In honor of American Thanksgiving, I give to you a week of receipes.
Basic Chicken Stock
One really needs a stock pot to make stock. If you use smaller quantities of everything, you can get away with a large saucepan. However, stock takes so long that the time spent isn’t usually worth it, unless you’re making a large amount. Or you have nothing to do but cook.
–1 stripped chicken carcass (i.e., you’ve removed the skin and as much meat and fat as you can). This can be the fate of chickens one has baked or roasted or even fried. You can use meat to make stock, but why not make it into chicken salad instead?
–A couple of large carrots or 3-4 small ones, cut into 2-3 pieces and with the stems cut off. Don’t peel them.
–At least one onion, more if you like onions. You can leave the papery skin on, but cut them into quarters so it’s easier for the juice to express. Leaving the skin on adds more color to the stock, as well.
–A head or two of garlic, sliced in half horizontally to expose the inner parts and let the juice express more easily. You don’t have to peel the garlic, though I usually hack off any papery bits that look dirty.
–A couple stalks of celery if you like celery (I don’t). The tops can stay on. Hack each stem into 2-3 pieces.
–Any other root vegetables you want to use, like turnips or parsnips or even potatoes. I don’t know if they make a lot of difference, but if you’re cleaning out that drawer, go ahead!
–Seasonings, needed later in the process:
-Dried oregano, rosemary, basil, sage, thyme, tarragon
-I’ve also used fresh sage and/or rosemary, left over from making baked chicken.
The herbs can be wrapped in muslin and tied, or put into a tea ball, or just thrown in.
Put the chicken carcass into cold water that fills the pot about 3/4 of the way–room temperature is okay, I just mean don’t heat the water first.
Using low heat, bring water to simmering point (just before it boils). Keep it simmering for about 4 hours, less if you can’t manage to hang around that long.
Stock-making is good for long afternoons at home while you’re doing other things; the purpose of simmering so long is so the gelatin will be extracted from the bones and mingle with the water, which is why stock has that, well, gelatinous quality. Every half-hour or hour or so, use a skimmer or a spoon to skim off the fat accumulating on the surface of the water, and discard the fat. You can also use a paper towel to skim, but that’s sort of asking to burn your fingers (wonder how I know that?). Do not stir the stock.
After about four hours, add the vegetables and seasonings. Do not stir, just slide it all in. Simmer for another hour, or even two if you want. Skim off fat as you go.
When the stock is done (or you run out of time), strain it. My method is to put a colander into a big bowl and (carefully) pour the hot stock in. Then I dump out the colander–the solid material has no useful food value remaining. I put the bowl on the counter to cool off.
The stock has to cool off before you can put it into the refrigerator, or you risk bacteria proliferating like the heroines of historical romance series. Also, hot liquids in a lidded container make the air inside expand and can pop off the lid.
If there’s a lot of fat lingering on top at this point, which usually there isn’t, skim it off now and then go do something else, because the stock takes a while to cool.
Once the stock is cooled, pour it into several jars. A funnel is of inestimable help here. Smaller jars are a good choice, because you can use the stock up one jar at a time, leaving the rest frozen.
Put the jars into the refrigerator overnight; what little fat remains in the stock will rise to the top and harden. Leave that fat on until you use the stock, because it provides a seal and helps the stock to last longer. You can just scoop it off when you’re ready to make soup or whatever else needs a stock base. Or leave the fat on and let it melt, if you want more fat in your soup.
If you freeze the jars, the stock will last about six months. I checked this online: refrigerated, unfrozen chicken stock is supposed to last two days.
Use your stock instead of water when you make soup. You won’t look back.