It’s that time of year when soups are a requested dinner choice in my family. I don’t need an excuse to make soup. I love soups and I also love making them for my family. A lot of the soups I make require chicken stock. I know it is easier to just go out and buy cans or containers of ready made stock but, I promise you, nothing, nothing is as good as homemade. And, it is so easy to make. It just involves a long simmering time, and for best results, chilling overnight. I make a big batch of this a couple times a year using my biggest stockpot and freeze it.
It might sound daunting, but it’s easy. And, you can cut this recipe in half if you don’t have a big stockpot. I have watched a few cooking shows where stock is made using whole chickens but I don’t find that necessary at all. Then, after it is made the chicken is discarded! All that chicken! My gosh, so wasteful.
This recipe uses chicken backs, or necks, or combination of both. I go to my grocery store and ask the butcher if they have any backs or necks. I buy all they have. It is very inexpensive.
Another way to gather up chicken bones is removing the bag containing the neck and giblets from the cavity from the whole chicken. My dogs get the giblets and I freeze the neck. I end up collecting quite a bit since we eat chicken regularly and I always cook at least two at a time for my family.
No backs or necks? Okay, use chicken thighs. Stock up when they are on sale. When I use thighs, after making the stock I do not throw away all that meat. The meat is tender and flavored with all the vegetables. I discard those solids or compost them. I remove the meat from the bones – it will fall off easily. I make chicken salad or I save the meat for adding to chicken soup. Please, do not throw it away.
This isn’t how I have always made it. This method came about by accident. In the past, I have placed all the ingredients in the stockpot and simmered for a few hours. One day, I threw all the ingredients into the pot except for the water. I was going to fill my big measuring cup with water but the phone rang so I grabbed it. While I was on the phone, the chicken and vegetables were sizzling away. I stirred the pot and noticed all the juices being released. Huh, I thought. I let it go.
I cooked it over the high heat for a half hour. The backs had lost the pink color to them, the onions softened, and beautiful gold liquid was on the bottom of the pot.
When I added the water, a gold film rose to the top. That was all the flavor that was rendered. Since then, it is the only way I make my chicken stock.
Bring the stock to a boil then lower the heat to low simmer. You will notice a foam forming on top. Just skim that off and discard. I have to admit, sometimes I do this and sometimes I don’t. When I am making stock, I let it simmer low and do other things. If I happen to be around the stove and notice the foamy scum on top then I skim it. But, since I strain this through a fine mesh strainer, I find it doesn’t make much of a difference. Just remember to gently simmer the stock and not boil it.
After the stock has simmered for 2 hours, strain and squeeze out all the juices by pushing down with the back of the spoon.
Chill the stock overnight to allow the fat to rise to the surface. This makes it easy to defat the stock.
Remove the surface fat from the stock. The stock is ready to use or freeze in containers. I like to keep some on hand since it is the base for many of my soups.
I have to tell you a little story about my husband, Bill. I made this beautiful stock and turned it off to cool. It was sitting on the stove. It was dinner time and my parents were over. We sat down to eat and had an enjoyable meal. Now, my husband is a little bit of a clean freak so after the meal he started to clean up. The rest of us were still sitting at the kitchen table talking and laughing. My husband was cleaning up and I turned to him just in time to see him place my big stockpot down back on the stove. It took me a second to realize what had just happened.
Me: “Bill”, (pause) “what did you just do?”
Bill: “I just emptied out the water that was in the pot on the stove.”
Bill: “Oh, bleep.”
Me: “OH MY GOSH, BILL! DID YOU JUST DUMP OUT THE STOCK THAT I JUST MADE!!!!!!”
Everyone at the table – silence then…
My youngest son, Ethan, in a quiet voice: “Oh, oh Dad. That’s not good.”
My son, Ryan, low voice: “Dad, I would run if I were you.”
My daughter, Elena: “Oh man, you’re in trouble!”
My Mom: “¡Qué barbaridad!” – translation – “How awful!”
My Dad shook his head, laughed, and said, “Oh, Bill…”
Gotta love the man. He makes it interesting. Needless to say, he didn’t get his soup.
- 8 - 10 pounds chicken backs
- 6 large carrots, washed, unpeeled, and cut into thirds
- 6 celery stalks, with leaves, cut into thirds
- 3 large onions, peeled and quartered
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 handful fresh parsley
- 7 quarts cold water
- Place all of the ingredients except water into a 16 to 20 quart stockpot over high heat.
- Stir everything occasionally for 30 minutes over high heat. The chicken and vegetables will release their juices.
- Add the water and bring to a boil.
- Lower heat to medium low and simmer for 2 hours. Occasionally, skim off the scum that rises to the top.
- Strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer.
- Squeeze everything down with back of spoon to get every little bit of liquid. Discard solids (if using thighs, save meat for salad or another use).
- Chill the stock overnight in the refrigerator.
- Next day, remove surface fat and discard.
- Stock will keep in refrigerator for 1 week or up to 3 months in freezer.