Friday, February 12, 2010

DIY Chicken Stock

(this is NOT chicken stock)

Once you figure out that making home made chicken stock isn't difficult, you'll look back with shame and sadness at all of the wasted roast chicken carcasses of your pre-enlightenment days.

Home made chicken stock is full of finger-licking goodness due to the presence of gelatin. Gelatin is formed when collagen, a protein found in animal connective tissue, is hydrolyzed (broken down). This process takes some heat and time to occur. That's why bones, tendons, ligaments and cartilage, though not tasty on their own, become tasty through the miracle of a long, slow simmer. It's also this finger-licking-goodness that you miss when you use powdered stock - it generally contains salt and chicken flavor but lacks delicious hydrolyzed proteins. Stock that comes in a can or carton is better, but still can contain some artificial ingredients and is generally inferior to homemade stock.

Lucky for us, homemade stock is easy and cheap to make! The Kitchn has a great DIY guide to making home made chicken stock, but here is my take (somewhat similar, with some hacks to make it easier and a little cheaper).

Chicken Stock Protocol

Materials: roast chicken carcass, vegetable scraps, garlic (optional), whole black peppercorns (optional), 2 pots large enough to hold everything, strainer, cheesecloth, several containers to hold finished stock ( about 1-2 quarts per chicken)

1) Take the remains of one or more roast chickens (bones, cartilage, and bits of meat, avoid the skin) and put it into a pot that fits snugly.
2) Add in several handfuls of vegetable detritus. I use celery ends, carrot ends and peels, onion ends and skins, herb stems, etc., but use whatever you have got on hand. This makes great use of what is otherwise garbage and saves more useful veggies for another meal. Add in a couple crushed cloves of garlic and some whole peppercorns if you have them.
3) Cover the solids in the pot with about an inch of water. Bring to a low simmer for 3-4 hours - you will see some bubbles, but try to avoid a real boil.
4) Line a strainer with cheese cloth and place that inside another pot to catch the finished stock. Pour the chicken stock and solids through the strainer.
5) Aliquot stock into containers to be refrigerated (about a week) or frozen (indefinitely). For this purpose I like the re-usable twist-top storage containers or re-used takeout soup containers.

- If you notice that there is a lot of fat floating on top of the stock, refrigerate overnight then remove the solidified fat with a spoon and then freeze or use the stock.
- If you don't have enough time or materials to make stock after roasting a chicken, put the parts in a bag or plastic container in the freezer until you do have time. In the mean time, toss any veggie scraps that you generate into the container for making stock.
- This method can be used for any amount of chicken leftovers - just scale up.
- You can also make other kinds of stock this way - try turkey stock after Thanksgiving, or buy a bunch of soup bones and make beef stock.

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