Chicken stock is a staple ingredient it’s handy to have in your freezer at all times – there are just so many ways to use it! Yes, you can buy stock cubes or even liquid stock these days but making your own is so much more satisfying, plus it gives you a way to use up all the left-over bits of chicken bones and bendy carrots in your fridge. Whenever you’ve cooked a chicken yourself or bought one ready-cooked, as soon as you’ve taken all the meat off, put the bones in a bag in the freezer, ready to use when you have enough and you have some time. Then on a lazy Sunday when you know you’ll be pottering around at home for at least a few hours, you can chuck the bones straight from the freezer into a pot, add some veggies, herbs and water, then just leave it to do its thing.
The traditional veggies are carrot and onions, but you can add any others from your fridge, even if they’re a bit past their prime e.g. turnips, radishes, celery, etc.
For the herbs, you can use either a ready-made bouquet garni (a bunch of herbs tied in a muslin bag) or a selection of any strong-flavoured herbs, although rosemary, parley and thyme work very well. There’s no point really in using the softer, more subtly-flavoured herbs like basil or coriander as they are best used fresh.
You will need some variation of the following:
- Chicken bones
- A couple of largish carrots, scrubbed and topped and tailed, but not necessarily peeled unless they are very dirty
- A large onion, peeled and cut in half
- 2 cloves of garlic
- About 5 cloves (the spice) – stick these in the onion
- A bunch of celery tops – just chop these off the top of a head of celery and rinse
- About 3 bay leaves
- About 5 pepper corns
Put all the ingredients in a large pot and just cover with cold water. It’s important to use cold, not hot, water as certain proteins in the meat will only dissolve in cold water and it also results in a clearer stock.
Bring the stock to the boil then turn it down so that it is just simmering. Cover the pot with the lid, leaving just a little space for it to breathe.
The longer and slower you can cook the stock, the richer your final stock will be. I generally leave it 2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally and adding a bit more water if it looks like it’s drying out. Of course the longer you leave it, the less stock there will be, but it will be nice and strong so you can always dilute it later. By the time it’s done, all the meat should have fallen off the bones.
Now take a sieve or colander and line it with some muslin cloth. Take out the majority of the bones and veg and then pour the rest through the sieve so you end up with a smooth liquid.
Pour this into a freezer-proof container in either 500ml or litre batches and freeze till you need it.
Some Uses for Chicken Stock
- Chicken or vegetable soups
- Chicken or vegetable stews
- Poaching chicken or vegetables
© Alexandra Lawrence and Inspired Nourishment, 2014