This is part of a semi-regular series of posts tackling how to make some of the things that we often end up buying pre-made. Things that we think of as basic ingredients, that aren’t ‘ingredients’ at all but are actually processed in some way for us. Things like bread, jam, butter, ketchup, baked beans and pickled ginger. Not everything is cheaper to make than buy, yet when you make it yourself, you know what’s in it.
I make chicken stock all the time. I’ve mentioned before that I almost always buy whole chickens rather than breasts/legs, so it just makes sense to make stock from the bones. Homemade stock is nutritious, unlike stock cubes which are mostly salt, and it’s essentially free for the ingredients. I’ve listed what to make below, but it’s really a technique rather than a recipe, so it’s not in recipe format.
When I get the chicken home, I generally cut the legs, breasts and wings off first (see an online video tutorial from Gordon Ramsey here), unless I’m making a roast dinner. I’ll freeze these labelled for whenever I’m eating them.
What’s left is a chicken carcass with a good bit of meat still on, especially on the back (I find I get 2-3 portions from this depending what I’m making). You can freeze this until you’re ready to make the stock, which is what I usually do – just defrost overnight in the fridge before making.
Pick a day when you have a few hours of free time. Don’t worry – the stock mostly looks after itself, but you’ll want to be in the house anyway. Or I’ve heard you can make it in the slow cooker, but as I don’t have one, I’m not sure what exactly what you do.
Pop the chicken carcass into a large stock pot. Add any wrinkly veg you having lying around, though the best is really any combination of onion, carrot, leek and/or celery. I usually just have onion and carrot in, so add 2 or 3 of each, peeled and cut into large chunks. Add a bay leaf if you have any, and a few peppercorns as well, plus a little pinch or two of salt. When we eat the chicken legs/wings, I also save the bones for the next time I’m making stock, so if we have any of these left I’ll chuck them in.
Cover with boiling water (it takes two kettlefuls for me) and simmer away for around 30 minutes or so, until all the meat on the chicken is cooked. Pull the chicken from the water (leaving everything else in the pan), and when it’s cool enough to handle, preheat the oven to 200C. Pick every scrap of meat from the bones and set aside for future use (you guessed it – you can freeze this too).
Arrange the clean bones on a baking tray. Roast for 45 minutes, until golden (this step is optional, but makes your stock darker and richer in flavour).
Add the roasted bones back into the cooking water, bring back to the boil and simmer for a couple of hours, adding more water as required, until the stock is well-flavoured and a golden-brown colour. Strain and throw out the bones and vegetables. Leave the liquid to cool and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
When you get it out of the fridge, there will be a layer of white fat set on top – scrape this off with a spoon. If your stock is really good quality, the rest might have set into a jelly. The first time this happened to me I thought something had gone wrong with it, but apparently it’s what you want! Don’t worry if it hasn’t set though – it’ll still be nice and flavourful. Freeze your stock until you need it, in a variety of differently sized tubs, so I can just get our what I need
It’s probably quite concentrated at this point, depending how much water you added in cooking, so you’ll probably water it down to use it. Bear in mind it’s also very low-salt at this point, so you might need to salt the dishes you’re making more than you normally would.
Do you make your own chicken stock? What about other types of stock? Do you prefer homemade stock, or like the convenience of bought stuff?