Sunday, March 14, 2010

Homemade Chicken Stock

The first photograph is of chicken backs that I bought for a $1.78. There were five of them. Three went to the freezer. Two went into a stockpot with six quarts of water, four celery sticks cut in half, a peeled onion, and three peeled carrots. I cut the excess fat off the backs, and you can see what the trimmed chicken looks like.

I used the technique of an on-line cooking school I subscribe to. The chicken and vegetables are put in a stockpot with six quarts of cold water. Turn the heat to medium. When small bubbles begin to parade to the surface, lower the heat a bit and simmer for at least four hours. There are two rules. Do not boil the stock. Do not stir it. When you see small rafts of gray bubbly scum ( Sorry- that is the only thing one can call it.) clinging to the sides of the pot and any floating vegetables, take a spoon and gently skim it out. At the end of the four hours take a slotted spoon and remove the solids and throw them away. Then strain the stock through a sieve lined with cheese cloth or a clean, plain kitchen towel. Put the stockpot on a bed of ice from your ice maker. You can do this in the sink. When the pot is cool, refrigerate it overnight, and the next morning skim out any fat on the surface. Now you can make some soup or freeze your five quarts. James Peterson's directions for stock are more casual. He skips the ice bath, and lets the stock cool on its own before he puts it in the refrigerator. I opted to bow to the scruples of my on-line school, which is obsessive about safety.

Making this stock is about economy. I can make another 5 or 6 quarts with the chicken backs in the freezer. That means 12 quarts of stock for $ 1.78 and the cost of 2 onions, 6 carrots and eight stalks of celery. Canned stock costs from 68 cents to $1.20 a can. Think of the savings. And your stock tastes better. One note- I do not add salt until I use the stock. This is a good weekend project.

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