formula that works for me:
3 (raw) chicken thighs – the whole thing, bones, meat and skin
3 (raw) chicken breasts – the whole thing, bones, meat and skin
(You can save and freeze leftover chicken bones. Substitute bones from 2 pieces of chicken for 1 piece of whole chicken. Don’t substitute all bones, however; you need some meat and fat also.)
8 C. COLD filtered water
2 T. apple cider vinegar
1 large onion, peeled and cut into chunks
2 carrots, scrubbed and cut in chunks
2 stalks of celery (include the leafy parts), cut into chunks
(Remember the ration 2:1:1. If you have a giant stalk of celery, you might need less. Or if you have mini carrots, you might need more.)
The bouquet garni:
Fresh (or dried) bay leaves
Can also include:
(You want a bundle that will loosely fit in a circle made by touching your thumb and forefinger together. You want most of the herbs to be the “must haves.” If you add some of the “optional” herbs, consider the flavors and remember that things like rosemary and basil can be very strong. Tie this bundle together with string or secure with a rubber band – something sanitary! 🙂 If you don’t have fresh herbs on hand, use storebought. If you do this, use all of the herbs to make several bouquet garni, place each in individual plastic freezer bags, fill with cold water just to cover, and freeze. When you need herbs the next time you make stock, just throw the whole frozen thing – water and herbs, not the plastic bag! – into the crockpot.)
You can collect vegetables scraps, store them in the freezer, and then add them to the stock. The possibilities are endless: potato peels, carrot tops and shavings, broccoli stems, cauliflower leaves, celery tops, bell pepper tops, tough asparagus ends, green bean ends, zucchini peel…just about any vegetable part that would normally end up in the trash! Be careful, however, of vegetables with strong flavors – brussels sprouts, cabbage, turnips, rutabagas, artichokes, hot peppers, even broccoli if overused. And do not use tomatoes.
Use assorted vegetables in an amount equal or less than the combined amount of the carrots and celery.
You can also add garlic, about 2 cloves, peeled and smashed with the flat side of a knife.
Layer the chicken pieces, the mirepoix, and the bouquet garni in a 4-quart crockpot. Cover with water and apple cider vinegar. Do not turn the crockpot on; let the mixture sit for 30 minutes. (There’s a whole complicated science behind that which I’m not going to explain here. 🙂 ) Turn the crockpot on low and let it simmer for 12 hours. (Some recipes say you can leave it for up to 24 hours.)
After the stock has simmered, turn off the heat. Set a colander over a dish large enough to hold all of the stock. Very carefully pour the stock into the colander to separate the liquid from the bones, vegetables, and herbs. Place the liquid in the refrigerator and cool completely, several hours or overnight. The fat will rise to the surface so that it can be scraped off. Once the fat is removed, the stock is ready to be made into soup or to be divided into containers and frozen. Discard the vegetables and herbs; remove the chicken from the bones and refrigerate (or freeze) to be used in soup. (You may not be able to save the chicken. I’ve had batches where the chicken was too dry or tasted too “herby.” I think it depends on the quality of chicken and what veggies and herbs you add.)
Makes about 2 quarts (8 cups) of chicken stock. The stock will probably be strong enough that you can dilute it 3:1 (3 cups stock to 1 cup water).