Once you've had good homemade stock you'll really never want to go back. The store bought stuff tastes so bland, or sometimes tastes like nothing but salt. I love good chicken broth. I love it so much that sometimes it doesn't survive long enough to make it into soup. When someone in the house is sick, I make up a big pot of it and drink as much as I can. I think it's the definition of classic comfort food, and it's so good for you. Just do a quick google on the benefits of bone broth and you'll find pages and pages of info.
The other great thing about making it yourself is that it's basically free. Free! Something so delicious, and so good for you - that costs you nothing. That's because you're making it out of stuff that you would otherwise be throwing away. I cringe at the thought of anyone throwing out the leftover carcass from their roast chicken or turkey - such a waste when you can turn it into such good broth.
People have asked for my recipe for making my chicken broth. It's not so much of a recipe as it is just a simple method with some guidelines for basic ingredients. You need chicken bones of course, and water, but the other flavorings are totally optional.
Here's what I like to use:
- a couple pounds of leftover chicken or turkey bones
- a few pieces of aromatic vegetables (traditionally onion, carrot, celery, but you can use others too)
- a couple quarts of water
- pepper and other seasonings as desired
- A quarter cup of some kind of acid - either a couple of sliced lemons, or some vinegar
- a good slow cooker or big stock pot
A few additional notes:
- You can use any kind of bones for this, it doesn't have to be whole roast chickens. If you've cooked up a bunch of thighs, or wings, definitely use the bones for those. Or if you really just need broth and you don't want to have a chicken dinner, then ask your butcher for scraps - wings, necks, whatever. I've heard that chicken feet make amazing stock.
- I keep a ziploc bag in my freezer, and when I trim veggies for cooking I add the clean trimmings to the bag - carrot tops, ends of onions, ends of celery, kale ribs. You can use just about anything, just remember that they are adding flavor so don't use anything that you don't want to taste too much. I wouldn't recommend things like broccoli or cauliflower, I think the flavor would be too strong.
- For seasoning I usually just do salt and pepper, but you could certainly throw in a bay leaf, a few sprigs of rosemary or thyme or sage, really anything you like the flavor of.
- A little acid of some kind somehow helps get all the flavor out of the bones. I usually cut a couple lemons in half and throw them in, they give a great flavor. If I don't have lemons then I do apple cider vinegar.
- Don't be shy with the salt.
- I make mine in a slow cooker so that I can leave it overnight or while I'm out of the house for the day, but you can do this in a pot. You'll just need to keep it on a low simmer and keep an eye on it.
- I generally figure on about a quart of broth per whole chicken. I usually do 2 chickens, so I put in a little more than 2 quarts of water and get about 2 quarts of broth.
After all that being said - I've made wonderful chicken broth with just chicken bones, water and salt. If you don't add other flavoring, then it's called stock. With seasoning and flavoring it's called broth. Technicalities. It's all good.
How to make your broth:
After you've had your lovely roast chicken dinner, take all the remaining meat off the bones and put it away to use later in your soup. Put all the scraps and bones and any leftover drippings in your slow cooker - don't forget the skin, it adds great flavor too. Add in your vegetables, seasoning, acid. Add enough water to completely cover it all (in a big slow cooker with bones from 2 chickens you should be looking at about 8-9 cups of water). Turn your slow cooker on low for as long as it will go (mine has a timer that will go for 10 hours). Go to bed. The next morning you will have a lovely stock. You can call it good at this point, or you can just let it keep going. The longer you let it cook, the better it will taste. You might need to add a bit more water. So give it a stir, and taste it. If you were a little shy with the salt at first then you might want to add some now.
When you are satisfied that it's ready, strain out all the stuff. I put a strainer over a big glass bowl and ladle everything into that, catching the chunks in the strainer. Some people will then strain through cheesecloth or something fine, to get all the little bits of stuff out. I usually don't do this because I don't mind the stuff, I'm making soup anyway so it will be fine. But if you want a really clear broth then a separate straining might be good.
You don't have to cook it for 24 hours. You can make a really good broth just simmering on the stove for a couple hours. The slow cooker is just an easy way to bring out even more flavor.
If you want to be even more frugal - you can actually make two whole batches of broth from one set of bones! Just strain out your first batch of broth after simmering overnight or all day, and fill it up with water again, add a little more salt, and let it got another 8-10 hours. The second batch might not have quite as much flavor as the first, but it will still make an amazing soup.
If your chicken was really fatty, you might want to separate the fat. In the one pictured I didn't bother, and you can see there's just a tiny bit of fat on the top. I'm ok with that. But if that is going to bother you, then you must have one of these handy fat separators. They work great.
And that's it! Now go make your favorite soup recipe. Or just pour some in a mug and drink it. A lot of people freeze theirs, but ours never lasts long enough to bother with that.