stocking up

I think if you are a person that is at all serious about making homemade meals, you should have some chicken stock in your freezer.

I think many people go with store-bought stock because they are operating under the assumption that stock is complicated or time-consuming. Really, making chicken stock is incredibly easy, requires very little active preparation, and makes your home smell crazy good. All you need is:

A large stock pot (I used a 16 quart)
4 lbs of chicken (which chicken parts you use is up to you)
A couple large carrots
A few stalks of celery
One large onion
A sprig of rosemary, sage, and thyme
A bay leaf
One or two cloves of garlic
and a couple teaspoons of black peppercorns

To make chicken stock, rinse your chicken and put it in your stock pot. Cover with several inches of water and place over high heat.

As your stock begins to boil, lots of weird scuzzy stuff will rise to the top of the pot. Skim it out, because if left in, it can affect the final flavor. While the chicken and water are going on the stove, prepare all the remaining ingredients. I am lazy, so I don’t bother peeling the carrots or removing the onion skins. I coarsely chop the vegetables, smash the garlic with the side of a chef’s knife, and tie the herbs and bay leaf together into a bouquet garni so I can easily fish them out later. When the stock has reached a roaring boil, toss in your aromatic vegetables, herbs, and peppercorns. Reduce to a simmer, cover, then sit back and let everything stew for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours.

After you’ve let everything simmer for the appropriate amount of time, let your stock cool off a bit, then ladle over a sieve (or if you are fancy, a cheesecloth-lined sieve).

The veggies will be mush and are pretty useless, but you can save the meat to put in soups, pies, casseroles, etc. If you have lots of free time, you can skim off the chicken fat floating on top of your stock, but remember, I am lazy– I just let the fat congeal in the fridge overnight, and I scoop it out the next morning.

Stock will last for about a week in the fridge, and a few months in the freezer. My favorite way to store it is to make chicken stock ice cubes. Most ice cube trays have sixteen 2-tablespoon sections, which means all you have to do if you need a cup of stock is put eight cubes in the microwave.

The best part about stock is it is incredibly open-ended. That list up there is not a recipe, it’s a suggestion– because as long as you aren’t adding tomatoes or beets, you can pretty much throw in any kind of vegetable. I have used shallots, leeks, and big bunches of parsley all to great effect.

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