Sunday, April 15, 2012

Scratch Chicken Stock

My Big Effin' Stock Pot
A few weeks back I blogged about homemade beef stock. Well, today was chicken's turn. I've made plenty of chicken stocks from scratch but they tend to be on-the-fly versions with small yields - good for whatever I'm cooking at the time or possibly for a further day or two. Every once in a while I make a massive batch, which keeps me in stock for much longer. Anyway, it's not that difficult to make your own stock - you just need patience and a bit of time. Here's what I did:

I had a three uncooked chicken carcasses in my freezer. Whenever I buy an organic bird, I don't want to waste any of it, so I butcher the bird down to all its good cookable parts and chuck the leftover bits in the freezer. This includes wing tips, backbones, necks, rib cages, wishbones etc. all with little bits of meat, skin and fat left on them. These are the best bits for making a stock. So, it's pretty simple from here. Get the carcasses into a large pot. As you can see in the picture, I have a bloody big stock pot. Follow that up with some aromatic vegetables, including leeks, onions, carrots and celery. Whatever vegetable has the flavour you like, then add more of 'em. Follow this up with a bouquet garni. This is a little satchel of cheese cloth tied up with some herbs and spices contained therein. I used bay leaf, thyme, whole pepper corns and a couple of dried morel mushrooms. Unlike the beef stock that I make, I did not roast the chicken bones. Of course you can if you wish. This will result in what's called a 'dark' chicken stock. A useful stock in its own right, but not what I was looking for. I want a nice, light and nuanced stock - the type you can thin out a vegetable puree to create a great soup without altering the flavour too terribly.

Anyway, once everything is in the pot, then fill up with water - at least enough to cover the ingredients, and bring to a boil, then dial back to a simmer. Spend the next three to four hours skimming the scum and fat that rises to the top. After four hours or so, strain out the carcasses and vegetables into a clean pot. Then strain again, this time more slowly, through a cheese cloth. Once all the straining is done, reduce it slightly in a hard boil. Stocks are all about tasting, so continually taste througout this process, and as I've said before, you will have to lightly season the stock in your ladle so that you can get a better idea of what the stock will taste like. This secondary reducing stage I think helps set up the stock on its own without all the deteris of vegetables and bones floating around in it. When you're happy with the results, let cool slightly, then store in jars or tupperware. It's easy to freeze, and because you haven't seasoned it, you can reduce it down to a glaze if your recipe calls for it.

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