I should’ve started blogging way earlier and written this post right before the start of cold and flu season. Could’ve saved a few people some trouble!
But I have no time machine, so at least we can be prepared now for NEXT cold and flu season with this AMAZING and SIMPLE recipe for Homemade Chicken Stock!
Now you know from one of my first blog posts that I am all about doing stuff from scratch where possible. Chicken and beef stock are no different. I’ve even made turkey stock from the carcass of a turkey we roasted in the winter. My in-laws refer to it as “liquid gold” because the quality of homemade stock is far superior to the best name-brand stuff you can get at the store. And, if you’re careful, it can also be cheaper!
Let’s start with the main ingredient of our Chicken Stock: the chicken. More specifically, the HEN. Yep, pass the regular “fryers” up and go for a “Roasting Hen”. A roasting hen will be an older, larger bird, and around Thanksgiving they are more expensive than regular fryers. But I just bought one (it was March I think) and it was actually the same price per pound as any other chicken. What I really want to do is find a hen with feet attached. The gelatin in the chicken feet helps make a richer stock. So far, I have only been using “footless” hens. And the results have been wonderful. But anyone who knows me knows I’m all about experimenting with new ways of doing things. So maybe that’ll be its own post one day…
Once you have found a good sized hen, you need to collect the rest of your ingredients. They are all fairly cheap and very easy to find. You’ll need celery, carrot, onion, garlic, sea salt, black peppercorn, bay leaf, red pepper flake, and thyme (which is really optional as I don’t always have it on hand).
You will also need a good size stock pot; mine holds 2 gallons and I fill that baby ALL. THE. WAY. UP.
So here’s the process I always follow when making stock, step by step. The prep work doesn’t take long. However, the cooking does. I cook mine for several hours. But we’ll get to that in a minute. First:
Step 1: Wash your hen off with water and remove the giblets and neck. Rinse the neck off as well, and place in your stockpot with the hen. What you do with the giblets is up to you. If you have dogs, they will love them. Or you can freeze them in an airtight container to use later for giblet gravy or Cajun rice dressing. Back to the hen. Cover the hen with water.
Step 2: Now it’s time to add your seasonings. No need to do much to them but wash the celery and carrot, and peel the loose outer skins from the garlic head and onion. Put 2 whole stalks of celery in your pot. Add one large carrot or 2 medium sized carrots next. Cut one onion in half and place in the pot. Cut one whole head of garlic in half and place in pot. This will make it easier to retrieve bits and pieces out of the stock before you freeze or can it. Add about a teaspoon each of whole black peppercorns, red pepper flake, and dried thyme (if you have it) to your pot, along with enough salt to suit your own taste. You can always add more, so go easy on it! Add about 6 good size bay leaves to your pot as well.
Step 3: Now you can add heat. Bring the stock to a rolling boil, then reduce heat and simmer till the meat is falling off the bones of the hen. That will mean the meat is no longer tough… an older bird like a hen requires more cooking time to be tender than a young fryer.
Step 4: Next, I turn off the heat, let the broth cool, and then proceed to remove the hen and the larger chunks of my ingredients (like the onion). Don’t sweat over not being able to remove the smaller chunks as we will get to that later.
Step 5: This is a step you can skip or do, depending on what you want the fat content of your broth to be. If you have enough space in your fridge to cool the broth overnight, you can easily do this step. If not, it may not be so easy. At any rate, refrigerating the broth overnight will help congeal the fat in the broth so that you can easily skim it off the top prior to canning. I don’t usually do this step cuz I like da fat. I think it makes the flavor better. But to each his own!
Step 6: Now you can get your wire mesh strainer (this utensil is pretty important for this step) and all your freezer containers or canning jars in which you plan to hold your broth. Ladle the broth through the strainer into your containers. If you will be canning the broth, you will need to leave one inch headspace. That means you fill the jar up to the neck of classic mouth jars. You will also need a pressure canner, and you will need to process your jars for 25 minutes. For more information on canning, you can read my earlier post: Food Preservation: The Lowdown II. If you are freezing your broth, whether in plastic or glass containers, PLEASE don’t neglect to leave enough headspace. Broth will expand as it freezes! You certainly don’t want to lose containers OR broth because of this mistake! Just a side note for reference: I canned 7 quarts of broth. My pot was full (with water, hen, and seasonings) and holds 2 gallons.
And there you have it! It’s relatively easy and absolutely delicious! What do you do with the meat from the hen, you ask? Use it! I usually throw it in the freezer when I can’t use it right away. Use it in casseroles or to make it into some yummy chicken salad. I can usually make 2 good casseroles (in a 9×13 dish) from the meat of one 3-4 pound hen.
Here’s a really yummy quick recipe that calls for a can of chicken broth. Originally, I got a recipe off Pinterest that was meant to be a copycat recipe of Panera’s Creamy Tomato soup. It was delish. But I altered it to fit the food I preserved myself. It goes great with some crusty bread, or a grilled cheese sandwich. Or you can further doctor it by adding pasta, Italian sausage, spinach, and cheese! Here it is! Enjoy!
Yummy Creamy Tomato Soup
1 pint jar of homemade chicken stock
1 quart jar of tomato sauce with basil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 an onion, finely chopped
Salt, pepper, basil and oregano to taste
1/4 c. Heavy cream
In a heavy bottomed pot, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Add chicken stock and tomato sauce, salt, pepper, basil and oregano. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. You can either leave the onion and garlic as is, or blend it to be smooth with an immersion blender or standing blender. When that is done, remove soup from heat and stir in heavy cream. Serve! Again, there are lot of possibilities with this soup. Experiment and see what flavors and add-ins work for you!
Thanks again for joining me here! I really hope you can try the broth recipe and eat the good results! As always, it’s just one more step we take in the homesteading way of life. Till next time, keep putting one foot in front of the other!