Be careful: homemade chicken stock is another one of those “you can never go back” recipes.
I remember a little over a year ago, I made minestrone soup for the first time. It’s one of my favorite soups, but I couldn’t understand why it was so….. blase. Despite the fact I had used fresh ingredients and used the proper technique, it wasn’t worth making again, and I stuck with my usual soup staple, Provencal Vegetable Soup.
About a year later I was having some friends over for an Italian night – caprese salad, various pastas with homemade sauces, and affogatos. Something was missing and (being ignorant of the traditional Italian primi and secondi) I decided to add in minestrone soup.
So I tried again. Talk about night and day! It was like the first batch I had made was anti-minestrone and if the two batches had ever met they would have annihilated each other. The only difference? The fantasmagorically-delicious minestrone was made with homemade stock instead of commercial chicken broth.
Every recipe I’ve used with this stock has sung with flavor. Why? That flavor comes from tons of fresh ingredients and no salt. It’s a recipe that I’ve adapted from more traditional chicken stock recipes to fit the way I cook. I roast a bird one week, save the carcass, skin, and fond and after I roast another bird the next week I combine the two carcasses with any leftover meat and tons of aromatics. This way I’m getting maximum use out of those chickens with minimal waste.
To see guidance on preparing this for backpacking, see the “Variations” section at the end of the recipe.
And it is so worth it!
Roasted chicken stock
A Jitterbean original
Yields 3-5 quarts stock
Let’s be clear: this is a stock, not a baking recipe. Consider this as a guide to getting you started. Chicken and water are really the only requirements, so as long as you have them in your pot, you’ll probably be fine. Don’t stress if you’re missing a leek or some parsley.
If you’re short on storage space, then by all means, reduce your stock. When it comes time to use it, just add fresh water to the stock until it looks and tastes like the right strength (often dictated by personal preference). I have also tried reducing the stock all the way to a glaze for minimal storage, but I don’t recommend this as it’s difficult to re-constitute.
As with any water-based recipe, use fresh cold water. Do not use hot water to speed the process along, since this water has been stored in your hot water heater and has picked up off-flavors.
As you’re doing prep for other cooking, save things like carrot tops, herb stems, and onion peels. Put them in the freezer and throw them in the next stock you make.
Do not put salt in your stock. If you reduce the end product at all, it can quickly become inedible. Wait to add salt when you use the stock for a soup or something.
This list of ingredients is only a suggestion. You can add practically anything to a stock to make it flavorful. However, shy away from adding broccoli since it can add a very bitter taste when cooked for a long time.
Do not let the stock boil! The fat will emulsify and make the stock cloudy. Maintain a gentle simmer for the whole cooking process.
1 whole chicken (roasted if desired) cut into parts or 1 whole chicken plus one roasted carcass or 2 herbed bird
carcasses (skin, bones, fond, meat scraps and any leftover chicken from last week’s bird)
2 carrots, sliced lengthwise and cut into half moons
2 stalks celery, cut into 2″ pieces, including the leaves
2 medium onions, with skins, quartered
1 medium leek, cut into 2″ pieces, then sliced lengthwise and cleaned thoroughly
1 head of garlic, with skins, each clove crushed
About 10-15 whole peppercorns
A couple of stems each of Italian parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (you can tie this into cheesecloth to make bouquet garni but I don’t — it’s all getting strained in the end anyway)
Enough fresh cold water to just cover the ingredients in the pot
Combine all of the above ingredients in a stock pot over high heat. When it comes to a boil, reduce the heat and bring down to a bare simmer. Skim any impurities off of the top for the first 30 minutes.
Simmer for 4-24 hours until the chicken and vegetables no longer have any flavor.
Cool the stock in an ice water bath (or Alaskans can just put the pot outside!). If desired, put the stockpot in the fridge for a day or two so that any additional flavor can get leeched out of the bones.
Strain the stock using a cheesecloth-lined colander (reheating beforehand if you chose to leech the stock), reserving the chicken for another use (like a soup). If you won’t be using the stock immediately do not skim the fat as it will help protect against bacteria growing in the stock. Leave in the fridge for no longer than a week and freeze for up to three months.
Make turkey stock by using your Thanksgiving-turkey’s carcass, pan drippings, gizzards, and un-wanted meaty bits. Use it to make turkey soup
Raw chicken parts can be used as well. The vegetable and aromatics used will do great things, but the flavor will not be as intense because the chicken was not roasted previously. On the plus side, your yield will be much bigger.
To make a bullion that is suitable for adding extra flavor and protein to backpacking meals or for making into a hot broth to drink in camp on a cold day, reduce the strained and skimmed stock down to a glaze. Spread the glaze out on a lined dehydrator tray and dry on the meat setting. Take the resulting brittle leather and grind it in a coffee grinder, food processor, or blender. Store in a cool, dry place (or the freezer) until your next adventure. Take caution when re-hydrating, as a very little of the bullion will go a very long way.