I am trying to get in the habit of making my own chicken stock regularly. Making stock is not that hard to do, but it is very rewarding. Homemade stock just elevates soups to a whole different level. You can also freeze stock in ice cube trays to have smaller amounts on hand for use in sauces, dips, cooking vegetables or wherever else more flavor is needed.
While stock doesn’t take much active time to make, it does need plenty of time to simmer, so you do have to baby-sit it. (I haven’t tried using the slow cooker for making stock, but I imagine that might work as well.) Sunday afternoons are my designated kitchen time, as my husband usually takes the baby and disappears to watch football. So it seems like a natural time to make a pot of stock for freezing or using in the week’s recipes.
You don’t need a recipe to make stock, just a few guidelines. Here is what I do:
- Add a layer of chopped vegetables to a large pot. Good choices are garlic, onions, leeks, celery and carrots. Don’t use strongly flavored vegetables, such as dried mushrooms, unless you want the dishes where you are plan to use the stock to have the same flavor.
- Next add some whole herbs — I usually add 3 sprigs of thyme, 3 sprigs of parsley (if I have any) and 1 bay leaf — and 10 or so whole peppercorns. Note that I don’t add salt. I don’t want the stock to introduce more salt to the dish where I intend to use it.
- Add 2 pounds of chicken pieces. I use wings because they’re cheaper and they have a lot of flavor. Also, I don’t like to eat them, so I don’t mind sacrificing them to stock. If I have any leftover roasted chicken pieces from recent meals, I’ll add them as well for a little extra flavor.
- Pour in 2 quarts cold water, just enough to cover the vegetables and chicken.
- Pour in 1 cup wine. This brightens the flavors.
- Bring just to a boil.
- Lower the heat to barely a simmer and let cook at least 2 hours, up to 5 hours. Do not cover. Skim off that fat that rises to the surface every now and then.
- Get an ice bath — a huge bowl filled with ice and cold water — ready and set a 2-quart (or larger) bowl into it.
- When the stock is finished, strain the stock into the bowl sitting in the ice bath. Press down on the vegetables and bones with the back of a spoon while straining to extract as much liquid as possible.
- Once the stock has cooled, transfer it to the refrigerator and chill it completely.
The stock is now ready to use. Just scrape the layer of congealed fat off the top before using. You can keep it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Once it’s cool, I usually freeze it in various quantities, including some 1-tablespoon cubes in an ice cube tray.
You can also make vegetable stock using this recipe by omitting the chicken and adding another pound of vegetables. If you are a vegetarian, go for it. But I have to be honest. I used to be a vegetarian, and I always thought the soups I made tasted flat and rather lifeless. Then I went back to eating chicken, and I realized what was missing. The chicken stock really does add a lot of body and flavor.
But that’s just me — and it probably explains why I couldn’t stick with being a vegetarian. I still don’t eat beef, though.
Now that you see how easy it is, I encourage you next Sunday — or whenever you have a block of time — to make some stock. Sunday may be a good day for taking stock as well, but that is the subject of another post.